#inkedgirl #contemplativeart #contemporarydrawing @crookedlittleflower
Connie Karleta Sales is a contemplative poet, artist, educator, and advocate born/raised in Dallas, Texas and currently resides in Western North Carolina. Graduating from Southern Methodist University, Sales studied summers in Taos, New Mexico and abroad at University College, Oxford, England. Mentored by such artists as Jay Sullivan, Barnaby Fitzgerald, and Tracy Hicks Connie developed skill/craftsmanship within education/advocacy/storytelling. In 2016, she was awarded a Canyon County Historic Preservation Fund grant sponsored through the Southwest RC&D for her program Landscape and Memory. Traditionally reserved for renovation/restoration, she was the first recipient ever to receive the award for using the creative process aimed at long-term community engagement. Most recently published in PoetsArtists 100th issue, Figurative Realism, curated by Dirk Dzirimsky, her work is also in such publications as Crossin(G)enres, Literati Magazine, DaCuncha, The Laurel of Asheville, and Haiku Hub. She is founder of Crooked Little flower Studios, a curatorial art center and residency, and is co-editor of the publication SNAPSHOTS. Held in such collections as Blackburn and Jones, LLP, St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, the Ioema and several private collections in the US, Germany, Australia, and UK. Currently Sales is represented by dk Gallery in Marietta, Georgia.
What role does your art have in society?
My work is the presence of experience with a byproduct of advocating and educating. It is a voice and a place of refuge; a steady, quiet force; working through action to lift rather than tear down. Attributed to Mother Teresa, “Invite me to a pro-peace rally, rather than an anti-war.” Similar in actions differences by nuance. The Spanish artist, Murillo, had the uncanny ability to engage the viewer. He pulled his scenes of life right up to the picture plane. Couple that with the intense gaze of his characters staring directly into our eyes, and I was there, on the street, being called to action. My work is deeply emotional, raw, and honest with a motto to paint much love, always.
What is your ultimate goal for your artwork?
My goal is to empower and connect through the creative process. Someone once said, “Connie, conversation is as much the art as the physical drawing.” I believe this to be true. The object is the outcome of connection. Art has always been my best communication tool; with myself and others. It took the help of others to see and understand it. Today, I get to stand with others and share in their lives, simply by sharing mine through word and image. Whatever people dream, I am a cheerleader and my work, the raw and honest pom poms. The conversation starter, the safe place. My work hangs on a public wall as much as it is purchased and placed in a person’s secret sock drawer; there to encourage, grow, and be that affirmation taped to the bathroom mirror; reminding us we are not alone. My work is my hand, reaching for yours.
Do you ever venture out of your creative process to try out new things?
Yes and no. Currently I am exploring my love of photography and stretching my wings as an editor. I am also learning about narrative medicine, which is influencing my first play which will be produced and debuted in my home town of Dallas, TX. Out of my comfort zone, yes; inevitably led through the creative process always.
Who is your art crush?
Currently: Migz Tatz, Chris Garver, and Allan Rae. Historically: Alberto Giacometti, Goya, and Louise Bourgeois, Vermeer, Paul Strand, Frida Kahlo.
How many works have you sold recently?
Three works most recently not including the current commission work.
Which was your breakthrough piece? Tell us more about it.
Bearing the Burdens of the Father: Personal Reflections with The Stations of the Cross; a break through series really. Two years of work completed, a friend and curator came to my studio. I had accepted an invitation to exhibit my work at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church and she wanted to talk about what work I was planning to show.
I really didn’t know and was reluctant. I was afraid. My work, while starting from a place of direct observation, abstracts as observation turns internal and invisible. The intense abstraction I feared would be lost, and my shy and timid nature would alienate further.
I was searching for work that might bridge between myself, and the congregation. I knew many of these people. They enjoyed images they can recognize.
Almost immediately, my friend walked in and stood before the drawings, and said, “These.” I replied, “No.”
I told her what the series was, but that I did not want anyone to think I was sacrilegious. Even though they follow the Stations of the Cross they are my own reflections. Therefore, each had two titles: The Station and where I was within it; my experience.
Yes, she insisted, and we will install them during Lent.
She invited me to give a talk. So nervous was I that after being introduced I froze until I simply opened up the conversation for questions. The most amazing experience! People walked about to pieces and asked questions, and I answered with even more questions. My anxiety and shyness forgotten.
Then, a woman says, “Your work is so painful I want to look away, and it is so beautiful I can’t stop staring.” Then she walked up to a drawing and without thinking swiped her fingers across the paper leaving charcoal dust on her fingertips.
We had connected in a way beyond understanding, beyond image or word. My work that day had no label. Neither abstract nor figurative. I realized this truly is my best communication tool.
How do you price your work?
I build my prices over time, steadily increasing prices; creating solid value. I started selling work very inexpensively. Years ago with the encouragement of a prominent gallery owner, I began steadily increasing prices over time as work sold. This is still true today.
How have you developed your career?
I developed my career by following my truth and trusting it completely. As cliché as it might sound, I just developed.
The best description I ever read was an article written about me by Kristian Hohenbrink of K&H Consulting;
. . . To my surprise I met Connie Karleta Sales (for the “first time”) a true artist who expressed her determination to change the world around her, one city and exhibit at a time. Her approach to art was both refreshing and innovative as well as the foundation for telling her incredible story of personal change and love of writing and drawing. What iced the cake was when she led a discussion surrounding writing, impressions of art, and how people truly feel when “experiencing” art. I have to tell you, I admire her for her courage and collaborative design.
I receive a lot of these type of questions from younger artists, and I always answer the same way; do what you love; do not worry about finding that “unique” style; instead concentrate on your craft; the rest will just be. Your own unique mark happens because you practice. Success and rejection are both inevitable; so enjoy the journey whether you can see beyond your own feet or not.
Two questions asked of me by my mentor, Tracy Hicks. One, who do you want to be in the art world, and two, how do you want your work to be seen. Answer these questions and the where and the how become.
Developing my craft includes technical knowledge, skill and materials, learning how to organize, plan, document, presentation, and commination. My mentors taught me that everything is part of the work. Never stop learning.
Most of my career has been independent. Whether invited by organizations, churches, or University I preferred to exhibit in non-traditional spaces, and concentrated on large-scale traveling projects. I sold work within the projects and online. Whether it was by word of mouth or someone finding my work through keywords in a search engine, we found each other. Recently, as my health and needs change, I am excited to have representation, collaboration, and partnership. It is challenging, growing me, is natural, and I am grateful.
What inspires you?
Breath. This fundamental exchange; life-giving. I love sitting with my breath. Most recently studying and practicing insight meditation, I focus on the moment the air hits my nostril. Or where my chest and abdomen rise and fall. Then, I notice your breath; where are you when we sit next to each other; breathing. What voice becomes in our togetherness? Years ago, I wrote this. For most of my life I was a shadow; so wrapped in the words and images of others I sacrificed any dignity just to breathe. Have you ever experienced a single breath as if it were the first? In that breath, I saw for the first time, smelled for the first time, heard for the first time. I tasted and I felt, for the first time. You could say every day, my work is that moment, repeated over and over. It is the forever mantra, “it is safe to be who I am.” And I work so that it is so for you.