SHATTERING THE MYTH
Profile of an artist
By Nedda Viscovich
I guess I expected her to be ‘bigger than life’ like her sculpture.
Nearly every day as I left my home, I would pass by a house that displayed on its facade a larger-than-life sculpted face and the ‘garage/gallery’ filled with a tasteful display of ceramic works of art. The sign ‘Artistic Fountains’ promised more than was visible from the road. I kept intending to stop but several months went by before I did. I was surprised to see a very petite woman with short dark hair, bright eyes and a most inviting smile, come out to greet me.
We chatted for a while and then I felt drawn to explore further. A partially opened sliding glass door led to the next room where the tabletop fountains resided. This room opened to a walkway and into the spacious, shade-dappled garden, which invited meandering and exploring. Several larger fountains gurgled away and pedestals held more sculpture.
Nestled in one corner was a little triangular room with shelves — drying area for work-in-progress; another glass-enclosed room displayed an array of wall sculptures, vases, plates, sconces, night-lights etc. At the far end of the garden was a semi-circular enclosure made of glass and beach stones. Sparsely furnished with a cushioned bench and a small table, it is itself a work of art. It felt like a sanctuary with a convex glass wall and a view of the whole garden.
The peace and grace of the artist is reflected in the signature-sculpted faces that often appear in her art. The multitude of works showcased in her home and garden are testimony to the depth and breadth of her talent.
Joyce has eschewed the normal route to an artist’s success. If one were to ask the arbiters of the art world if they know her work, it is probable they would not recognize the name. Joyce’s sculptures cannot be found in the traditional venues — galleries or museums, in this country. Yet, for the last 15 years she has acquired the material possessions of a comfortable life without them. Her home in Encinitas is her studio/gallery and largely the place where her work is exhibited. Except of course, for the commissions that grace some of the most stately homes in North County.
How did she do it? In the early years, she participated in Carlsbad and Encinitas fairs where she and her sculpture gained recognition. Most often people visited her home/gallery after these events and made their purchases. Her home is located on a busy street although not a commercial thoroughfare by any means. Like myself, many of her clients just stop by to see her work, drawn by what’s visible from the road. They buy and tell other friends, and so on. Personal referral is the most powerful form of advertising.
Joyce’s grandest undertaking was a 1999 commission from the Naval Hospital in Camp Pendelton. It is a wall sculpture measuring 34 feet x 13 feet and is installed at the main entrance. The initial contact came from an advertisement in the local yellow pages. Along with many other artists, she was asked to submit a proposal for the project, and hers was selected.
It is not only the quality and aesthetics of the work that draws people to buy, but the artist herself.
Having her gallery in her home/studio allows Joyce to interact with her customers in a way that would not be possible if she used the more traditional channels to show her work. Joyce feels it is this ‘intimate’ connection that has helped her flourish. A trust develops that would not be possible were other intermediaries involved. Joyce’s gentle and loving manner, completely devoid of any egoism, is a key component of that connection. It seems to create an instant rapport with clients.
It is more common for artists to shy away from this type of direct contact. They say they want to focus on creating their art and not on marketing. How much does fear of rejection or lack of confidence in the work they do really play in this decision? Perhaps much more than an artist is willing to admit. It takes an enormous amount of confidence and trust in oneself to open to such vulnerability. And how many of us truly feel that way? It is much more common to go through life questioning ourselves at every step than it is to put our trust in our intrinsic talents.
In our society there is a myth that says that if one wants to be an artist one has to pay the dues by being a ‘starving artist’. Far too many buy into that, but what if that’s just a mind-set, a MYTH? First, let’s define ‘myth’.
Webster’s defines ‘myth’ as follows: …belief, or natural phenomenon; a popular belief or tradition that has grown up around something or someone; etc…
Based on this definition, it would then seem that having to be a ‘starving artist’ is really just a belief that has been accepted as fact over time. And it’s no wonder. The stories of Van Gogh, Gaugin, Manet, Pissaro and hundreds of others are about their struggles while alive, only to attain fame after death! The beliefs we hold are entrenched in our subconscious mind. And, they end up being the grist from which we create our lives.
For an artist to be considered successful it means being recognized in a certain segment of society. For non-artists, success is measured differently, most often by how much money one makes or material things acquired. The irony of the definition of success for an artist is that recognition does not necessarily mean financial abundance. Their work may be in museums but they may still be struggling to make a living.
I accepted that myth as ‘truth’ until I met Joyce Schleiniger.
Joyce Schleiniger was born and grew up in Brazil. She had her first solo show of drawings at age 17 while still attending the school of fine arts in Brazil. Over the course of her evolving art career she studied and experimented with many different media and finally settled on ceramic sculpture.
A variety of her award-winning work can be found in public parks and museums in Brazil — from a fountain in Porto Alegre to sculptures in the Sao Paolo museum. Her name was widely recognized throughout the art circles. She received numerous awards and was lauded by the press in the most prestigious publications.
Yet, all this recognition did not provide her with an income on which she could live, so she had to supplement it with university teaching. She had little or no time to concentrate on her true passion — creating sculptures!
In 1984 she came to this country to visit her father. For many years she had thought about leaving Brazil so she could to focus on her art. Now she had the opportunity to ‘scout’ locations where she might want to settle. After visiting various places on the East coast and in the Southwest, an acquaintance mentioned San Diego. She says: “Driving towards La Jolla, every curve in the road inspired another feeling of awe. Arriving at the shores, I was overwhelmed with emotion and I knew this was where I wanted to start my new life.” She went back to Brazil to complete work on her Master’s thesis, and when completed, she and her daughter moved to San Diego.
The early years in this country were not easy, as they rarely are for most immigrants. In order to support herself, Joyce worked at a variety of jobs while learning English and working on her sculpture every spare minute. She started teaching sculpture classes at San Dieguito Adult School in ’87. Two years later she moved into her current home. Finally, she had the space for a studio and gallery where she has been creating magnificent pieces of art ever since.
Joyce Schleiniger is living proof that an artist does not have to starve nor have widespread recognition in order to lead a fulfilling and successful life.
After taking a leave from teaching for the spring semester, Joyce will be back this fall teaching her sculpture class at San Dieguito Adult School in Encinitas.
For further information, contact Joyce’s studio/gallery, 1116 Santa Fe Drive, Encinitas, CA 92024. Phone (760) 942-6881. Open Daily 10-4 (except Sunday) Copyright Nedda Viscovich 2003
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