Phyllis Copt

Phyllis Copt
Lawrence, Kansas

I live and work in the hills of Northeast Kansas, outside Lawrence. After I retired from teaching English and geography for 28 years in the fine public schools in Lawrence, I turned the page and delved into the visual arts of prairie restoration and print making. My interest in works on paper stems from reading books. 

In January of this year I had sunk into a despair that I couldn’t shake. I remembered Elizabeth Layton’s journey out of depression by expressing herself in her drawings. So. I dared myself to suck at something new and enrolled in Louis Copt’s Open Studio class at the Lawrence Arts Center (full disclosure, he’s my husbnad). I have kept a visual journal for years and thought I’d learn some new techniques for my journaling which is mostly collage. Much to my surprise I discoverd monoprinting. I was immediately hooked. Part of the appeal is that only one good impression can be made. The process requires focus, decision making, and concentration at a level that I needed. A healthy and rewarding way to clear my mind of depressing chatter. I learned though, through much trial and error, that I could do only so much to control the outcome. Letting go of my tendency to micro-manage everything, was a relief. I’d catch myself smiling and anticipating mornings in the studio. Forrest Gump’s mother’s advice replaced gloomy thoughts and like “a box of chocolates”, I never knew exactly what would come off the printing plate onto the paper. 

This show, Natural Transitions, focuses on Nature’s seasonal cycles. Being in the last season of life, I am acutely aware of the hard reality of my own mortality. No doubt, COVID and the state of the world and changes within my family have contributed to this hardest of realities. My subject matter here is mostly plants and tree leaves in inevitable and beautiful transition from one stage to another. To quote the American poet, Stanley Kunitz, “The lifespan of a flowering plant can be so short, so abbreviated by the changing seasons, it seems to be a compressed parable of the human experience.” Tending to the tug of life in the garden and in prairie restoration, Nature always surprises me, brings me joy and involves tons of problem solving. And there is no escaping the fact that things die in the garden and that we are all candidates for composting. Just so, the monoprinting process is full of surprises, some frustrations, problems to solve and work through. Sue Stuart-Smith in her new book, The Well- Gardened Mind, quotes Voltaire, “ ‘Il faut cultiver notre jardin’ which means accepting that life has to be nourished and that we can do that best through shaping our own lives, our communities, and the environments we inhabit. Stop chasing an idealized version of life while turning a blind eye to the problems of this one; make the most of what you have around you and get stuck into something real.” And as Neil Gaiman says, “Art matters!”