Edna Bacon talks about using school as a way to make transitions and about her “crazy” change at age 50.
The Avocationist spoke to her in March 2008. The second of three parts.
“I think my Mother thought I was crazy.”
Read the full interview:
Avocationist: During that time period, were there any people who were particularly helpful or gave you advice that helped you?
Edna: That was when I met my good friend Kent Leslie. Kent has been an important person in encouraging me to do things, and I know that when I was making pottery, my goal was to make the perfect pitcher, and she would always say, “Do it until it suits you.”
"I actually learned something about the Egyptian art in the process of answering that question that I wouldn’t have learned by studying."
I also remember really liking the art history professor, Marie Pepe. The art history was the basis for my wanting to travel, like going to Peru; it was because of the art that is there. I took several courses from her, but there was one in particular about ancient art. When I took the exam, there were going to be three questions and you had to do two of the three, and so I just kind of gambled that I wouldn’t have to know much about the Egyptian art part, and didn’t really study that. Then it turned out that it was a question I couldn’t avoid, so I did it. When the next quarter began, she called me in after class and said, “I just want you to know that you made 100 on that exam, and I have never had anybody do that.” I actually learned something about the Egyptian art in the process of answering that question that I wouldn’t have learned by studying. I didn’t follow up on my interest in art history. That would have been another path.
Avocationist: So you got that enjoyment out of traveling and going to art museums and galleries?
"It was interesting, but you can’t follow every track."
Edna: Yes, exactly. In fact, my senior year in college, I went to New York at Thanksgiving with a friend. During the day, I was kind of on my own and went to art museums. I don’t know why, necessarily, except that is what you did in New York. When I came back, in the winter quarter I had extra hours so I took an art history course, and I still remember that course. It was interesting, but you can’t follow every track, as you well know.
Avocationist: Not all at once, anyway.
"You make a decision at one point, but you can change."
Edna: That I think is important for people to know: You make a decision at one point, but you can change.
Avocationist: Out of all the changes you made, which felt like the most major transition for you?
"The thing I realized about myself is that when I hit, for lack of a better word, a 'crisis point' or a 'change time' for me, my response was to go back to school."
Edna: It was when I went to school for art. The thing I realized about myself is that when I hit, for lack of a better word, a “crisis point” or a “change time” for me, my response was to go back to school. When I hit the early thirties and thought, “Is this all there is?” I went back to school. When all of my children were leaving home, I went back to school. I think my Mother thought I was crazy going back to school and doing the art therapy.
Avocationist: Why did she think it was crazy?
"I blamed it on the fact that I didn’t get to go to Kindergarten when I was 5."
Edna: I just think she thought, “Why at 50 would you go back to school and do something new?” But I blamed it on the fact that I didn’t get to go to Kindergarten when I was 5. With my brothers in school, I was just chomping at the bits to go to school and to read. Then when I got to school and Milton got to high school, I wanted the books that didn’t have pictures and had lots of words; they looked more serious than the ones I was using. My home town, Buford GA, didn’t have a Kindergarten, but Mama had agreed that when I was 5, I could go to this nursery school for children of women who worked It was wonderful, but not long after I started, scarlet fever broke out and they closed it.
"We just came into the first grade room and sat down. We were probably 4."
In fact, when we were living in a house in Buford about three or four blocks from the school, my brother’s first grade teacher told Mama that one day she looked up and Harriet, my little friend up the street, and I had come in and sat down in the back of the room. We just came into the first grade room and sat down. We were probably 4. Miss Daisy told Mama, “I just let them sit for awhile, and then I told them they might want to go back home.” I was very anxious to get to school. That is one pattern that I see in my life.
"Art therapy was something I could do that I didn’t have to retire from."
On a different note, I think another thing that led me to art therapy was that I thought that it was something I could do that I didn’t have to retire from. It was something I could do less of and still do it. The way I was doing pottery was very physical; making functional things, loading and unloading the kiln and packing up and going to shows and sitting there all day and unpacking. The physical part of it made me realize I was getting old.
Next: artist friends bring Edna back around to art.