Our dear friend Abby Manock is never short on creative juices, and this time it serves to lay down a considerable amount of ink across a whole new demographic. With an uncanny instinct for sustainable style and color trends, Abby has created a line of fabrics employing her typically friskymotifs. It’s classic Manock design in an unsuspected context.
Art for print is actually a very important Vermont tradition (many of us Contrarians lived there at one point or another; some still do). We lay claim to the settings for some of Norman Rockwell’s great works, and timeless classics such as Goodnight Moon and The Secret Garden were illustrated in the Green Mountain State. Obviously, these works achieved phenomenal success, and their creators were able to share their talents with a very broad population. The financial sustainability of a successful illustration or design work finds it’s best example in folks like Theodore “Dr. Seuss” Giesel or Charles Schultz, commonly listed among top-earning dead celebrities. So Abby is in good company among entrepreneurs who laid down their legacy on their own terms and lead creative lives until they went to the Great Art Supply Store in the Sky.
The great thing about living in a sort of creative vacuum that Vermont tends to foster is that creative people who come from there learn to be essentially multimedia mavens. Take local favorite James Kochalka (very supportive of Abby’s new project) — a painter, comic book artist, teacher, and recording artist/performer. He’s gotten his name out there on many different platforms while, apparently, having a great time.
In a post-Warhol world, art can no longer be subjected to clear delineations of “high” and “low” -brow compartmentalization. The nature of self-promotion, and indeed, relevance, calls for a more inclusive approach than polarizing work into either matted photos of mist-laden barns or a reconstruction of the same subject in gum wrappers installed in the Whitney.
A couple weeks prior to Seven Days‘ write-up of Abby’s project, they ran an article addressing criticism of the Vermont Arts Council’s lack of support for professional artists. My illustration for the article — a self-portrait — is laden with unintentional but unavoidable irony, as I now live in New York, seeking a community that will support a career in print communication. I often felt a lack of resources and validation while developing my career in Vermont in the years following college: is it just the Vermont Arts Council, or is it an overarching attitude in general towards artists in the state? Frankly, I detected this attitude towards Abby’s new project in the feature about her – the tone read to me that Abby’s “fine” art had been shelved for a cheaper attempt to bring home the bacon (I will note here that Seven Days, a print medium, has been complicit in their support of my illustration work, and I appreciate that).
The fact of the matter is, artists need to make money. Money buys paint, rents the studio, pays the student loans, and literally buys bacon (I don’t know about you, but I personally require a high-protein diet). And if I, like many people, can’t afford to purchase enough originals to cover my walls, I would certainly be delighted to fill my world with beautiful curtains and pillows made from Abby’s festive fabrics.
Beyond reducing print media and Abby’s newest work as simply business, the real issue is about an artist’s ability to create work that is valuable and accessible. Most Vermont artists-in-exile attempt to carry Bread and Puppet’s baton, outlined in their definitive Cheap Art Manifesto. Abby’s fabric line is wonderfully carrying on that tradition of art for the people, and hopefully funding the next round of ink. If Abby’s creative past says anything about her future, the juices are going to keep flowing, and we have a lot more great work to look forward to.