Ann and Tru's origin stories
In this bonus episode, co-hosts Ann Shafer and Tru Ludwig talk about how they got into art in the first place. From early childhood encounters through college, the hosts reveal why they love art and believe wholeheartedly in its transformative power.
Episode image: Tru Ludwig and Ann Shafer at Purple Crayon Press, 2021. Photo by Ann Shafer.
Ann Shafer and Tru Ludwig comparing states of Rembrandt's Three Crosses at the Baltimore Museum of Art. Photo by Ben Levy.
Platemark is produced by Ann Shafer
Series one co-host: Ben Levy
Series two co-host: Tru Ludwig
Theme music: Michael Diamond
Ann Shafer: Hello and welcome to Platemark. This is series two, the history of Western printmaking. I'm your host, Ann Shafer. And I'm here with Tru Ludwig who is extraordinary.
Tru Ludwig: Ha ha
AS: You can’t even take a compliment straight!
TL: Thank you.
AS: You’re welcome. Tru is a printmaker and artist and art historian, and he is our subject matter expert. I'm the color commentary.
TL: Thank you, Howard Cosell. Howardena?
AS: Does anybody remember him?
TL: Yes, of course they do.
AS: Today’s episode is on how’d you get to where you are? What made you, what made you get interested in art in the first place? So, before we do that, we want to do our positionality statements as usual. Right? Right. I identify as a cis-het white woman, and I use the pronouns she/her. We're recording this at the Purple Crayon Press, Charles Village, Baltimore, the land of the Piscataway Conoy people.
TL: And I'm Tru Ludwig and I'm a gay, Iowan, trans man. I use he/him pronouns. Ann’s shaking her head.
AS: Well, I forgot to say I'm from Connecticut to match your Iowa.
TL: Positionality. I think Iowan, you know, that says a whole lot.
AS: It says it all.
TL: What’s the highest form of compliment in Iowa? “He's a good worker.”
AS: Oh, all right.
TL: Yeah, that's what that is.
AS: Okay. I didn't grow up around that. I grew up taking a train to New York. All the men in their suits going to Brooks Brothers. Yeah, I know.
TL: That's not how I grew up at all. That's where the positionality comes in. We were in the land of the Sioux. Sioux City, Iowa.
AS: You don't have… to tell you the truth. I haven't researched Connecticut.
TL: And where I used to summer, every summer, was the land of the Chippewa or the Ojibwe people. Up on the reservation up in Northern Minnesota. Absolutely stunning country. In fact, when I was a little bit of kid, Minerva Dahl used to make breakfast for loggers at this camp that became the little bitty resort, she taught me words in Chippewa.
AS: What?! You never told me that.
TL: It was just those cool things when you're a little kid. You just think, yeah, of course. Do I remember any of them? No, but we actually went to powwows and stuff too. It was very cool.
AS: I feel like there might've been a powwow at a day camp situation for me somewhere.
TL: Yeah. I think in many respects. I mean, it was very authentic, you know, Ojibwe territory up there. As opposed to…
AS: The non-authentic land of the Ojibwe?
TL: I'm talking about Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts and the bridging ceremonies and whatnot, which I think were wildly appropriate. And I should have been a scout as opposed to a campfire girl, which was miserable.
AS: I was a Brownie for two weeks.
TL: Two weeks! Look at you. That tells us a lot. What did you do?
AS: Oh, we moved. I know. I have no great story to share.
TL: I have nothing but annoyance to share with that little aspect of my life. Anyway.
AS: So, the question is how'd you get into this thing?
TL: Yeah, how did you get in this thing?
AS: For me, in series one, we did the role of the curator, which turned out to be my origin story, but only starting with how I got on the road to being a curator, which happened to be a college internship. But for me, my mother was a painter and actually a pretty crack watercolorist, I have to say. She died when I was twelve. Growing up with her, she had a studio in the house, in the basement. And I was always down there watching her do stuff and she would let me play with things. And it just, you sort of grow up with an artistic personality in the house, she had this great… Between one, zero, actually, and six, we lived in Rye, New York, in this great neighborhood who still have reunions to this day. I was on a Zoom call reunion with the Colby street gang a couple of months ago. She, in the summertime, there was a lot of, what do we do with all the kids? So, they would organize street fairs and bike races and whatever. And my mom would organize these art shows. So, all of the pictures would be hung on a string from the garage to the tree, and she would make little blue ribbons for people. And yeah…
TL: That's so sweet. I’ve known you for 16 years, and I didn't know any of that.
