Gretchen Hupfel was one of my professors at UGA. As I’ve done with every other professor I’ve had, I dismissed her and challenged her teaching. We butted heads because I was a snot-nosed pissant and I felt that my work didn’t need her guidance.
But, I could never shake the fact that she was a real artist. She wasn’t some pretentious buffoon blowing hot air. She was as authentic as could be, an artist with the spirit of creation fused to her every atom. Despite how I felt about her work, she immediately gained my respect and admiration as a person.
Three years after that class, I stopped into Marcia Wood Gallery, one of my favorite haunts on the Peachtree art strip, and was struck by the pieces that populated the space. I immediately recognized her work, those black and white photographs meticulously drawn over with endless lines, each one a testament to her nature.
It was then and there that I discovered that she had committed suicide.
I’m not sure why she popped into my head today, but I Googled Gretchen’s name. The CL article that I read years before refreshed my memory of her and what an artist should be. As someone at the proverbial crossroads, I found the following quote to be especially poignant.
“Who knows? It may be 15 years before I get my first show. There’s going to be a lot of work between now and then that won’t seem to be getting me anywhere. I’ll see the progress, and I’ll see the development. But it’s a totally different system of rewards than any other career. You don’t get the raise, you don’t get the promotion. It’s something you just have to keep working at. You have to be almost crazy. You have to have enough confidence in yourself for those 15 or 20 years to think that you could actually do something.
I just hope that I keep my confidence up to persevere. Because it’s something that I can’t imagine living without.”
Everyone else, keep working.