fig. 7: The Rio Grande Gorge
Taos, New Mexico, The Gorge Surreal
© Alyce Frank, 30x40", oil

fig. 8: The Rio Grande Gorge
Taos, New Mexico, Gorge View
© Barbara Zaring, 36x48", oil

Towards a New Model of Creating in Relationship

Although Barbara and Alyce's styles differ, and their processes differ, they cooperate with one another as they work on separate paintings. This is a model of a new way of collaborative artmaking. One is not studying from the other, nor are they seen as superior or subordinate to one another. But, rather each person's creative vision is discretely honored, and yet the results and the experiences are more than the sum of their parts. In other words, they work together, side by side, but they maintain and obtain separate bodies of work.

This creative partnership enhances their artistic work rather than detracting from it. The relationship actually charges them and helps them get more paintings done because they support each other in continuing to work. And yet they can and do work separately also. They would each paint anyway, it's just more fun to have company and support along the way.

I don't hear them talk about who's selling more, or showing more, or winning more awards. I don't hear about competition between them. It is as if there's a figure ground relationship and the relationship is the ground and the painting is the figure. Whereas most relationships in the artworld are seen as hierarchical in some way, these painters have greater freedom of movement. They do not have to be one up or one down, but rather can enjoy the benefits of a mutually supportive situation. This embodies a new model of creativity which acknowledges mutual influence and support without judging the work as "influenced by" or "unoriginal" or "derivative".

Western culture fears that melding creativity and relationship will mean the individual will disappear. But this productive synthesis of creativity and mutual relationship may in fact bring out more of an artist's creative self. We need non-hierarchical combinations of creativity and relationships to expand our awareness of the kinds of creative support possible, especially for women artists, for whom the lone artist-genius model may be especially maladaptive.

We need to be creative about relationships themselves, as well as the creative process, if we are to avoid the kind of isolated disconnection D.H. Lawrence so vividly described at the beginning of this piece. Barbara Zaring and Alyce Frank's painting partnership of over twenty years is one such way to do envision and embody this bold and fruitful synthesis of creativity and relationship.

About the Author

All text © Kate O'Neill, Ed.D., LPC.
All images © Barbara Zaring or Alyce Frank as indicated.