AS: I was a wee thing, I was six when we moved to Brussels and lived there for two years and…
TL: That would be across the pond.
AS: That would be across… My Dad got transferred. He worked for a company that was swallowed up by ITT. So, we moved to Brussels, and we did a lot of traveling there. So, we go up to Bruges and see all the cool stuff and Ghent. And we'd go to Switzerland and Germany. The best trip of our European two years was we took a horse-drawn caravan trip around County Cork, Ireland. Camping. And I remember… I get motion sickness.
TL: Really, really easily. Got a ride facing forward on the Amtrak to New York.
AS: Oh yeah.
TL: Never backward.
AS: No, no. Oh no.
TL: You've to be in a certain spot in an airplane too…
AS: Airplane is not as bad, although I can get sick on a plane. More seasickness. That's always been an embarrassment for me because we had this sailboat as a kid.
TL: [Snorts] Sorry.
AS: I know, I know. Privilege, privilege, privilege.
TL: That's not my point. It's like the kid from Iowa who has problems with corn. Digestive functions.
AS: Okay. Thank you. That's. Thank you. That's very kind of you. But running around County Cork in this horse-drawn caravan at three miles an hour was crazy, crazy, crazy. And you would go to various castles, and you'd visit them. And we finally went to Blarney to kiss the Blarney Stone and it requires you to be up in the tower and you have to lie down. Put your head over the edge backwards. And the stone is down in the side of the wall of the castle.
TL: I bet you would rather die than do that.
AS: I mean, they had a metal grate, of course and everything. Oh my God. I was terrified at seven years old, and I happened to be carrying my beloved stuffed Snoopy with me, and Snoopy kissed the Blarney Stone for me.
TL: Do you still have him?
AS: Yes. She, actually, her name was Floppy Ears. She is on the shelf in our library.
TL: Okay. So, you just trans’d Snoopy too. That's great.
AS: I have a second Snoopy, who I actually sleep with still—props up the shoulder…
TL: Snoopy Two?
AS: Snoopy Two—named Heidi.
AS: I know, I know, both girls. And then I got a smaller one that's actually a hand puppet, which is also perfect for reading when you stick it under your head. His name is George.
TL: You still have these.
AS: Oh yeah. They're sitting on my pillow as we speak. Little things you didn't know about me.
TL: Now that you're 12. With a son that’s 23 and another one that’s...
AS: 21. Crazy. Yeah. So, when we were in Rye and then later when we came back from Europe, we were in Connecticut, the museum that my mom would take us to was the Met. I don't think I ever went to the Whitney until I started interning there.
TL: Did you ever read From the Crazy Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler?
AS: Of course.
TL: I didn't even know that existed until I read it to my son.
AS: Yeah, we read Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, for sure. Yes. And we would go and have lunch in that courtyard cafeteria they had with the fountain and everything. And I was like, oh my God. It was kind of crazy. Well, back in, at that point, we had a VW bus. Not the camper bus, but the regular bus. And so, my mom would drive us down. You know, it’s the minivan of the 1970s. So, we would drive into New York. At that point there was public parking under the Met, there was a garage, so we would pull in there and we would park there for the day and do the Met and do whatever else we were doing.
TL: I think that probably is part of the reason why you just kind of go do these things because it just comes naturally to you. In terms of, oh, I think I’ll go to the Met. I'm going to go do this. I want to go do that. It's just.
AS: Yeah. Well, and now, as a person who has been in museums for a long time, whenever I travel somewhere I go check out the museum, usually with a critical eye to how do they do the labels? And what's their visitor services, what's the entry like, how does the shop function? You know, I'm very critical.
TL: Yeah. It makes for a fun trip when we're both solving the problems with other museums.
