Second Careers: How Art Changed a Life

Trying something new can be wonderfully rewarding.

By Georgetta Lordi Morque

 

Pamela Pearce at Bistrot Art & Wine, Casole d’Elsa, Italy. Photo by Amy Jane Holman.
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For Pamela Pearce, enrolling in an art class helped turn her life around after a terrible loss and put her on a path to a successful and rewarding second career—as an artist.

When her husband, Barre, passed away after a debilitating illness ten years ago, Pamela fell into a dark place filled with unbearable grief, which she detailed in a compelling piece in the fall 2014 issue of the Art Students League magazine, “LINES from the League,” and which featured her artwork on the cover.

Several months into widowhood, she received a postcard in the mail about classes at the Art Students League of New York and immediately threw the notice out. Somehow, she gained the courage to retrieve the crumpled paper from the garbage, only to throw it out again. Hesitant and fearful, she eventually registered for a weekly class in collage and mixed media because it took place on Sunday, her worst day, which was laden with feelings of isolation in her Hudson Valley home.

Yet Pamela was also somewhat drawn to collage. She always liked to collect things and has no problem admitting that she likes junk. She also was curious about the concept. “I didn’t know that art could be non-representational. I was the not the kind of kid who could draw the horse that looked like a horse,” she recalled of her childhood.

“Flower Girls 1”, mixed media collage.
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Writing was her passion, not visual arts. In addition to becoming a successful writer, her eclectic career included roles as a cook and an assistant chef, receptionist and assistant to the TV commercial casting directors at an ad agency, and the director of events and publicity for the PEN American Center. Her first job as a teen was working in her aunt’s cosmetic studio.

In her first collage classes, Pamela found that the creative process of cutting and pasting was helping her move forward from her grief, and she loved finding a use for her many collectibles. She also discovered a welcoming community to be part of and people who became new friends. “A lot of wonderful things have happened,” said Pamela.

Under the tutelage of her teacher Mariano Del Rosario, her work progressed and her own style evolved. She became intrigued by the Old Masters portraits that she remembered from posters as a child, and portraits from the early 19th century American folk artist Ammi Phillips, whose work she found in a 25-cent catalogue she purchased at a library sale. Phillips’ paintings also brought back memories of times she and her late husband visited antique stores filled with furniture from that period. The process almost became a way of mourning.

 

Left, “Madonna in Gold”. Right, “Madonna with Quilt” was on the cover of LINES, the Art Students League magazine. Mixed media collage.
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In her work, “Re-mastering the Masters,” Pamela give these works a new life by reinventing them in collages, adding materials and creative techniques. She explores the inner lives of the people in the portraits, contemplating their thoughts and feelings. Her collages tell imagined stories about hopes and dreams. In her artist statement, she writes: “In my work, anything can happen, and it often does as my conscious thoughts of craft roam the storehouse of my unconscious, seeking fresh combinations and surprising outcomes.”

Another collage series, “Flower Girls,” earned Pamela the Art Students League’s Elizabeth Cady Stanton Blake Merit Scholarship, which enabled her to study at the League full-time for a year. Her work has appeared in many shows at the Art Students League, and she was especially thrilled when one of her collages was chosen for a publicity poster.

Pamela eventually moved to the city, not far from the Art Students League, where she continues to take classes. Her passion for creating art has taken her to England and Italy for additional classes. Her work is now in numerous private collections and has appeared in shows at the Garrison Art Center, Hudson Valley MOCA and the Grace Institute, among other gallery spaces. In addition to her art, she continues to write and is the author of a new book of poetry, “Widowland.”

For those mulling over their next act and curious about art, Pamela’s advice is to just jump in and try it.

You can see more of Pamela’s work at PamelaPearceStudio.com

“Jackie”, mixed media collage.

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SAMPLING OF ADULT ART CLASSES IN NEW YORK CITY

The Art Students League of New York
215 West 57th Street, 212-247-4510. Founded by artists and supporting artists since 1875. Since then, many prominent artists have studied and/or taught there. There are more than 100 studio-based classes in drawing, sculpture, painting, printmaking and hundreds of weekend and week-long workshops. Educational programs are based on the 19th century French atelier system of a master artist working alongside students. No entrance requirements or pre-requisites. All ages and levels are welcome. Affordable pricing and flexible scheduling. Most classes range from $120 to $280 per month.

The Art Studio
145 West 96th Street #1b, 212-932-8484. All ages and levels welcome. Adult program is designed to provide relaxation, creative expression and a break to recharge from hectic city life. Classes in painting, drawing, mixed media, BYOB events and more, all aimed at encouraging self-expression and fulfillment. Prices range from $45 for a single class to $449+ for a seven or eight-week session, depending upon the type of class.

Chelsea Drawing & Painting Workshops
321 West 24th Street, Studio 411. An art workshop inspired by the 15th century Renaissance workshops. All levels welcome. Workshops start at $35.

Creatively Wild Art Studio
33 Washington Street in DUMBO, Brooklyn. Inspiring and relaxing adult classes in painting, drawing, mixed media, 3D found object art and more, for absolute beginners as well as intermediate and advanced students. Prices start at $450 for select 6-week sessions. Longer sessions and drop-in rates are also available. So are private lessons, off-site and at-home classes.

Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan
Samuel Priest Rose Building, 344 Amsterdam Avenue, 646-505-4444. The Lambert Center for the Arts provides an extensive creative arts program of adult classes in painting, drawing, printmaking, digital media, jewelry making, ceramics and wearable art. The JCC also has “Artful Aging” for ages 60+. Students are able to experiment with a variety of techniques and materials in a casual and relaxing atmosphere. $320 for non-members starting January 10th.

92nd Street Y
1395 Lexington Avenue, 212-415-5500. The Y’s Fine Art & Design program features adult classes in painting, drawing, printmaking, digital design, photography, mixed media and more, plus short-term workshops with visiting artists and lectures. There are more than 50 types of classes of varying lengths, and sessions with levels ranging from absolute beginners through advanced students. Beginner classes in cartooning and illustration, calligraphy, photo editing, oil painting, watercolor painting, collage and mixed media and more. Prices vary.

For an additional listing of classes and programs in many forms of art, visit CourseHorse.com

For further inspiration, visit the Carter Burden Gallery, 548 West 28th Street #534, which features works from a community of re-emerging New York City artists over age 60.
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Georgetta Lordi Morque is an award-winning freelance writer and public relations consultant who focuses on sports, fitness and health.

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