Interview with Juni Van Dyke

I knew Juni before I became acquainted with her work which is as colorful and energetic as she is.  A true Colorist, her joyful abstractions are testaments to the incredible light of Cape Ann and to her unique creative spirit.

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Juni VanDyke lives and works in Manchester-By-The-Sea, Massachusetts. She’s a graduate of The School of The Museum of Fine Arts/Boston, and Tufts University (diploma 1990: BFA 1990; MAT 1992) and a grant recipient of The St.Botolph Foundation, and The Massachusetts Cultural Council. She is represented by The Jane Deering Gallery and Flatrocks Gallery in Gloucester, MA.

Group exhibitions include: The Copley Society, Kingston Gallery, Bromfield Gallery, The Judith Leighton Gallery, The Jane Deering Gallery, Flatrocks Gallery. Solo exhibitions include: The Boston Center for the Arts, Attleboro Museum, The Dana Hall School, Salem State College, Acacia Gallery, Emmanuel College, Philips Exeter Academy, Merrimack College, Regis College, Bridgewater State College, and The Cape Ann Museum where her work is in the permanent collection. It can also be seen at Room and Board Home Furnishing Design (throughout fifteen cities)

Pat:  You began working with Senior Citizens when you were not one yourself. Has your perspective changed over the years as to what can be accomplished at an advanced age?

Juni:  Ever the optimist, I believed then (and certainly now) that anyone equipped with time and passion can create interesting works of art. Beautiful works of art! Senior Citizens particularly have the advantage in that we are in a phase of our lives when our role as “caretaker/homemaker” is less intense. We have more time. And (!) we have been making “artistic decisions” our entire lives: The list of “artistic decisions” is endless: clothing decisions, car color decisions, house color decisions, lipstick decisions, necktie decisions, food display and table setting decisions, room decor decisions. And this huge bank of artistic decisions that have accumulated over the years can be drawn upon —applied to: whatever the art project — be it pastel or acrylic or watercolor or fabric collage such as was employed in the creation of the beautiful neighborhood quilts!.

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Pat:  You have enriched many lives. In what ways have your students enriched yours?

Juni:  A true and ancient saying: ‘By Your Students You’ll be Taught’. (remember actress Deborah Kerr speaking these words in her role as the teacher in The King and I) My students have enriched my life through the wisdom of their long lives. Their creative life experiences, tenacity, spirit of participation and joyous devotion to place continue to inspire me. More eager for the opportunity to collaborate with one another than for any personal sense of recognition, their remarkable individual effort bears testimony to the truth that the gift of creativity resides within us all. What wonderful gifts of enrichment these students have given me!

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Pat:  Is it difficult to find the time and energy for your own work?

Juni:  I am grateful for the balance that my work provides. A compelling artistic pursuit requires intense periods of solitude. Gregarious by nature, I cherish the opportunity to exchange experiences through teaching. That said, it is in my nature to preserve time for my own work, and I will postpone that cup of coffee before heading to the classroom so that the blue in a painting “can be bluer”.

Pat:  Do you still have the same drive and ambition?

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Juni:  Yes, and that surprises me! I’ve always assumed that septuagenarians mostly sat in the sunshine with a good book, but here I am (at seventy-four) vigorously exploring new paths toward improvement!

Pat:   Do you ever feel that there will not be enough time for all you want to do?

Juni:  Oh yes. And I read somewhere that Matisse said something to the effect of wishing he had an extra thirty years “so that he could really accomplish something” (!) But no use focusing on the impossible. Now is the moment for seizing! I still believe that one day I’m going to learn Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata.

Pat: You have encouraged many many people. Who encourages and supports you?

Juni:  My encounters with others who are similarly involved is a healthy source of support and helps to put the challenges of being an artist into proper perspective. And I am blessed with having a family that is a veritable cheering squad.

Pat:   Have there been unsought fallow periods in your own artistic life?

Juni:  Until recently, I hadn’t given much thought to the truth that the day will come when I will have neither time nor energy to give to my work. Of late, however, age is a gentle reminder and sometimes a compelling realization that eventually time runs out. No such thing as a “fallow period” in my artistic life these days. Other than having wasted time in my youth, I don’t recall that I was ever “empty of ideas”.

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Pat:  Do the ideas keep coming and are you tempted to move in new directions?

Juni:  The ideas do keep coming, and I have to guard against a pattern of “unresolved conclusions.” For example, I am working on a series of collaged illustrations. The “Needs Improvement Box” of these collages has remained under my bed for way too long. And, I have in my head a series of paintings related to personal family dynamics. The images have been “percolating” with no specific agenda. But I am busy with other things. I also have “a map” of how I’d like to make a film addressing issues related to “so called failure”. It too is “percolating” but…. And then there is the little illustrated story for kids about “Staying Fit and Fast”. Illustrations are mostly resolved. Story is a mess, but I can’t get to it right now. And…there are those stacked up canvases lined up for landscape paintings. Perhaps it’s time to hire a coach!

Pat:  You have done an excellent job of promoting the work of your students whose amazing quilts now hang in the Cape Ann Museum. Do you find it harder to promote your own work?

Juni:  Years ago I was quite driven by the need to “get my work out there”. Successful opportunities followed almost annually. Today I have no such drive and instead rely upon two galleries for occasional exhibition opportunity. As for “what will become of all my work”…well, you can’t take it with you. The best I can hope for is that donations will be accepted, and most of all, that I remain content in remembering the joy of engagement

Pat: Has your process changed with aging? What is your primary medium today?

Juni:  Forever a colorist, my process continues to evolve along with the usual mediums (oils, and acrylics). Fairly new to my process is pastel. I will probably fade out on a bed of colored pencils and collage which I currently adore.

Pat:  Do you feel that you are doing your best work?

Juni:  Well, my intuitions seem more reliable. That said, I am most proud of an installation that began over twenty five years ago. The work addresses American attitudes toward aging. It was shown here and there throughout New England. The response was very affirming, and I continue to receive inquiries about it. Perhaps I will try to have it shown once more. When I began this work I was young. Now I am part of the story!

Pat:  What period of your life do you look back on as your most prolific?

Juni:  Two years ago, I completed a very large body of work — my most prolific to date. But that was then, and this is now. For me, the process is the most exciting aspect of being an artist. Finishing work has its own reward. But being in the moment and at one with the process? That’s the best!!

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