AS: Yeah. I did a lot of drawing in elementary, junior high school, high school. I did one class in college, but the professor was sort of non-emotive. “Well, that’s a nice little drawing.” I'm like, okay, I need more than that from you. So, I kind of gave it up when art history made more sense to me. And then I also took photo. I took photography in high school and college.
TL: That explains An-My Lê.
AS: Yeah. An-My Lê is a photographer who I did a show with at the Baltimore Museum several years ago. She's amazing.
TL: Well, yeah, it was an exceptional exhibition.
AS: It was. And in fact, in series one at some point I started talking about my store manager at the Shoppers that I shop at for groceries, Phil. And I was trying to remember which exhibition he came to see that one time he came to the museum. And he reminded me that it was An-My Lê, not Alternate Realities, which is what in my memory I thought it was.
TL: Actually, that makes a bit more sense. That should have resonated with him at least a little bit. Photography's a little bit more of an easier access.
AS: I know, but I think he just, I think he was seeing. I think he was just seeing the equipment really, you know, the military equipment.
TL: Oh, of course.
AS: And he couldn't move past that to see the layers of meaning.
TL: The content.
AS: I think. I mean, who the hell knows what he was thinking.
TL: You were like, why did this woman who buys food at my store…
AS: Well, he suggested it. I didn't, I mean, I'm sure at some point I was like, oh, you should come see it. And then he took me up on it. I was shocked.
TL: Yeah. Congratulations though.
AS: It was great.
TL: That's a good thing. You know, when you get folks that have never done any, anything air quotes, artistic, and they go see what it is that you do. And then they sort of look at you like, ooh.
AS: I know. I feel like there… I probably have some friends who've listened to some of these episodes of Platemark and are like, I had no idea you did that kind of stuff.
TL: Interesting. So, okay. So now you took some photography. So, then what?
AS: Well, then I started taking the art history.
TL: Which was undergrad?
AS: Yeah. There was an art history class offered in high school, but I didn't take it because I don't know. I just didn't, it didn't dawn on me. I don't know why I didn't take it. Too much memorization, I think was what my brain was thinking. I started taking it in college and of course, a professor, much like you have affected the bazillions of students, it was a professor who turned me on and his passion was palpable in the classroom. Arn Lewis was his name, College of Wooster. And I just was like, I will follow him anywhere. He could talk to me about anything, you know, he had wide ranging interests and it was just, he was just amazing. Amazing. So then, my father, I’ve told you this story. There was this moment when I was deciding between studio art and art history and my father figuratively got down on his knees and begged me not to go studio.
TL: Really? I don’t think I remember this one.
AS: Yes. Oh yeah, he did. He, it, he begged me. He said, please, please don't do studio art. I watched your mother suffer. Trying to quote unquote make it or, you know, whatever. Please don't do that to me. I think in the end, I’m sure I've said this on another episode, for me, I realized pretty quickly that I didn't have the artist need to create every day. You know, writers have to write something every day and artists have to create something. I don't have that. So, it was a great way for me to… Well, I think there's a lot wrapped up in my mom, obviously, who, as I said, died when I was kid. So, there was this sort of honoring her legacy somehow, by getting into art history, and museums just made sense for me.
TL: And then after undergrad. Art history, you went to Williams.
AS: Yeah, I graduated from Wooster with a major in art history.
AS: No minor. That was it. Full bore. And I worked for two years at the Whitney.
TL: Is that all? So just the Whitney?
AS: I worked for… when I interned there during college, I interned for…
TL: This would be the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City.
TL: Which would be sort of like getting to the Emerald City for some of us that grew up in Iowa.
AS: Yeah. And this was the Breuer building on Madison Avenue. So long before the move downtown. Anyway, a great building. I worked for Barbara Haskell as an intern, and then when I got done with school and was working there for two years, I worked as the curatorial assistant to Patterson Sims, who was the curator of the permanent collection at that time. And Jennifer Russell, who was the deputy director who's now at, I think she's at MoMA. So, two years there, then I went to Williams. Two years at Williams to get the masters. And then I landed at the National Gallery.
TL: Poof. Just like that.
AS: Well, it took a year to get the job, but yes, poof.
TL: Poof. At the ripe age of what…
TL: Please. Oh Jeez-oh-pete.
