Growing up as an artist in Rhode Island was exciting for Pike. The combination of landscapes, the changing of the seasons and the beauty of the oceans meant that there was always something new to explore. Her father was an engineer, but wasn’t in her life for long. Her stepfather was a postal clerk, and her mother a homemaker.
Nature had much to do with molding Pike’s view as a youth. It is a view that Florida has helped to renew, leaving her more open to nature, to poetry, and to her own spiritual aspect.
She is a follower of the Tao, the Way, a philosophical system that seeks to bring a person into harmony with their surroundings, and being among so much natural beauty is a blessing on her path.
After high school, Pike studied at the Rhode Island School of Design. In 1988 she was awarded the Prix de Rome by the American Academy in Rome, a prize granted to only 15 artists each year. This allowed her to travel to Italy and explore the city and its surroundings. While she was living in Rome, she often visited the Appia Antica, the ancient Appian Way, one of the oldest of the Roman roads. The first segment of the road was completed in 312 B.C., and the sense of history that emanates from it, the vision of the chariots, the horses, the peasants, and the kings who travelled along it, made it her favorite part of the Roman landscape.
A love of travel, inspired by her childhood reading, has led Pike around the world. She has been in 49 of the United States (the exception being Nebraska), and on all of the continents save South America. Her first trip was a safari in eastern Africa. She takes great pride in the fact that she worked two jobs to pay for everything on her own. When asked what places she still wanted to visit after a lifetime of travel, she answered with no hesitation: Ireland and the Amazon River.
Her travels also took her to Alaska, to the small town of Haines, called “the end of the trail” by the native Tlingit. In fact, it was one of the Tlingit who helped Pike to carve her own dugout canoe from a single log. Starting with a 20-foot long section of red cedar weighing in at 3,800 pounds, she and her teacher worked for six months carving and steaming. In the end, she had her own 160-pound dugout. For a while, Pike moved around the Northwestern United States, and travelled throughout the Western U.S. She hadn’t been in Rhode Island since her early 20s when she returned to the East Coast to be closer to family.
In Narragansett, where her dad kept his boat and often took the family out on the water during her youth, Pike befriended a few of the local commercial fishermen and captains. She was making short videos, and worked her way up to deckhand on the boats. On some boats, she was one of only two deckhands handling as much as 3,500 pounds of fish in a day. It was life changing. For the 50-year-old Powers it was educational, it was fortifying, and it was empowering.
“If I was even 10 years younger, I would have changed careers immediately,” she said.
She still dreams of buying her own commercial fishing boat and going back out on the water. She loves that working on the fishing boats takes her closer to the primordial roots of gathering food for herself and her community.
As an artist, Pike works in many different mediums. She has created entire collections of glass artwork. Not the delicate vases or graceful abstractions that usually spring to mind when art is made of glass, though.
Instead, she designed and created a collection of medical and natural curiosities. From “Righties Left Hand,” to a collection labeled “Whaling Museum,” Pike created body parts, animals and their eggs, and ships, and suspended them in clear glass jars. It gives the work the feel of a collection of jars in a freak show, or of medical oddities exhibited in the 18th or 19th century.
She also created a collection intersecting weapon parts with everyday furnishings. Called Tools-Toys-Weapons, the collection was built in the late 1980s, when the specter of a Cold War turned hot lurked or loomed in the back of society’s unconscious mind.
The most recent collection shown on her website, web.me.com/pike powers, includes such absurdities as glass whale eggs juxtaposed with oil paintings on copper and wood.For a woman who has experience as everything from an architect to a zookeeper, finding a full-time job shouldn’t have been difficult, but one that incorporated her true vocation as an artist was almost too much to hope for.
When Pike saw the ad in the newspaper seeking an executive director for the Boca Grande Art Alliance, her first thought was, “I can do that.”
She had been Pilchuck Glass School’s artistic director for 15 years, their artist in residence in 2008, and as she was working on her master of fine arts degree at Yale.
She was also in charge of the school’s visiting artist program. This meant that not only did she convince artists as varied as Joan Manuel Serrat (musician) and Judy Chicago (author) to come lecture at the university; she also saw that their requests were fulfilled. By the time she graduated, she was well-acquainted with the vagaries of her compatriots.
When Rosemary Bowler called her in for an interview, she was thorough. As Pike says, “She did a great job of matchmaking, both for me and the board.”
She greatly admires Rosemary, and all of the Art Alliance members who have worked hard to develop the Alliance.
She loves that the members are open-minded to new things, and seek opportunities to experiment, all without ever losing their roots as local artists.
While the job may have been her primary reason for moving to Englewood, she also lists family, water access, climate, the funky old Florida feel of her neighborhood, and wildlife as additional reasons for settling in the area.
Pike may joke that working with a group of artists is akin to herding cats, but the balance to that is that she works with a group that brings the excitement of newness and the creative energy of their ideas and opinions to the table. The confluence, she says, “is colorful.”
As she shepherds the Alliance through its 25th year, Pike is overseeing a full calendar of shows, lectures, and classes, open to Alliance members and to non-members for an additional fee. Classes as varied as beading, paper arts, basket making, and water painting are offered on the 2012 calendar, along with lectures on artists and their techniques, given by local and international experts. And of course, there will be several art shows displaying the talents of local artists. A full schedule, along with links to exhibiting artists and membership opportunities, can be found at bocagrandeartalliance.org.
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