Artful Blogging Magazine
Laura TWO Tina
Hub Article, Spring Issue 2011
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BlogTalk Radio Interview
Interview by Cassie Premo Steele
Collaborating Artists, Laura Gaffke and Tina Hirsig
by Karen Souza
Laura Gaffke and Tina Hirsig’s deep friendship and artistic collaboration began in 2006 while working on a Master of Fine Arts in Interdisciplinary Arts from Goddard College. The women, who live in different parts of the country, talk and e-mail frequently but share an “in person” visit only twice a year. Tina makes her home in Charleston, South Carolina, while Laura lives in Connecticut and has a studio in Westerly, RI. It was during their most recent visit that they sat down to talk about their unusual partnership.
“When we met, it was an instant friendship,” said Laura. “I feel now, that she is like a sister. When we start talking, we can never stop.” Soon after meeting, they found themselves asking the question, ‘What would happen if two artists were to come together to create?’ “This is the question we had at Goddard, and the question that has led to what we are doing today,” she said. “The artist is often working in solitude in their studio. I think the work that comes from a creative partnership can be very powerful. As individuals, we come from very different perspectives and different life experiences. But, we both have the viewpoint that we are not only peers, but teachers for one another,” explains Tina.
Goddard offers a unique model for progressive education which encourages self-directed courses of academic study. As part of Laura and Tina’s thesis work, they decided to explore peer learning and co-authorship by exchanging drawings, sending mixed media artwork through the mail and writing or talking with each other frequently. They started out by randomly sending their creative experiments to each other on little post cards with contemplative streams of thought such as the meaning of ‘time’ or ‘place’. After a year, they realized that something truly significant was going on for both of them and it was decided to try a more structured exchange. Once a week they would send each other work on 6×6 inch squares and write about anything on their minds. They found this exchange creatively stimulating, and that their own work was evolving in wonderful new ways as a result.
In 2008, the two artists decided to explore shared authorship by putting their work on the pages of a blank journal. They each took turns working on one page at a time by sending the book back and forth to each other. For example, Tina will creatively work on a page and then carry over a small image, color, or object onto the next page as an inspirational ‘jumping off point’ for Laura. Laura will merge this image with her own creative work and then carry over an idea or image onto the next page to inspire Tina. Sometimes, words and notes are tucked into the artwork. After two years of working on this project, their book is nearly complete. Part of their time together on this visit will be to finish the final two pages.
Although working on their book was creatively fulfilling and thought provoking for both artists, it was taking a long time it to travel back and forth. Wanting to collaborate weekly, and as a way to share their creative process with others, the artists decided to start a shared website and blog. Their weekly practice begins with a phone conversation on Monday, exploring an image of something that has inspired them that day. Then they each post a photograph of this image on their website for the other to respond to creatively. This work is called ‘Vision’. Responding to the photograph posted by the other, each artist chooses an element such as color, line, composition, shape, form, pattern, design, or a conceptual idea to work with throughout the week and to create a ‘ReVision’. ReVisions are posted on Friday. The two women also talk frequently on the phone and e-mail daily to discuss what they are learning in their studios. Recently they realized a theme was emerging which they call, ‘The inward and outward journey’.
“I think the key to our longevity is the commitment and dedication we’ve had to do the collaborative work and to talk weekly. It really can be a lot of work, but it’s important enough to us both that we will take time away from our regular studio time to do this together,” said Laura. Both women see this as a discipline that assists them to grow and develop as artists; but agree that this kind of shared process may not work for every artist.
“I feel so grateful to have this kind of friendship with Tina,” said Laura. “She’s teaching me things all the time. It’s important to have these periodic visits with each other. We are able to get a lot of work done that we couldn’t do through e-mail or phone calls. Our work together feeds our individual practices. Tina agrees and adds, “I’m always thinking about the things I’ve learned from Laura, and how it empowers me as an individual.”
The women are now exploring ideas about how they can reach out to a larger community. Both have been inspired by Daniel Pink’s book, The Whole New Mind. Laura says, “When we are trying to put our work into a larger context we see ourselves right in line with his thoughts about how to develop creativity in ourselves, one another, our students, and hopefully a broader community. We would love to someday have our work seen together in a more tangible way.”
When thinking about the progression of their individual practices, Laura said, “I like to foster creativity in others and share the thought that anyone can be an artist. It can be through gardening or cooking or even the way you view the world and create your own life. I want to encourage people to make time for their own creativity.”
Tina shares, “I want to create through my eyes as a mother. I’d like to speak about this delicate place of being a parent and the work of raising another human being. It’s a lot of work to be present with your child and to notice and foster the amazing things about them. It’s important to be in that deep listening place in order to recognize the beauty there. I see this work as long term. I want to share the question with other mother/artists, ‘How can we express our experiences as mothers through our art?’
Both women would someday like to reach a wider audience and to teach collaboratively. They feel this is something that will happen quite naturally as their work together continues. For now, they view their website and blog as a place to share their creative process and to invite others into the discussion on their central questions about life and art.
Laura Gaffke and Tina Hirsig are interdisciplinary visual artists. To learn more about their personal practices, visit www.tinahirsig.com and www.lauragaffke.com. To view their shared website and blog, visit www.lauratwotina.com and their Etsy site: www.lauraTWOtina.etsy.com
* This article was published in the Chariho Times on Thursday, August 5, 2010 and again in the Narragansett Times on Friday, August 6, 2010