AS: I know. And then when I got married and started a family, we moved to Baltimore because we couldn't really afford an actual house in DC at that point. And we thought we would commute and that lasted three months or four months at the most, because… with a baby, it was nuts. So, I was on a 6:15 am train and I didn’t get home till 7:00. You know, it was crazy. So then, it took a while, but then I landed at the Baltimore Museum, which was a good move for me in many ways.
TL: Well, boy, am I glad you're here. That is quite the pedigree, Miss Ann from Connecticut.
AS: It was lots of luck.
TL: See, I'm that dopey kid from Iowa. I grew up in a family that was very artistic, but that was just the way things were. I didn't know everybody else's parents didn't do community theater. My mom was Eleanor Roosevelt in Sunrise at Camp Bellow, and she was Mother Courage in Mother Courage. She was like the grand dame of Des Moines. I know this may sound silly, but Des Moines had a really lively, two very lively theater companies. My mom was also in a group called the Folk Singers and was occasionally on TV and they would tour Iowa.
AS: And she worked for the newspaper, right?
TL: She was a journalist. And taught journalism. Did raise a family of five. Yeah, I'm the youngest, duh. So are you.
AS: I am.
TL: Isn't it a miracle. And my dad, well, he did all kinds of stuff, but in many ways, the idea of community service was at the base of it. You know, he was pioneering programs in disability rights back at a time when people who had had polio were being treated and starting to be mainstreamed as opposed to just marginalized completely.
AS: It’s hard to imagine that now.
TL: Like United Cerebral Palsy of Iowa, he took it from… he was the executive director of that, and he took it from bankruptcy to telethon status with some actual stars of the day. And he had designed a pen that would be useful for people with disabilities. It was triangular, the body of it.
AS: I remember that!
TL: He invented that. So, it wouldn't roll off of their trays and they could grip it more easily.
AS: Do you have a patent on it?
TL: Of course not. We had zero, zero bucks. He actually wrote an article in the 1950s about distance learning, about how a student with a disability, they would have been called crippled or handicapped in those days, which of course is now so wrong. Handicapped--you do understand that that comes from cap in hand. As in beggars, as an invalid, or…
AS: Are you kidding?
TL: That's where all of that comes from.
AS: Language has baggage.
TL: That's why, you know, when I started going into disability rights, it was, yeah... So those were the kinds of things… Again, it was the idea of service to community... But when we were growing up, there was zero, zero, zero money. But the Des Moines Art Center was free, and it has a wonderful collection. The original part of the building was designed by Eero Saarinen. And the next part was designed by I M Pei. And the last part was designed by the guy that makes things look like refrigerators. Oh gosh, I forgot his name. Much more modern. But it had a remarkable collection. Kick ass Sargent and they had amazing Goya.
AS: Not to mention a print collection.
TL: Well, yeah, but you know, honestly, I'd never seen it. I mean, there were works on paper, but you know, we would go around the sculpture garden and we took ballet lessons, and our folks were active with theater and ergo, all five kids were. Four of the five of us were in summer operetta workshop. For six years I was performing Gilbert and Sullivan operettas, and I was in orchestra.
AS: Tell us what roles you sang.
TL: Okay. I was Phoebe in Yeoman of the Guard. No, I was Phoebe in Ruddigore. Damn. I was…
AS: I was only ever a sister, cousin, or an aunt.
TL: I started in the orchestra and then I made it onto the stage, and I was in the chorus and in, oh gosh, Pirates of Penzance and Mikado, and then eventually I had a small lead in Ruddigore. And then I had a major lead in Yeoman of the Guard. Yeah. And by then I was being the president of it, and, you know, leadership things by default. Because the cool thing about this was it was all student run. We would hire our own artistic directors and music directors, all of this, and all of the proceeds would go to a charity, local charity, like the center for battered women or buying materials for people who need braille. And those were the kinds of, that was just kind of service that our family did. So, there was this artsy thing. I didn't know that that wasn't how people live.
AS: Oh, of course, you only know what you know.
TL: My dad also engineered all kinds of international programs. So, we were eating sukiyaki and gado gado back in the sixties when nobody else did.
