Artists come from all walks of life. Not all artists start out working in the arts; some begin their education or careers in other fields, and then realize later on that something keeps pulling them back to creative pursuits. Here at Studio Gallery, a number of our artists come from completely non-art-related backgrounds.
Over the course of the summer, I will be asking our diverse artists to answer four questions to better understand what their backgrounds are, how they decided to go into art as a career, and how their backgrounds influence their work. This week, we're sitting down with Jo Levine, artist, photographer - lawyer.
What is your background?
“For nearly 25 years, I was a lawyer for the Federal Trade Commission, a small agency with two missions: protecting consumers from deceptive or unfair commercial practices and and enforcing antitrust laws. I represented the FTC in proceedings in federal district and appellate courts. I wasn't involved in trials--my work involved written briefs and legal arguments in court hearings. My job was intellectually challenging, and emotionally gratifying because I was working for the public good.”
Why did you decide to become an artist?
“I decided to become an artist twice. First, after I got married and graduated from college, I began taking photos with a 35mm film camera my husband gave me as a wedding present. I shot black-and-white film and printed pictures in an improvised darkroom in our kitchen. I thought I would try to become a full-time photographer ... but then I was admitted to law school, and decided that that was more practical. After I graduated from law school, I mostly didn't take pictures because I had little free time, and didn't want to spend what little I had in a darkroom.
The second time I decided to become an artist was after I retired. I had always wanted to be a writer, and tried that, but became discouraged by the difficulty of getting anything published. I then took up photography again -- digital this time. I wasn't sure how serious about it I would be, but I entered a juried art competition at an artists' cooperative gallery in little Washington, Virginia, and won third prize. Although I didn't feel "ready," some members of the gallery encouraged me to apply, and to my surprise, I was juried in in 2006. Several years later, I applied to the Studio Gallery, and again, to my surprise, I was accepted as a member.”
How has your background influenced your artwork?
“The one way in which my background may have influenced my work is that my lawyer's eye for details has been transformed into an eye for visual details. My legal work also taught me to be organized, which is an asset when preparing for shows.”
What currently inspires your artwork the most?
“My inspiration is the pleasure I take in finding and preserving something beautiful or interesting, and in sharing it with other people. The need to come up with new material for gallery shows is -- if not an inspiration -- a prod to keep taking and printing pictures.”
From staff contributor Bri Hooijberg.