“I started volunteering at K12 eighteen years ago” Rebecca told me. “Then I went to college at Wright State and taught art part-time at K12. I left to go to grad school in Philadelphia and came back to Dayton at the perfect time. K12 had just doubled their space and was adding TEJAS (Teen Educational Adult Studio). I was hired to coordinate TEJAS on a part- time basis and I also did the “adjunct shuffle” – teaching at Wright State, Sinclair Community College and Stivers School for the Arts. Then eight years ago I started working at K12 full time. Recently I was promoted to Program Director.”
“Working for a non-profit can be challenging. There’s so much work to do and the financial rewards aren’t great. But I love it. I feel very fortunate to be here.”
“Anytime I feel low, I can just walk around the building and see young artists like these, and then I cheer right up.”
Rebecca makes her own art in a studio at her home. She and her husband live in this home on a quiet side street in Dayton.
Rebecca paints in a converted garage at the rear of her home. It’s an ideal space, with lots of light from skylights she’s added. With the windows and the roses, it reminded me of a rustic cottage.
When I entered, I looked for Rebecca’s work bench. I make a habit of photographing work benches whenever I get the chance. No two are ever alike. Rebecca’s work bench didn’t disappoint, with its pens, pencils, brushes, papers for her collages, some paints, and a pile of garlic bulbs from her garden.
Her painting work table was less individualistic, but more colorful.
Before she starts a painting, Rebecca creates a collage that guides her as she paints. This collage was taped to the wall to the right of her easel.
When I visit some artists, they pretend to paint while I take photos. But Rebecca didn’t want to waste time. She had a few free days and she was going to make them count.
When I started watching her work, this canvas only had a background color. But in a relatively short amount of time Rebecca brought it to life, loosely guided by the collage.
This painting was for an exhibition that Rebecca and Ann B. Kim were having at Dutoit Gallery called “Same Same but Different.”
I asked Rebecca how long it takes her to complete a painting. “Once I’ve made the collages and worked out ideas as a starting point, I typically finish an individual painting in a few weeks. I’m a pretty fast painter and tend work in bursts. However, an entire series of 12-14 paintings will take me an entire year to complete.”
“I create work in a series, working on several paintings at one time. I tend to stop working on a painting before I totally finish it. Sometimes I fear that I’ll “over-work” the piece, or need to work out a few more ideas before I feel like I can finish it.”
“My work typically involves structures and architectural spaces. This series is different for me because I have added figures into these spaces. This presents a new challenge so far as paint handling. But I like this addition because it provides me the opportunity to further explore a narrative in my work.
Before leaving, I asked Rebecca to lay down her brush and pose for me.
A month or two after this visit I went to Rebecca’s show at Dutoit Gallery. I loved her work, especially the piece I watched her work on. The title of the piece was great: “Is Bill Still Watching?”
More of her work can be found at: rebeccasargent.com