Dances With Brush: An Article by Abena Songbird About the Artist Dede Farrar

Back in September a college student, Abena Songbird, from Black Hills State University located in Spearfish, South Dakota emailed me and asked to interview me to complete a project for her journalism class. I will share her article with you to sum up what the past year has been all about. I must say it was fun to share my thoughts with Abena and receive an article written in someone else’s viewpoint.

SPEARFISH–The distinct vocal gymnastics of Ella Fitzgerald mixed with the silken jazz piano of Duke Ellington waft from a home studio on the edge of the Black Hills. Dabs of thick acrylic paint stain a well-worn easel splattered with a riot of color–vivid crimson, burnt umber, blues, yellows, greens and earth tones. The brush strokes are frequent and pronounced. The artist renders a wing here, a tail there.

Farrar comes from a long line of family artists. Her paternal side is from the Rapid City, South Dakota area. She describes her family members as working artists dating back to the turn of the 20th century. Her paternal great grandmother, Ursula Cleaver was a professionally trained illustrator and single mother living on a mountain near Piedmont, South Dakota as she corresponded about commissions (1910-1920) for W.H. Over who founded a natural history museum at the University of South Dakota-Vermillion to be displayed in the museum. Farrar’s paternal grandfather Fred W. Farrar’s collection of distinct historical photographs of early 20th century Rapid City life are housed at the Center for Western Studies at Augustana College, Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Farrar’s grandmother, father, aunt and uncle also created paintings and ceramics. Artworks surrounded her during her childhood. “I so admired them,” she noted. “They were true, creative, eccentric, artistic souls. I wanted to be just like them.”

After graduating in 1987 with a B.S. in Education with an Art Field Endorsement, Farrar went on to earn a Master of Arts in Education in developmental counseling in 1992. Her dedication to education and art lead her to the University of South Dakota Vermillion to earn a Master of Fine Arts degree in painting and printmaking in 1999. Finally, she added a Community Based Counseling endorsement onto her Master of Arts in Education in 2003.

Ironically, it was during her graduate art studies that she started losing her artistic direction. She said it was a place and time where students were pushed to do abstract art that leaned toward a more academic intellectualism that she found not closely aligned within her own heart. “It was not how I saw art for myself or the audience I wanted to reach,” she said. She began questioning what art meant to her. After about 2002 she created very little new art as she battled within her own psyche deciding what to do with her creative self. Her father told her, “You’re such a good artist. When are you going to make art people will like?”

Resurrection of a Talent Farrar felt she needed a clear focus-a brand. For her, she decided this was animal subject matter. “I had an ephiphany,” she said. “Animals are beautiful, they have always surrounded me growing up.” And that’s how her creative forces came back to life in the fall of 2013. For Farrar the love of animals comes with a great appreciation of nature leading to the inclusion of landscape elements in her work. Farrar names Manet, Monet, Van Gogh, Klimt, and Mucha as some of her greatest influences. She has always loved the early Impressionists artists and the time period in art from about 1880 to 1917. “Its that dance of the brush strokes. And I also love decorative elements in art.”

Though humble, Farrar has earned some sizeable honors in the past year including being nominated for the Catherine Doctorow Prize for Contemporary Painting, winning Best of Show in the Matthew Opera House and Art Center’s annual show, a second prize in an urban plein air competition sponsored by the Dahl Arts Center, and having one of her paintings travel with the state’s top artists in the exhibit titled South Dakota Governor’s Sixth Biennial Art Exhibition. Her goals include continuing her fervent art production pace and “cracking the gallery scene.” And she is committed to entering as many shows as she can. Her work can be viewed from the website and on Facebook on her business page Art Works by Dede Farrar.

Prologue by Dede Farrar: Thank you Abena for the nice article. What will 2015 bring? Lots more success I hope. Because I have found, that by committing myself to my art, great rewards do come. Stay tuned everyone!

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