Vance's “Philanthro-fist” Journey
Karen Vance was just a little girl when she told her mother she wanted to be a ‘philanthro-fist' Karen says her mother replied, "Honey, before you can be a ‘philanthro-fist’ you have to have something to give."
The little girl has grown up now, and she's a successful landscapist who is fulfilling this childhood dream. Not only does she donate more than $25,000 a year in art to various causes, but through her paintings, she finds she also gives on a deeper, more human level.
"A while ago, I was thinking what a selfish career painting can be," she says. "I am so fulfilled by it and it's pretty wonderful to be able to enjoy the creative process. But then I began getting letters from people who had purchased my art.
"One was from a woman who had been with her daughter at the top of the Mary Jane Ski Area spreading the ashes of her other daughter, who had died at nineteen. She didn't say how the daughter died, only that it had happened a few months earlier and that the child had requested that her ashes be spread at the top of this mountain. Also at the top is a lodge where my giclées are for sale. The woman was broken at having lost her daughter; she was so sad and in such pain. She wrote that when she went into the lodge she saw one of my giclées and it gave her a feeling of hope and healing that she had not felt for months. She bought the giclée, took it home, and she wrote that it heals her every day.
"I have stacks of letters from people about collecting my work and what the work has done to their hearts."
Karen is an artist who paints from the heart, but painting from the heart is only meaningful if the artist also has the skill to make the picture work. The daughter of two artists -her father was a painter, designer, and sculptor and her mother a fashion designer before World War II -Karen says she always knew she'd be an artist. “I began drawing when I was about two and became a full-time artist in 1986” she says. “I paint in oils, although I also do watercolor and sculpture. I've had incredible success these last few years; I'm feeling the fruits of my labor and am really enjoying it.”
This success, however, keeps her playing catch-up and everything she paints is committed before it's completed. Asked if there's a painting that she wishes she could have kept, she admits there is one: Over Troubled Water. "There's a waterfall that cascades from Loop Creek Falls and in the spring- time it rushes over these big, round boulders and there's a fallen tree that makes a natural bridge... over troubled water is where I've been during the last two years when I was fighting breast cancer. That was a tough experience, but it's made me and my paintings stronger. This is a very special painting and it was hard to send it off, but I am sure it will go to someone who needs it."
Strength is half of the dichotomy that Karen both feels and paints. "My paintings convey great strength as well as great vulnerability and delicacy. You see nature's strength in those granite Rocky Mountains that I paint so often and you see vulnerability in the tender tundra above tree line. I think my landscapes touch the hearts of my viewers because the dichotomy mirrors that of the human spirit.
“Ever since I was a little girl, I've been sensitive to other human beings and I've been vulnerable to their criticisms and their needs,” Karen explains. “As a result I've always been a giver. Little did I know that I'd be able to give to so many organizations.” Her “pet” donation this year was an original oil and a giclée edition made from it for The Advocates, which helps victims of domestic violence. “I think the limited edition giclée will raise more than $150,000, which will free the staff to do what they do best: counseling people, getting people away from abusers, creating shelters, helping with medical problems”
Art, which Karen once saw as a selfish career, has allowed her to become a real "philanthro-fist."
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