I think Lin Lisberger’s sculptures are mesmerizing. They draw me in and invite me to stay a while. One, in particular, wouldn’t loosen its grip.
Letting Go is one of a series of hands Lin sculpted about the time my daughters were in high school. It symbolized feelings I was struggling with then. My babies had grown up and I would need to let them go soon. I saw sadness in Lin’s hands, but I also saw tranquility. And a realization that letting go doesn’t need to be abrupt and painful. It can be gradual and quite freeing.
Square Knot reminds me of my own childhood. When I was a Girl Scout and learned to make the perfect square knot. Right over left and under then left over right and under. I still chant it every time I make a square knot.
On Lin’s website, she says that she always tries to describe both object and space. Doing so creates a foundation and the beginning of a narrative. “I use narrative, both subtly and overtly, to emphasize my interest in humans and their relationships,” she writes. “The act of the hand in carving seems to enrich the voice of the storyteller — creating images to evoke personal thoughts and memories for each viewer.”
It certainly works for me. Now, find out for yourself. Be drawn in by her sculptures and learn more about her in my profile of Lin Lisberger. Carver of Wood.
When did you know you wanted to be an artist?
My mother was always a sort of hobby artist and took courses at Cornell where I grew up. I was doing modern dance and not art in college and I hurt my hip and could not dance. I was at Cornell for a year when that happened so I took a sculpture class (with one of her friends and teachers, Victor Colby) instead of dance and really enjoyed it.
In the meantime, I was also getting an English lit degree, so sculpture was definitely not a career I had thought of. I got my English degree from UC Santa Cruz (where I also took some sculpture classes) and then moved back to New England (first Amherst, MA and then Monmouth, ME) and learned to make pottery since I knew sculpture does not pay the bills (it still doesn’t!).
I had a pottery studio in Monmouth, Maine and carved wood sculpture on the side. I did not love all aspects of pottery enough to keep at it and decided then to go back to school for an MFA in sculpture. I love making things, but don’t ever remember thinking “Oh, I want to be an artist.” It just was part of a path I was on.
Where/when did you go to school?
UC Santa Cruz, BA in English Literature, 1973
University of Pennsylvania, Graduate School of Fine Arts, MFA in Sculpture, 1980
What is your preferred medium and why?
I have been a wood carver for most of my sculpture career because I like the strength and durability of wood but also love the ability to change and “move” it.
I believe in knowing how to do as many other sculptural techniques as possible, so I know how to weld, cast, forge, and work with stone, plaster, clay and bronze, but those just haven’t resonated with me as strongly as wood has.
I like the physicality of working with wood and generally am able to move it around by myself or at least not need any large machinery for that. It has the benefit of being pretty, ugly, natural, colored, smooth and rough, too.
Where do you find inspiration?
I look inward and outward. Sometimes it is nature, sometimes the figure, sometimes in response to the news. Ideas often come to me when I can’t sleep at night or when I occasionally write in my studio journal.
What is your process?
I carve, construct and carve again. I do and undo. Sometimes I see a piece of wood and know what to make with it. Otherwise, I draw or make some functional thing until I know where to go with my work.
Do you have some words of wisdom for beginning artists?
Set aside time to make art that is a sacrosanct time, even if it is only once a week or once a month. Do not schedule coffee dates or doctor’s appointments at those times. Make what makes you feel good and develop a very thick skin because there are a ton of people out there making art and everyone’s can’t be shown. So know that you are doing it because you have to/want to, and have fun.
Where to see more
You can see more of Lin’s work and the stories behind each series on her website. Lin Lisberger, Sculptor.
If you would like to recommend a Maine artist for me to profile, please send me an email. ~Diane Atwood