An Interview with Featured Artist Sandra Gail Teichmann-Hillesheim

Cynthia Reeser: Could you talk about your development as an artist?

Sandra Gail Teichmann-Hillesheim: I guess my interior world, whether I am conscious of it or not, turns within the realm of what we label as art. Maybe it began with being what my mother called an over-sensitive child—fascinated with words, along with form and color and line as well as compositions within a confined space, justice and injustice, and the whys of how the world around me did and didn’t work. As a shy young adult I took refuge behind the lens of an SLR camera followed by hours in the darkroom where I delighted in the black and white images and ideas revealing themselves in a developing tray. From there it was to art school for the basics of drawing, painting, color theory, sculpture, printmaking, art history, performance art, conceptual art. I think it was the conceptual art that got me reading and writing more poetry, completing an MFA, after which I took a PhD in creative writing, and ultimately accepting a professorship in creative writing. All along my work has been informed and shaped by intellectual query and an intense personal relationship with the visual coupled with the rhythms, echoes, and silences affecting me and the spaces around me.

CR: Much of your work is abstract, rather than figurative. Is this a conscious choice you make, regarding the representational aspects of your work?

SGT: I don’t begin a work with intent of making a representation of anything. My mind is elsewhere as blank and as open as the canvases I approach. Even in my Wednesday morning life drawing studio, I never work for realism. Rather the hours of drawing are filled with lines, movements, tensions, ideas, emotions, play, what ifs, exaggerations, fancies, delusions, chaos, exhaustion, boredom, but always an absolute being in and of the moments of myself and the subject. In the end, if a representation of something or someone appears, it is always a bewilderment that such should exist on the canvas at which my hand has been having its say.

CR: Who have been your greatest influences as a visual artist?

SGT: I think people are often driven to the open spaces of art by negative aspects of the lives they try to live within this world’s society and with personal others. I am no exception to these griefs, but there have also been positive influences. My greatest has been the late Louis Cicotello for his life lived as and within art, for his uncompromising high standards, for his courage in taking the risks art does so insist on, for his belief in art as process, and in the end, for his belief in me and my work.

CR: You work in various artistic media. Once you choose a subject for a new piece, how do you select which medium or media to use? And is your choice of medium directly informed by the subject, or by some other method?

SGT: I don’t think I ever choose a subject unless it might be required for a particular exhibit or journal, and I must say I hate doing such. Most often I am drawn to one or more medium and there I am physically, emotionally, and intellectually engaged with the materials, a process which can be insistent, long, and agonizing. I work until I sort of get a feeling that something is coming, and then maybe there it is: the process revealing a cohesion that is compositionally pleasing to my eye and my heart while at the same time offering me at least a glimpse of a new idea, new understanding, new perspective of the world I move through. When I start a canvas or a writing I never give up, I rework it endlessly until the mediums release the wonder.

CR: What is most important to you as a visual artist?

SGT: I think I may be trying to challenge my need for systems, traditions, orders, and beliefs that categorize. Perhaps it is as my friend, Fred Dunn, quotes from Carl Jung, “Order and meaning are things that have become and are no longer becoming.” To help me understand the organic whole and defy the predictable, I try to keep in mind, when painting and when writing, the six intrinsic shapes of nature: the oval, the wave, the meander, the honeycomb, the branch, the spiral (yes, I know, yet another set of controls, but perhaps, if I have these basic forms in mind when approaching paper or canvas, I might note and save a complex passing moment, save a shadow, or even a new clarity). In both writing and painting, my purpose is to take joy in the moment, merge with the medium while knowing each piece holds the past as well as possibility for another beginning, all an intricate and delicate dance. Perhaps of greatest importance is that I never lose my curiosity, my open mind, and that I ever have a ready supply of blank canvases and paper, brushes and pens, paint and ink awaiting my attention.

What’s New and Upcoming for Sandra Gail Teichmann-Hillesheim…

Sandra Gail Teichmann-Hillesheim is the featured artist for the Summer 2013 issue of Calyx: A Journal of Art and Literature by Women. See her artwork on the cover and within the issue.

Upcoming exhibit: A selection from the Back Garden Series in the “Extemporary Contemplations Show” at Buttonwood Art Space, Kansas City, Missouri, Dec. 6, 2013 – January 31, 2014.

View the artist’s website at:

Leave a Reply