The Diamond Shop was kind and curious enough to invite me to give an artist talk this month, so I decided to post an interview with myself to help me get thinking about my work. The art talk will be Tuesday, September 26, starting at 6pm. The Diamond Shop is located at 320 High Street.  Also, visitors will get to see the new exhibit, Iterations, guest curated by Alison Blair, a group show of national printmakers. For more information visit The Diamond Shop Facebook page.

Z: How did you end up in West Virginia?

I moved here with my family in 2013 for an opportunity my husband got with WVU. I was born in Oregon and lived most of my life in Omaha, Nebraska. West Virginia was definitely a change for me. I have traveled around the world and am adaptable, but the first time we drove into Morgantown from Pittsburgh on a snowy day in these hills, I was not calm.

Z: How did you come to be an artist? 

I was always creative, like most artists (and people if they admit it). I really liked acting growing up (wanted to be on SNL). I didn’t have the confidence, though. Still, I’m actually not a “good” artist in the popular/traditional sense of the word that most people are familiar with—I can’t draw things as they appear in a photograph from my head; I’m not technically that skilled. I started as a fashion design major but I couldn’t sew straight. I loved the freedom of drawing, so I became a drawing major. I didn’t have to draw “right” as long as I drew the way I draw, that’s what I loved. So I drew throughout college, then quit afterwards because, I thought, there were already too many artists out there, why was I special? I donated all of my materials to Bemis Art Center. A few years later after working in galleries and museums doing administration, fundraising and events, I missed it. I began drawing my babies after I had them, then got into writing about exhibits for a local paper, then got into figure modeling, then everything else fell into place and I was back into art and knew it was something I had to do, and I could support other artists while I was at it which I continue to do as well.

“Mother Art (Tribute to Linda Weintraub,” acrylic and pencil on paper, 2017, Sally Deskins.

Z: How did this event come about? Why is this important for the Morgantown community?

I exhibited at The Diamond Shop with Kelly Keifer last spring, in a duo show we called, The Colours of Motherhood. She is an artist resident at The Diamond Shop. I had exhibited around the region ; I showed samples from my various series and the curator of The Diamond Shop at the time liked my series around motherhood, “What Will Her Kids Think?”, of collaborative drawings and body prints. I guess people were curious about my work and process throughout the show. The gallery invited me for a talk, and I haven’t spoken about my work for a few years so it’s a great practice and opportunity to reflect.  It’s always important for community members to see different perspectives, see if anything connects or gives them ideas for their work.  So, I applaud the gallery for inviting in new perspectives to share with the community. Mine is a feminist, inclusive with room to grow, and a sense of humor and groundedness, kind of perspective.

Z: How do you think the environment is for the arts in Morgantown? How do you think it could improve?

This is a complex question to me. I’m going to get a little real here. When I moved here, I tried to figure my way around the Morgantown arts scene (before I entered WVU grad school) and found it small (understandable) but also fragmented, for a lack of a better term. There are several great groups and a few organizations with potential but it seems it’s extremely hard to get everyone on the same page, to think and move ahead. In general, it’s not very confident and it shows. Take that as you may.  The relation between and amongst each other in the arts community is one thing, and the relationship between the community and WVU is another. It’s all something I do not understand, coming from Omaha and Lincoln, Nebraska, where Everyone supported each other. You can only move ahead by seeing each other as partners not competitors. I wish Morgantown did that more—there are so many resources, from the University to Tamarack Foundation to the many young people with energy, but it seems, not much is taken advantage of. I tried!; but when you’re in it, it’s extremely disconcerting to be pushed down and not be listened to. I’m comfortably outside the “in” of Morgantown, but happy and encouraged when things and people come together and definitely one to cheer it on. I’m only one person, and though I did a lot to bring Omaha together, I guess I’m not the person to do it here in Morgantown. Though to me, Morgantown needs a new, and anti-guard. And I’m not a pessimistic person, I feed off positivity, but you can only do so much. I’m now greatly enjoying an opportunity bringing arts and engagement to and from the WVU Libraries, as I continue my international art writing and artistry.

“Art Time Mama Hidden,” with M. Deskins, watercolor, pencil and charcoal on coloring book page, 2016, Sally Deskins.

Z: What is your favorite thing about being an artist/creative/curator in Morgantown? 

The proximity to Pittsburgh, Washington DC., New York, Charleston, the resources of the University, and the potential of the city. There are so many ways to go and good things happening like the Art Museum of WVU, and The Diamond Shop, and other new things sprouting up. I’m not really a small town person, but it forces me to slow down a bit which is good. My family loves it here.

Z: Any advice for young artists in the area?

Get out. Leave, gain perspective. I know that isn’t typically what West Virginians say, but that’s what I say, from my mentor a long time ago. It’s the best thing for an artist (and really anyone) to do to grow. Of course, come back, if it suits you, and share what you learned, and help us grow.

Z: What would people be surprised to know about you?

So much, I don’t know where to begin. I love Cat Stevens and Janet Jackson. There’s one!

Z: Anything to add?

Come to my presentation and challenge me on what I’ve said, start a discussion! Support your local arts community as much as you can.

Sally Deskins is an artist, writer and curator. She currently serves as Exhibits Coordinator for WVU Libraries. She edits the online journal, Les Femmes Folles. She welcomes ideas for Motown Mademoiselle Arts,