I spent last weekend working on applications for graduate school, this time to a masters of fine arts program.  Submitting applications online gave me a greater appreciation of what my daughter and her friends went through last year as they applied to college.

When people hear that I’d like to go back to graduate school, they frequently ask me why.  “You’re already an accomplished artist, you know how to paint.  Why do you need to go to school?”  It’s nice to hear that they think my painting skills need no expansion.  But I dare say, no one would take exception to a biologist or historian or a mathematician going on for higher education.   I have pursued art for more that two decades now, but most of it has been self taught, supplemented by attending week long workshops.

So I want to go to grad school for art.  The easy reason is that I would like to teach on the university level.  But really, I’d like to work at my art in an environment of support and critique, to achieve a level that reflects true mastery.  Plus, I’m basically a nerd–I love going to school!

However, I don’t enjoy filling out the applications. With each one, a statement of some sort was required.  I was hoping that the questions might be as simple as what I planned to do with my degree but those days are gone.  Now there are probing questions about one’s motivation and the meaning behind one’s work.  You can read part of my essay below.

The truth is that I paint for the beauty and creativity of it.  I am not a political painter nor am I a literal storyteller.  I was pleased to find I was not alone when I read the recent post to

Cheryl McClure's paintingthe blog of Cheryl McClure  (  Cheryl points out that she often works without a concept as she creates her paintings.  I too frequently work that way.

So I ask you, must a work of art have a message?  Is it necessary to have a concept when creating?

Rug Shop - Morocco

Rug Shop – Morocco, pastel 24 x 18, is based on my trip to the countryside outside Marrakesh.  Rugs were rolled and stood on end, filling the small store, mostly open air.  We looked at rug after rug, trying to decide what would not only work in our home but would be a major memento of our trip and worth carrying everywhere else we would go.  My husband bargained hard, enjoying the sport.  I became restless and started to wander.  As I peaked into a before ignored room, I saw this boy asleep amongst the carpets.  The patterns filled my vision, even his sweater joined in the cacophony.

My Essay (thanx to Brenda Becker for her great editing)

I am applying for the xxxx College MFA Program in Drawing and Painting to broaden the scope of my work, refine my technical prowess, and fully realize my identity as a visual artist.  I want to work bigger and more conceptually, and to venture in greater depth into other media.  I have nurtured my vision and practice with fierce determination through years in which the responsibilities (and joys) of raising a family often took precedence over my artistic development.  Now, I stand ready to be the artist I was meant to be.

My innate need to create dictated that I would be an artist.  My work is driven by the dynamic use of color to celebrate life, to realize its exuberance and joy.   Contrasting and analogous hues, pattern and texture excite me as they lead viewers through the visual journey.

The influences on my work spans a lifetime.  My father’s construction business sparked an early interest in architecture and interior design.  Lacking an easy affinity for drawing, I was discouraged from pursuing art by schoolteachers, but the dream didn’t die. As an adult, I completed a certificate in Interior Design from Pratt Institute, where a professor recognized my painting ability and empowered me.  Further education and inspiration has come from workshop instructors including George James, Katherine Chang Liu, William Herring, Miles Batt, Polly Hammett, Gerald Brommer and Louise Cadillac.

My artistic practice is a long standing and integral part of my life each day.  I draw and paint regularly, keeping a sketchbook and camera always at hand.  In the past year and a half, I have taken prerequisites for graduate school that have extended my practice into sculpture, ceramics, photography and art history.  I am an inveterate museum and gallery visitor.

Teaching has been a core discipline in my creative life. I have taught art to students from kindergarten through adult level, in my home studio and in school and community center settings, in affiliation with the Brooklyn Arts Council and other organizations.  After receiving my MFA, I plan to teach at the college level.  In 2008, I founded and directed the Flatbush Artists Studio Tour. I share insights from my art and life in the blog “Broke(n) Artist” ( and have authored articles for The Artist’s Magazine and Arts & Activities.

My work explores themes arising from feminine and feminist sensibilities.   It springs from the context of my firsthand experience of feminism as it evolved in the 1970s, and my observation of women’s roles—including my own—in political, economic and personal domains. Women, by establishing the home environment, determine how we live; my continuing series, “Chairs,” depicts domestic interiors from a position of power.  My “Women” series evokes the external flamboyance and inner resilience of women interacting with the world.  Extensive traveling has added many themes and dimensions to my body of work. Teaching has been another profound influence, its technical concerns driving my critical thinking about my own art.





About karenfriedland

I am a visual artist-- painter, sculptor, photographer-- coloring the world. My travels take me to many places around the world and I love connecting with others at home and on my trips. I am also a teacher (art), business person and creativity and business coach. My website is: I am so glad you have visited my blog!
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One Response to Applications

  1. Painting “for the beauty and creativity of it” may, in “intellectualoid” circles, be in a historical pendulum-swing downward; we are still suffering the tiresome backwash of the tide of “identity politics” art, “transgressive” art, stunt-like “installations” etc. The stuff that gets mulled over by the New York Times tends to be about “pushing boundaries” and provoking either a shock or a shrug. Beauty, except for a few perverse shreds to be found in chaos or ugliness, still seems to be out of fashion in these circles…but you have some good company in your celebration of visual joy and harmony among those minor-league guys like Monet, Van Gogh and Matisse. “To thy own self be true.”

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