Georgia Fullerton was drawn to artistic expression as a young girl living Jamaica. Years later, now based in Toronto, she has found her footing and embraces the mantle that comes with living life as a full time creative. As we prepared to close the curtain on 2017, while Fullerton readied herself for a coming art exhibit in her home country; Jamaica, she fit us into her schedule and gave us the opportunity to get to know her, her art and her journey.
I am always interested in a person’s artistic journey, can you tell me about yours? When did you start painting & drawing? And, when did you decide to build a career from this?
Georgia: My journey in art began, from what I can remember, at age 2 when my mother was still in Jamaica (my birthplace), preparing to come to Canada. My father was already in Alberta, securing a teaching job and finding a home for the rest of the family. My parents would write letters back and forth and in one particular letter I had scribbled a small ‘note’ to my father. It was my first markmaking as a young artist. Moving through my school age years I spent time on my own drawing but the original inspiration to came from my mother, who in the mid-seventies got her Masters of Education at the University of Calgary and brought home many lithograph prints and drawings. I would sit and look through her work and conduct my own critiques and sometimes title the works for her. My parents always encouraged me and my siblings to pursue areas in the arts. In 1983 I enrolled at Red Deer College in Alberta and studied visual arts with a specialization in Printmaking. Transferring to York University’s Fine Arts Department in 1985 I received my Bachelor of Arts degree and began my working career in the print industry. I learned and succeeded in multiple areas of print production; from apparel printing, offset printing to leading edge digital print on demand and direct mail marketing. After an 18-year career in print production my desire to pursue my passion for visual arts led me to put aside the nine to five and focus on becoming a full-time artist. As it is, we artists wear many hats and I am no different as an arts educator, facilitator and an expressive arts therapist; a new direction.
How has your art evolved throughout the years? (What themes did you explore before and which ones do you do now?) And why?
Georgia: My earlier work was mostly portraits and figurative in theme. Using acrylic paints, I would focus on people who made some kind of impact on my life, like my family members, exlovers and others who were part of my journey. The figurative works were inspired by my own curiosity with the human form. Also because in college and university I was heavily involved in sports, I grappled with the duality in my art of “the artist and the jock”. Today I consider myself to be an abstract expressionist artist, as my style has changed to a more intuitive way of conceptualizing and painting. I still paint with primarily acrylics and use found objects like wood, hair, fabric and plant life to add texture and play to my art. The themes in my work today explore the self, healing from trauma and the relationship that occurs between artist, image and the liminal space between them. My work delves into the psychology of art and relationship.
Correct me if I’m wrong but, your latest work seems to be mostly Abstract Expressionism, what lead you to make that artistic choice? (If not, then feel free to still explain why a large part of your collection is Abstract Expressionism)
Georgia: Yes that story is one I find myself telling each time I’m asked to do an artist talk or present at a school or community event. Back in 2010 I was the victim of domestic abuse and that experience not only changed my life and sense of self, but also was what changed my artistic style. The result of this one-time abusive situation found me back at the matrimonial home of my exhusband who allowed me to stay there until I “sorted myself out”. The six months I stayed there with our daughter, I spent a lot of time in the spare bedroom surrounded by canvasses, paints, brushes and my memories of the recent trauma I suffered. It’s here that I began to view my relationship with art differently. I started to use my art therapeutically and my paintbrush became my healing stick. As a result of this awakening, I created 3 large pieces that exhibited at the Royal Ontario Museum in the largest group show at a major venue featuring artists of Caribbean and African descent. It was a turning point for my art and my impending career. I was introduced to a new type of therapy known as Expressive Arts Therapy. Throughout my training in this form of therapy, my studio work began change to abstraction and unearthed a more intuitive approach to art-making. I began to focus more on the process than the end product.
There is a lot of beauty and soul in your Portrait and Figures pieces. What inspires these most?
Georgia: These pieces always come around because of an emotion that I feel from someone I’ve had communication with. It’s a simple representation of a feeling or thought around an experience I’ve had with someone or something. The element of surprise is the existence of bold sensuality and sometimes eroticism in some of these images and their expression.
Q: Femask and Maskulyn in particular, can you explain the vision and choices behind them?
Georgia: Like so many of my early works, there is always a back story to the back story. The inspiration with these two paintings came from an exhibition theme called MASK (Scotiabank Caribana exhibition; Blue Dot Gallery, Toronto). This duo expresses the idea of the masculine and feminine sensibilities through the lens of sexual dominion and role reversal. ‘Femask’ accentuates the strong, beautiful, and sensual energy of a female inspired mask. The male counterpart is the painting ‘Maskulyn’ that fuses a masculine figure with the seemingly more feminine act of crying in an attempt to show that regardless of the temporary mask or masks we wear, expressing who we are and what we feel brings forth both feminine and masculine traits.
“The healing impact of the arts on the human experience,” seems to be important to you. Can you expound on that? (Why do you feel that way?)
Georgia: I think we live in a society today that at times overlooks the inclusion of the arts as a way to address the global concern of human suffering. Mental health/mental illness as topics are ‘trending’ in the world today, and I feel that with social justice issues and our obsession with technology; for example, people are missing the importance of using creativity as a way of healing and gaining greater self-awareness and overall wellness. I also make that statement because I have experienced art and art-making as innately therapeutic. My mission is to be a messenger in communities where the arts is overlooked or not viewed as something that can help us in our attempt to live a whole and healthy life!
I also like to ask successful Artists to share a bit of advice or words of encouragement with others who are considering that path. Can you share one key lesson or life mantra you adopted along your journey, that you think helped you a lot?
Georgia: Be open to discovery and change in your artistic career and use everything you encounter as a resource to developing your practice. I’m a big believer in what I call creative cross-training; where exploring the use of other modalities of art can enhance, and open up new pathways of ‘seeing’ and relating to your primary form of artistic expression. I’ve learned that from my work in expressive arts therapy, that movement, using voice, writing or playing an instrument, has informed and inspired my visual art and brought it to a new creative level. My vision puts a spotlight on a world where play and imagination through the arts leads to overall wellness. I love the quote by Georgia O’Keeffe: “To create one’s world in any of the arts takes courage.” To add to this beautiful vision, in my own quote I say, “It’s in that place of non-judgment where art expands the possibilities.”
What is next on your journey?
• I plan on continuing to practice and promote my original art and build my brand FULL Fine Art in 2018. The continued support of community helps to keep me grounded and engaged with marginalized populations, continuing to offer therapeutic arts programming and give back to my community.
• Expand JustGeorgia® my arts-based business that delivers therapeutic arts workshops in community settings and helps to stifle the stigma surrounding mental health in marginalized communities.
• Bring Expressive Arts therapy programming to Jamaica and other parts of the Caribbean.
• A live painting and mini-exhibition event, Christmas 2017 at Living Spaces-Fine Furniture & Accessories in Kingston, Jamaica.
• Partner with the City of Toronto SPARK Funding program from May to October, 2018, as part of the city’s Cultural Hotspot community arts initiative.
• Assist in the creation and facilitation of a new Art and Health Program at TAIBU Community Centre in Toronto.
• Begin the process of becoming a registered psychotherapist with the College of Psychotherapist of Ontario
• In the future to partner again with The Royal Ontario Museum for their Friday Night Live events.
• Continue to develop The Imaginative Language of Art Program™ (The ILA Program™) a therapeutic arts program for young and old with learning differences. I anticipate a combination of individual and collaborative opportunities in my future, that will keep me living artfully!