FACETIME- Audio to visual: How Fischer collaged her life
Shelby Fischer froths milk for a cup of chai in her farmhouse kitchen before heading upstairs to her studio trailed by her three large dogs. As the mutts make themselves comfortable amid the worktables and shabby-chic furniture, Fischer talks about her latest artistic obsession: using mosaic tile to extend her glittery collages' color schemes into their frames.
Given her two solo shows at Les Yeux du Monde, an upcoming exhibition at Piedmont Virginia Community College, and her inclusion in the forthcoming book, Mixed Media College, by Holly Harrison, it's hard to believe the 59-year-old Fischer only began making visual art two years ago.
Until 2002, Fischer was instrumental (no pun intended) in an altogether different realm as executive director of the Thelonius Monk Institute of Jazz in Washington, DC. Among her duties: organizing President Clinton's inaugural celebrations, staging Kennedy Center events, and producing ABC television specials.
But Fischer hates discussing those experiences. "I don't care about who I met or the events I was involved with," she says. "The good memory for me is changing many, many young people's lives." She's proudest of having initiated the Thelonius Monk International Jazz Competition, which since 1987 has launched the professional careers of numerous musicians.
"It was by far the best job I ever had," she says. Nevertheless, "Part of me felt like I was watching the world go by." Five years ago, she and her then-husband brainstormed changing their lives. "We thought about moving to Ireland. We thought about moving to California. The world was our oyster," she recalls.
Closer to home, her husband suggested they explore Charlottesville. The two took a weekend drive down Route 29. Once past Culpeper, Fischer knew, "This is it!" Within weeks, she'd bought a farm in Greene County. "It was by far the singular, most spectacular event that's happened to me," she says. "I feel like my life began here."
A chance encounter with Rosamond Casey at a dinner party led Fischer to enroll in Casey's January 2005 "Mapping the Dark" course at the McGuffey Art Center. Just like that, collage took over Fischer's life. "Everything I thought, everything I saw, everything I heard, everything I did was fodder for my artwork," she recalls. "I was a woman possessed."
At a friend's urging, Fischer sought Les Yeux du Monde gallery owner Lyn Warren's opinion. Warren immediately offered her a show. "She was so prolific and energized," explains Warren, "and that energy is infectious with viewers."
Although Fischer still maintains ties to the jazz world (e.g. speechwriting for Herbie Hancock), her life is now consumed by visual pursuits. "The million inner voices that make me who I am," she says, "all want me to do art."
To see examples of Shelby Fischer's artwork, visit shelbyfischer.com
PHOTO BY JEN FARIELLO