AS: I didn’t have sushi until after college. I remember you telling me, which I thought was such a great story, about the answer shelf.
TL: Oh, the argument shelf. Oh, this was before God invented water and the internet. The argument shelf was… the family was killer in terms of intellect. And so, there’s an argument shelf. Well, next to the complete Encyclopedia Britannica with the big, beautiful Atlas. And remember that in the anatomy section were all of the plastic overlays. We had the complete 1968 Bicentennial edition of the encyclopedia.
AS: I think ours was 1970.
TL: Well, 68 was a big deal. But there were also Latin, Latin–English, English–Latin, French, German, Indonesian, Italian dictionaries. There was Bartlett's Familiar Quotations. There was the thesaurus. Because they also played killer Scrabble, the Oxford English dictionary. It was the argument shelf. So that if there was a disagreement, it was like, well, look it up, and you had to go look it up and then you'd have to defend your position on something. Or let's say that you were playing Scrabble—my dad played such killer Scrabble, like 256 was his highest score for some word that used X with seven tiles and a triple word score. My parents would almost come to blows doing competitive crossword puzzles in the Des Moines paper. So, it was a life of the mind. And even though we were bright collar workers, you know, we had no money. We weren’t blue collar workers; we were bright collar workers. They had no money, but if you lived adjacent to a university… As far as the art thing, it was just that we grew up looking at it and wanting to know about it. And I didn't know, I thought everybody drew. And I didn't know that I had talent. I just could draw what I saw and… like remember old Coke bottles were pale green and they had that twist, that beautiful twist, there was the banner around it and the script? There had been some assessment where the draw kids draw a bottle. It could be any random bottle. And I just... So, what kind of a bottle? A pop bottle. I'm from Iowa, so that meant Coke. So, I did it with the spin and the banner, and they're like, what's that? Coke bottle. You know, you didn't specify. It was like just drawing what you could see. And that was what I was used to doing. You know, and trees look different. They have different shaped leaves and it's just noticing. And so, growing up, the thing that would happen was people would push pencils at me or my grandparents would put together exams for people who are getting their ham radio operators license, and they would have offset litho-printed pages that you had to hand collate. This was before Xerox machines. And there would be stacks of paper that had printing on one side, but they give me… They were depression era people. They’d give me these stacks of papers. So, I had all the paper I could ever need to write and draw. I always thought every drawing had to have printing on the back. And things like not having money. So, Betty Lou and the House with a Magic Window. She would show that you have construction paper, and you can use rubber cement, but if you don't have that, then you can use, you can make paste out of flour and water.
AS: Wait, hold on. Betty Lou and the Magic Window is from a television show called…
TL: Betty Lou and the House with the Magic Window, which was…
AS: Oh, not like that… It wasn’t Wonderama or something.
TL: No, it was like local grown thing. Betty Lou changed my life because she would do these crafts. Well, she would have rubber cement, which was exotic. She would have construction paper.
AS: I love rubber cement.
TL: I never got rubber cement. So, I bought some with my own babysitting money because it was expensive. So, she said you could make it out of paste. You can make paste out of flour and water. If you don't have glitter, you could use salt and pepper because they twinkle. If you didn't have construction paper, you could color on it. And so, she would give you the budget version, which of course is what I did. And so, it was always how to find ways to get stuff to look great out of nothing. That was how we grew up. You know, it was just simple things that could be made elegant. I guess, in retrospect, you made me remember a big thing. And so, people would give me stuff. Now, my oldest sister, 10 years my senior, gave me my first set of printmaking tools.
TL: Yeah. I was eight.
TL: I know. For some reason she thought this looks like something you would do well with. So, she got me a couple of little blocks of lino (linoleum) and some carving tools and three different colors of ink. And a brayer, which I still have because it's my very first brayer. So, I think like, oh great. Teaching myself how to do these images. And the very first thing I ever carved was a cat sitting beside a fireplace, which was our fireplace. And it's a mantle with all the stockings hanging down and the stockings are supposed to spell, Noel. And I printed my first cards and give them to all my family members. And my brother said, that's great. Who's Leon? And because I didn't know that everything reverses, right? But I’m eight. And that was also when I learned that when you carve, you got to keep all bleeding material behind the cutting edge. So, you…
AS: I’ve got one of those scars.
