This is the tenth in a series of interviews with each of the Sondheim Award Semifinalists. Finalists will be announced in mid-April, and will be on exhibit at the Walters Art Museum June 21 to August 17; those not selected as finalists with be exhibited at the Decker, Meyerhoff and Pinkard Galleries at MICA July 17 to August 3, 2014.
Name: Nora Sturges
Current Location: Baltimore
Hometown: Stamford, CT
School: Bowdoin College undergrad and Ohio University grad
Current favorite artists or artwork: Thomas Nozkowski, Norbert Schwontkowski, and Honoré Sharrer are current interests.
What is your day job? How do you manage balancing work with studio time with your life? I teach painting full-time at Towson University. It’s challenging to find time to make art during the semester, and much of my work is done in the summers, but at its best teaching gives me energy and experiences I can use toward my own work.
How would you describe your work, and your studio practice? I enjoy imagining places and things, thinking about them and trying to give them life.
What part of artmaking to you like or enjoy the most? The least? I love realizing the image, but hate the painting part.
What research do you do for your art practice? I get ideas from so many sources that almost everything could be research. I look at a lot of art (old and new), and photos of any sort, and I read things that I think have the potential to be used in my work (though it’s often a surprise what ends up being useful). The past few years walking has been an important kind of research for me– I find that I notice my surroundings in a different way when I’m a pedestrian.
Do you think it’s just the slower pace of walking that allows you to notice things more, or do you think the act of walking making you more alert and able to observe? Is there anywhere you prefer to walk- city, suburbs, parks, etc? I go walking around where I live, and it’s usually a walk with a purpose– to the store or to work. There are definitely things one sees as a pedestrian that are hard to see from a moving car, but there’s also something different about one’s frame of mind when walking. I find that it makes me very open to ideas, perhaps from the enforced slowness of it. And walking the same route over time gives me a chance to really notice things. The most fruitful area for me has been Osler Drive in Towson, which is the dullest of roads. I’ve gotten parts of maybe ten paintings from things I’ve seen on Osler Drive.
What books have you read lately you would recommend? Movies? Television? Music? I’m a big fan of radio because I can listen while I paint. Radiolab and Studio 360 are great shows, and I love BBC Radio 4.
Do you ever get in creative dry spells, and if so, how do you get out of them? I often have times when I’m not especially inspired, and don’t feel like working, but I make myself do it anyway. I once had a long period, after I finished a body of work I’d been engaged with for several years, when I had no ideas for what to do next, and everything I tried failed. It was awful. But I tried to follow the advice I give to students who don’t know what to do– you can’t discover what to make if you’re not making, so just make anything. So I just kept making paintings (quick ones– going for quantity), and eventually I found direction.