Interview with Mary Margaret Sweeney

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Mary Margaret Sweeney

Mary Margaret Sweeney (Margee) has been a close friend since I first joined the New Hampshire Art Association in the 1980s. Though we worked in very different mediums we regularly exhibited together at the Currier Gallery in group shows in which she won all the prizes. I have always admired her enthusiasm, unique talent and wise way of looking at the world and her place in it.

Here is her brief biography and description of her process.

I’m named after both of my grandmothers, and to not slight either one, I’m called Margee by my friends. I’ve been an artist all my life, following in the footsteps of my artist relatives. My education included after school art classes at John Heron Museum of Art in Indianapolis when in elementary school, art classes in high school with Miss Rocap and majoring in art at Marion College, Indianapolis, Indiana for two years. Two years were spent at the Chicago Art Institute School. After some time, and with a family of four children, I went back to school to receive my Bachelor of Arts Degree at the University of New Hampshire in Durham in 1980. There I found printmaking and have devoted my life to it ever since.

Needing to earn a Living for myself I took my show on the road and to juried arts and craft shows around the country. I  did this from 1995 until 2010 when I retired from the shows but not the printmaking. I’ve since stopped doing hard ground etchings and have been making solar etchings exclusively since 2007 after taking a workshop at North Country Workshops in Bennington, Vermont on solar etching with Dan Welden. Solar etching does not use acid. The works are etched with light, a more environmentaly friendly method of printmaking.

Along the way I became a member of the New Hampshire Artists Association and the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen.  I‘m also most proud of being a juried member of Boston Printmakers and also of the Society of American Graphic Artists in New York, S.A.G.A, which celebrated their 100th anniversary in 2015. I participated in their member’s  celebratory exhibition,

Pat:  Do you still have the same creative drive?

Margee:  By creative drive do you mean  am I still compelled to draw?  Yes I am and through the years,  just as practice makes perfect, I have improved my drawing skills.

Pat:  Have you had to change your way of working because of limitations of any kind?

Margee: I no longer work with very large plates of copper or zinc.  In 2007 I participated in North Country Workshops in Bennington, Vermont.  The workshop I took was solar etching with Dan Welden.  I was thrilled at the ability to draw forward instead of backward and with a pencil instead of an etching needle as in hard ground etching, also in being able to use light instead of acid to etch the plate.  Solar etching involves making a transparency of the drawing that I have done.  I expose a special plate to the transparency of the drawing exposed over the plate.  Light etches the image on to the plate.  I work exclusively in solar etching today.

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Pat:  Have you become more process oriented?

Margee:  I have become wedded to the  solar etching process

Pat: Do you maintain your affiliation with Boston Printmakers?

Margee:  This year Boston Printmakers will be having a members’ exhibition titled “2016 Q State of Mind.”  The theme will be “to establish a reasoned, well placed forum for the issues at hand by frantic bombardment of messages.”  World problems are immense and I, as a member in good standing have chosen climate change.  I am honored to be a member of Boston Printmakers as well as of SAGA, Society of American Graphic Artists in New York.  In 2015 SAGA celebrated their one hundredth anniversary and in celebration held a members exhibition in which I participated.

 
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Pat: You have been working out of the same studio space for many years, but have there been changes to how you sell or promote your work?

Margee:  I have been a printmaker since 1980.  I became a member of the New Hampshire Artists Association, Durham, in 1980, after that time I exhibited and sold work through NHAA.  Around then I joined the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen and sold in the League shops and at the Sunapee Fair.  In 1995 I took my show on the road and went around the Country as far west as Des Moines, Iowa,  and as far south as Pensacola, Florida with cities in between, selling my work at juried art and craft shows.  I was approached at one of these shows by someone who was starting a website.  Websites were new then.  She said I was the only woman beside herself that she wanted to include, so now I had a website.  I eventually branched off and formed my own website http://www.marymargaretsweeney.com.

Pat: Do you feel that your age works against you in the Marketplace?

Margee:  All the years I traveled the country doing shows I found no discrimination.  We were all in this together.  Nobody gave special treatment to anyone.  I could ask for help if I needed it and everyone would come running if someone needed help in an emergency.  I guess we all figured that this work we were doing, setting up a tent or booth, manning it for a weekend, taking it down and driving home or to the next show required a great deal of energy and we should all be nice to one another since it was such hard work.  It was also more fun that way.  I made a lot of friends, both men and women.

Pat:  Do you continue to experiment?

Margee:  I love to draw.  I’ve been drawing since I was 2 years old.  I don’t experiment.  I just draw.  Over the years the subjects that I draw can get more intricate and detailed  I’m satisfied with that.  I can draw anything I can see.  My drawing tools are HB and 6B graphite pencils and a kneaded eraser.  I color some of my etchings with colored pencil.

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Pat:  Do you feel you are doing your best work?  If not is there a period you would identify as one in which you did your best work?

Margee:  My best work is the drawing I’m working on now.

Pat:  Do you always work alone?

Margee:  I create alone, start a new drawing at home, but I can always get feedback from the other printmakers in the studio, especially about a technical issue.  I need to draw all by myself.

 
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Pat:  Do you feel the need of a support system in other ways?

Margee:  Full Tilt Print Studio members are my support system. And one special friend who is my neighbor.

Pat:  Have you a plan for archiving your work?

Margee:  My daughter, Maureen, has promised to take care of all my art after I’m gone.  It will be up to her as to how it is distributed and cared for.  She has promised..

Pat:  For the most part have you been able to maintain your creative serenity and sense of artistic worth?

Margee:  Yes, definitely.  During times of ill health I have wished to be well enough to be working but thankfully those times pass and I am back being an artist again.

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