Several months ago, Arnie Fenner asked if I’d be interested in doing an interview for the first issue of the new Spectrum Fantastic Art Quarterly, due out this fall. As is my way, I immediately said, “Yes, of course! That sounds like great fun.” The interesting twist being that I’d be interviewing my dear friend, Forest Rogers, on her sculpture. Having been on the “interviewee” side of various articles, it was a curious and engaging experience to now be on the side of the “interviewer.”
“How hard can it be?” I thought, “come up with a few questions and she does the heavy lifting, right?” How wrong I was. Forest has been interviewed frequently and has answered similar questions scads of times in her career. To move our conversation into new directions called for bucketloads of research, engaging deeply in the full scope of her creations – certainly her sculpture, but also her history, writing and artistic philosophy. Once I’d sifted through, I ended up providing Forest with an absolute horde of questions, which she dove into with great aplomb and, to all our benefit, responded with her classically inspiring insightful eloquence.
As is the case with all good projects, in the process of learning about Forest, I learned a fair bit about myself as well. To boot, I came out with a much greater admiration for the writers we’ve worked with who go to great lengths to come up with intriguing questions and organize the flow of an article. So here, I am pleased to share a few little tidbits from my conversation with the incomparable Forest. You can look forward to seeing the full article and images this October, including a peek into her poetry, sketching for sculpture, words about birds and (finally!) the revealing of the secret magic caffeinated elixir of inspiration that she drinks.
SFAQ will be 12″x12″, full color, and will be available to bookstores through Publishers Group West and Diamond – Bud Plant and other retailers will most likely have copies before anyone else. In addition to our article “Enchanted Forest,” the first issue will debut features including: “Being Frank,” reminisces of Frank Frazetta by his sisters Carol Frazzetta and Jean Frazzetta Falice, children Holly, Heidi, and Bill Frazetta, granddaughter Sara Frazetta, and colleagues William Stout, James Gurney, and Steven E. Gordon; “Elizabeth Leggett: Storyteller” (interview with the Hugo Award-winning Artist); “Oh, Mercy!” featuring Muddy Colors’ founder Dan dos Santos writing about creating the covers for the bestselling Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs; “20 Questions With an Art Director” by Lauren Panepinto, plus more. It sounds like a great read already!
“Enchanted Forest” excerpts:
Throughout my deep dive into the wildly enchanting subterranean labyrinth of the life and creations of my dear friend Forest Rogers, I was enticed to wander down succulent paths bursting with imagination. I repeatedly stumbled across curious little doors leading to hidden worlds and drifted down deep rabbit holes filled with creatures wondrous and strange.
You cannot merely scan the surface of her intensely rich and prismatic world. You are called to draw in a deep breath and dive into the abyss, head-first hand-in-hand with her to experience the joy, the mystery, the heartbreak and the beauty that is all part of who she is and the living entity that is her art […]
Kristine: Recently there have been some big online conversations about people stealing ideas from other artists. We have both experienced unscrupulous people using our own images to list our works for sale on their sites without permission and fictitiously as they do not own the work or the rights to the work – this is clearly wrong. But in talking about someone “being inspired by,” you once said, “People will find their own voice, and if there are general, unintended resemblances on the way there, well, it has been so throughout history, it’s one way we learn. To inspire and encourage something in another, to be a link in that fantastic chain we make together, that leads out of sight we know not where, is an honor and an excitement.” How would you encourage someone who’s inspired by what you do to go about developing their own voice and unique vision?
Forest: Well, when I find someone’s work inspiring, I may consider how qualities I love in it relate to what I’m already doing. I love medieval altar pieces, for instance, and I see ways I want to combine that format with my own subjects. I might think a layer deeper about what qualities draw me into a body of work, beyond what’s immediately evident.
A possibly fun exercise: if you’re looking at a book of works you love, stop a moment. Before you turn the next page, imagine a new image that would knock your socks off when you flip that page and behold it. Grow the vision of that thing in your mind. Then, turn the page. Likelihood is, you won’t see what you just imagined. So now you’ve got an idea to play with. While exploring a museum or gallery, envision what you would most love to see around the next corner… make that.
K: […] There are many works of technical brilliance that have faded into the annals of history, while others continue to stop subsequent generations in their tracks. Having created so many timeless works yourself, what qualities in a creative work create the magic that transcends time?
F: There’s a huge question. I dare speak only for myself: something might imprint itself upon me for life that another would forget in an hour, or vice versa. For me, a work endures that transports me to another realm, like Kay Nielsen’s images did, before I could read. Something that speaks close to the center of a feeling or idea, that captures an archetype shared deep down. I like Thomas Carlyle’s statement, “The merit of originality is not novelty, it is sincerity.” For me, novelty is intriguing in the service of something more, rather than as an end in itself. The enduring thing for me has to do with meaning, I think, though it may be wordless and elusive. Perhaps it’s work that speaks not only to me but for me: that embodies something I needed to have expressed, though I may not have known it.
K: What’s something you would you tell your younger self that would ease your way on your artistic journey?
F: […] I think I’d tell myself that what is your own will emerge and evolve over time, that every piece can be thought of as a step rather than an end, that to live in the process will take you where you need to go even though that is at present out of sight. I’d say that unavoidable loss or misadventure may add ingredients necessary to the voice that is yours at the far end of the bridge. And that to make a thing that is somehow true is a singular joy.
P.S. Remain playful.
A few other “Forest-morsels” to whet your appetite:
“I also remind myself that we cannot guess what meaning our work may have for another, sometime, somewhere. I think of the many who inspire me, and what would’ve been lost had they abandoned their efforts at some impasse of discouragement. I am grateful to all who persist in creating. I admire just that.”
“I feel like hitching my hope to transformation and growth rather than to any fixed landfall. I need to listen to my future the way I listen to a sculpt or a scribble on a napkin, and find out where it leads.”
And this is just the beginning…