TL: That's why in my syllabus when I was teaching printmaking, it was like, if you bleed, you fail. That was like rule number 9, rule 10 was no whining. But the materials somehow magically were there. Like they gave me pastels. I don't my sister realized she gave me my very first printmaking stuff, and I don't know what moved her to do it. But I didn't know that that was something that you could turn into a thing. It was just fascinating to me, like seeing multiples of an image because of the newspaper and seeing those front pages, like I mentioned in another conversation we had. Then I had Clifton Rooney in eighth grade. Clifton Rooney was also part American India. But Mr. Rooney had this enormous personality, and he was the art teacher. That's when I learned about what he would do to teach us about how sharp these tools were. How to treat your tools with respect. He would show us that we were going to get to work with linoleum, linoleum tools, and he would inject oranges with red food coloring because oranges have the same consistency as human flesh. So, he would do this whole demonstration saying, “well, don't walk with it like this and then drop it.” And he dropped the tool, and it goes straight into the orange, and it would bleed out. And so, he put the fear of God into all of us. Again, if you bleed, you fail. That was from Mr. Rooney. Well, that's what I started doing my carving, because—I think it was in eighth grade—I was like, oh, this is so freaking cool. And I got it. And I did multiple colors. Because it was just cool. He's like, how did you know to use these colors? Because they're the colors I own. And he said, I was hoping you'd say because they're complimentary colors. Mr. Rooney was also the one that made us learn line, shape, form, color, texture, space. You know, he made us learn the rules of art.
AS: What a gift.
TL: And so, you become the people you respect. Then I got into high school. I didn't get to take as much art as I would like. There was Mrs. Milligan. I was a surly withdrawn high school student, but I made a lot of stuff. My design posters for high school, blah, blah, blah. But that's not something that you major in. My dad, my God flat out said “don't go into teaching. There’s no money in teaching.” Is that why my mom's a teacher. And why is that? Why? My grandfather's a teacher and my grandmother's a teacher. Mom's a teacher and my oldest sister is a teacher. You were a teacher. Is that why we don't do this? At any rate. Through a series of events, I ended up unloading semis in the lumberyard for years of gap year back when nobody took gap years. Cause they had no idea what to do to go to college. And I went to college and because my dad had been terribly sick, I was fascinated by medicine and biology and thinking surgery's fascinating. And I loved all that. You know, cells and all of the animal bits and there's this… because that's drawing. Yay. And so, I was going to be pre-med. And it was my sophomore year, it was Reidar Dittmann who was from Norway. He was the first teacher I had for art history in 19th century, European art history. He was from Norway. So, we had to learn a lot about Edvard Munch, which was fine. You know, of course he's such a merry soul—not. But at any rate it was the most riveting thing I had ever experienced. The second class I took was with John Maakestad. Because at St. Olaf College everybody has names with lots of double As and SSON. And John Maakestad was an artist as well as an art history teacher. To me… That was where I went: “Oh, that's why he's so good. He's a maker and a teacher.” That was why the way he delivered it was so fascinating to me. Oh my God, this is… So, I’m pre-med—I don't have the self-discipline and they hadn't invented ADD yet. So, there was no medicine for people who flaked out and couldn't stay focused. I mean, I literally had to tie myself to a chair to study for classes in the wee hours of the night, but I could sit and do art stuff for 27 hours in the sitting and nobody did that. It's a proper school. Everyone had schedules and they went to the library for three hours. I didn't do that. Well, there's this thing called art history and it’s amazing. And I started taking, for some reason, I took color theory, and I also took architectural drawing. I loved architectural drawing. See, I was in the very first class that ever allowed girls to take shop.
AS: Yes: By the time I got through the boys did home-ec with us and we did industrial drawing and shop with them.
