Visiting Artist Autumn Pearson Is Living Her Truth
Former high school teacher and administrator Autumn Pearson has embraced the artist life and has lived a life many fantasize about — leaving the bureaucratic grind and creating works and opportunities all her own.
Her odyssey has included working residencies in faraway places. She’s worked in residency in Morocco and the Canary Islands.
Peason has spent the past two months creating her unique amalgam of folk-art in Safety Harbor. She uses found objects and recycled materials.
The artist will give a BOLDER Talk at the Safety Harbor Arts & Music Center on the topic “Giving Back,” inspired by her grandparents, whom she visits in Safety Harbor.
“A lot of her relatives are flying in from all over as her main mission is ‘to connect.’” says Kiaralinda, co-director/co-founder of SHAMc.
Creative Pinellas Journal caught up with the inspirational artist to find out what she has to share with the North Pinellas community.
Please tell us about the work you’ve been doing in Safety Harbor:
“I have been working in Safety Harbor for around two months now using all found or recycled material. While doing an artist in residence in the Canary Islands, I had the idea for this show: “Giving Back.” My family has had winter homes in SH since the 60s. My great grandfather and grandparents were all snowbirds and I would come to SH every spring break and my Christmas holidays since I was a small girl. I remember learning to ride bike — a yellow banana seat bike my grandfather fixed up for me in Harbor Hills — and doing cartwheels on the old pier. My grandfather had a bicycle built for two that was a real treat to ride around the SH.
Anyway, while on the Canaries, I began reminiscing about my family and SH and thought what better place to give back to through my art.
My exhibition will include a series of Moroccan women dressed in traditional jellabas made from my grandfather’s old picket fence, a series of portraits of my mother and her three sisters — again all made of recycled and found objects, a very large three-headed mermaid — as a give back to SHAMc — for all they contribute to the arts, and few other surprises!!
A list of material I have used for this show are:
Tampa Bay Times
Can pop tops
Old paint brushes
Old chair caning
Just to name a few….
What has the transition been like going from teacher to professional artist?
It has been a transition I have been building up to for years. I have had a constant battle between my artist and educator self. I finally decided ART WINS! I was offered an Artist in Residency opportunity in Morocco. I knew I would not be able to return to teaching after that experience and took the leap. I have not had one regret. I know I made the right decision for me and can always go back to teaching. I will always be a teacher and there are many ways to teach and have influence in others lives –.outside of the school walls.
Kiaralinda tells us that you have been traveling — to Morocco? Can you tell us a little about those experiences, how they inspired your artwork?
I have been traveling since June of last year. I started in Colombia and then spent all of July through in Aug. in Morocco. I then went to the Canary Islands for September and was back in Morocco in October and November.
I really fell in love with Morocco, its people, culture, language, markets, lifestyle, all of it! I spent my first month in Sefrou — a small town outside of Fez. I was there as an artist in residence working with local artisans. I used the scraps from their processes to create my imagery. I create three large-scale images of Storks. The strokes in Sefrou were so beautiful and nested high on the Masques. They sang incredible songs and hunted and gathered daily to sustain themselves. I could empathize with these storks as I hunted and gathered to create my art. Through this experience, I made lifelong connections and started to learn the language — Darija — a dialect of Arabic. I was adopted by a Berber family and spent a lot of time with them in the village learning about cooking and weaving. They are my family for sure, and I will be traveling back to Morocco in the Spring to stay with them and continue to learn more about weaving and enjoy the tranquility of village life.
I also spent about a month in northern Morocco in the Chefchaouen — The Blue City. It was a beautiful town nestled in the mountains. There was a lot of traditional folk art in this area an I began learning more about the local artisans and handicrafts of the area. I was very blessed with all the sharing and opportunities I was provided.
… And the Canary Islands?
The Canary Islands were so peaceful and safe. It was like staying at grandmother’s house! I was mostly on the island of El Hierro — the smallest and most southern of the islands. While an artist in EL Hierro,n I created my exhibition, again, out of all found and recycled materials. I used a lot of items washed up from the sea, paper, cans, etc. to create a series of three images — The Patron Saint of the Island — The Virgin de Los Reyes, A centaur, and a dragon — all symbolizing my learnings from traveling and life. In addition to this series, I created other artwork from egg cartons, cans, mermaids from found sea objects, etc. I was given an exhibition by the local tourism office and it was on display for two weeks. A real honor.
What will your BOLDER talk be about?
Mostly, I want people to leave my exhibition and talk not afraid to live their truth. I want to talk about my story, my decision, my travels and how they have impacted my life. I want people to have a deeper understanding and appreciation for conscientious consumerism. I want to talk about my family and the importance of family — it seems so obvious, but I have observed our idea of family here in the U.S. is different than other countries….family should be valued and natured.
Speaking of Inspirational Women … Coming up at the Safety Harbor Art and Music Center: WHO (Women Helping Others) welcomes gal pals and new friends for Girl’s Night Out With A Purpose on Friday, Feb. 9, 7-9 p.m. Attendees are asked to bring a dish or a bottle of wine, a minimum of $20. In return, you can enter “opportunity drawing” tickets for prizes worth over hundreds of dollars. Proceeds will go to the purchase and installation of roll-down inclement weather panels for their ODDitorium-where the majority of their art and music programming takes place. Recently, some classes had to be canceled due to rain, heat or cold conditions. These weatherproofing panels will make the space more usable year round. The project cost is $8,300; they have already raised $4,200. SHAMc is at 706 Second St. N., Safety Harbor.