I found Autumn Pearson working at her studio in downtown Safety Harbor. She winters here sometimes because her ties to the area go back generations.
Autumn is SHAMc’s current Artist in Residence and will exhibit her artwork February 16, 2018 from 4-11 p.m. with her BOLDER Talk from 6:30 to 7 that same evening. It's free - We hope you'll join us.
Me: “What brought you to Safety Harbor?”
AP: “My family has had winter homes here in Safety Harbor since the ‘60s. My great grandfather had a little trailer over at Harbor Hills.” She pointed to the home across the street. “My grandma and grandpa bought that house when I was about eight. I learned how to ride my bike on the brick streets and did cartwheels on the pier.” She pointed toward the house adjacent to her studio. “And in 1997 my mom bought this house.”
Me: “What has your journey been like with your art? Has it always been full time?”
“I have been a teacher and school administrator in New Mexico for almost twenty years. I just decided that isn’t who I am anymore. I was offered an artist in residency opportunity in Morocco. It’s my favorite place in the world so far. I did an exhibition there and then I went the Canary Islands for a month and a half. I was in the most remote and southern part, a place called El Hierro. It was really fun to live on such a safe, tiny island.
“Now I am here in Safety Harbor. I’ve been here since the end of November working as an artist in residence for SHAMc and next I will head back to Morocco. Then I will see where the Universe takes me.”
Me: "That’s incredible—to have such diverse experiences to inspire you."
“That’s kind of why I’m here. I’ve been traveling since June. It was time to come home and check in and visit my momma. If I’m going to be in the U.S. I need to be on this path and continue to create.”
Me: “How do you describe your art?”
AP: “I use all found objects so when I drop into one of these communities, as an artist in residence, I show up with the same set of gouache – they’ve been around the world – and the same set of paintbrushes and I make everything from all found materials.” She motions toward her current project, a raised portrait on a multi-colored canvas with a textured background. “These were all found canvases, all recyclable material made of paper and minerals and it dries really hard. My mom is a weaver so this [the textured background] is one of her rugs.
“My show is called Giving Back. It’s giving back to Safety Harbor – it has been my second home – and giving back to my family because they’ve been here forever. I’m doing a series of portraits of my mom and her three sisters . . . they’ve been really special to me growing up.”
Autumn shows me a sneak peek of her series of women made from fence posts. It’s her grandpa’s old fence that she rescued from being burned in her mother’s fireplace. “I made a series of Moroccan women in traditional jellabas. The buttons I use are all traditional handmade by Moroccan women.
“My bigger concept is giving back to the environment by not consuming.”
Me: “That means a lot to you?”
AP: “I think a lot about it. I try to show people through art and through conversation to bring awareness about what they consume and leave behind. It disappears from their minds but it doesn’t disappear form our planet.
“This is my giving back to SHAMc.”
Autumn brings me into her studio where a three-headed mermaid rests, waiting for her talented hands. “It got its first bit of paint yesterday. This is made of palm fronds and the Tampa Bay Times. It will be covered with found objects from my walks.”
Me: "SHAMc is lucky to have you here."
AP: “It is great to walk by the water every day and having an art center to connect to is really inspiriting. You can really feel alone being an artist in residence. Having a place that is always bringing in other arts and connecting with other artists – those are the things that SHAMc has given me.”
Me: “What do you want people to know about you, your art, or the Bolder Talk and exhibit?”
AP: “ I want people who’ve never been to SHAMc to go. So many people – from Safety Harbor – they’ve never been to SHAMc. I want them to get out of their comfort zones. I want them to think about what they consume. I want them to come to this exhibit and see all of things that are normally thrown away. They might decide not to use a straw the next time they go to the restaurant . . .
“I want people to get out of their homes and their minds and have an experience.”
We want that too, Autumn! (So, readers, please join us!)