TL: I fought tooth and nail. I was damned if I was going to take more home-ec with Ms. Lucille Wiser. Yeah, such a hung-up person. So, I sailed through this architecture class. Oh my God, axonometric drawing? It’s just all so freaking cool. And, and you know, so I took architectural drawing. Ooh, architecture. That sounds noble. And then I took printmaking and again, that's my junior year. I was like, oh my God. So that's how I ended up doing art history as a major and studio art as a major. And I minored in music history because everything goes together. Because art history is history with pictures, with souls, with emotions. That was all by accident. And then I thought someday I would get, because I didn't think I had any self-discipline at all, because I didn't know how to…
AS: Which we know you do.
TL: Well. I certainly wasn't wired properly to behave like others, but I thought I'll go get an art history degree because that's the prudent one to get first. And then someday when I have self-discipline, I'll get an MFA in printmaking. Someday. So that I can teach both. That was my goal was to be able to teach both. While I was an undergrad, I did do an internship at the Minneapolis Institute of the Arts, which was absolutely lovely and wonderful. I was in the public programs department. I was the public programs and scheduling assistant. And so ultimately, I ended up working at that museum programming the concert series so that the concerts would be a way of magnifying whatever current exhibition was up there, but also giving an opportunity to local students that were getting ready for the master’s recitals or what have you to perform. With the arts, it was the sort of this whole sense around… It was kind of edgy in the eighties. That was kind of neat. I'd had this internship as a junior and then I eventually went to get my MA in art history, and I still hadn't had any print history at all.
AS: None of us did.
TL: And then 10 years later, after having my little family, and actually working as an art handler for four years driving a truck up and down the Eastern seaboard delivering art and hanging it in homes and private collections and so on. And, in and out of artists’ studios, thinking, I can do that. I'm that good. I can do that. Then one day I did a delivery to the Washington Printmakers Gallery in Washington, D.C. And I'm looking at the prints on the wall and I'm thinking, I can do this. I'm capable of that. And I asked a woman, so what does it take to become a member? She said “oh, it's terribly competitive.” And I thought, oh really? To become a member of the Washington Printmakers Gallery. So, you have to submit a portfolio and be adjudicated in. So, I submitted a portfolio my first six images I'd made since college. And I turned them in, and I got voted in and I went to the first meeting and this woman looked at me and said, aren't you the woman who came to deliver…? And I was like yes, because that was absolutely indicative of how I am so annoyed by people who presume that they know more or have more value than the person that delivers their art or handles their food or cleans their stuff because they have just as much education or certainly as much smarts as you do.
AS: And as much right to be wherever.
TL: Exactly. I was thinking about that the other day. How dare this woman says it's terribly competitive. Don't even test me, sister. Watch me. And I got in and I was a member of that gallery for 20 years and it was good because they gave me a reason to have a new print on the wall. Every month I'd have something new on the wall in a frame.
AS: Every month?
TL: Every month. And I was on the hanging committee. So that gives me something to hang every month. And you would have a solo show every four years or so. Eventually I thought, I'm good enough to go get my Master of Fine Arts. And so, I finished. I did it. Yeah, none of this was because I thought “someday I want to be an artist.” It was that someday I want to be able to teach art history and I want to be able to teach studio art because those are the kinds of people that I respected that changed my life and saved my life. To find something that amazing and wonderful and communicate that to folks, you know, realize that there's that much more. That's how I got at it. And you know, I was just that dopey kid from Iowa. I always thought everybody else had a better, bigger right to be someplace more than me. But I was still going to test them.
AS: All right, folks. So, you've heard a little bit about where we started and how we got here. And we're going to cut it off there. But I hope you've enjoyed the episode and look forward to more. So, stay tuned.
TL: And you'll see Ann and me learning more and more about each other, even though we've known each other for 16 years.
AS: Right. That's true. Yes. Thank you, Tru.
TL: Okay. Catch ya later.
AS: Thank you for joining us for Platemark series two, the History of Western Printmaking. The podcast is produced by me, Ann Shafer, and a special thanks to my co-host for this series, Tru Ludwig. Couldn't do it without you. And also, a thank you to Michael Diamond for the use of his original music as our theme song. Show notes are at platemarkpodcast.com and otherwise, we will see you next time.
Platemark series two History of Prints
Producer and host: Ann Shafer
Co-host: Tru Ludwig
Theme music: Michael Diamond
Show notes and website: platemarkpodcast.com
©2021 Ann Shafer