INTERVIEW: Sharon Pontier

     I don’t remember the exact moment I met Sharon Pontier. It was probably a summer morning in 1998 when she was on break from teaching school, she arrived for a yoga class at my small schoolhouse and is still practicing her yoga and meditation with me all these years later.

     I’ve watched her mature as an artist, as a woman and as a human being always willing to put herself on the line against injustice and war. We have traveled together to protest in Washington D.C. against torture and talked long into the night on solving the problems of the world. And all along she quietly paints her watercolors and creates her collage pieces encouraging others to follow their artists’ muse.

How would you describe yourself as an artist?
Being an artist might be a state of mind, as well as a person that works with paints, pens, pencils, paper, and so forth. I think it has a lot to do with the need for and aptitude towards creativity.

Although I consider that I am mainly self-taught, by now, I have taken a great many courses with known professional artists. Among those artists are Peter London, who wrote, “No More Second Hand Art” and “Drawing Closer to Nature.” Jane Davies, an abstract artist, whose class I took at Omega Institute, and she has published various books on both art and craft. She also offers online classes and videos. Also, most recently, I took a course on collage with Jonathan Talbot, internationally known as a landscape painter and collage artist, who also has published on his methods. He also wonderfully has exhibited in our small UU Fellowship Gallery.

According to Henry David Thoreau: “It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” That is true in art, and it is true in life.

You are active in the Peace and Justice movement, how does this affect the art you create?
It is important to me that justice in this world prevail. What I see very often is an injustice, and a world in disarray…a world where there is terror and war. I see it and wish to respond to it. I do that by joining with others in protest, calls to congresspeople and through my art. There is no peace without justice, and most of my life I have participated in actions that I hoped would lead to justice and peace. Much of the art I have collected over the years has to do with social issues. Now I try and integrate that perspective into my work. In the gallery at the UU Fellowship, we try to focus at least one exhibit on humanity or social issues.

John Berger said: “art…is a form of prayer.” I do see art as a meditation, as well. Meditation and prayer separate the person from the busy mind and reach deeper into the soul so that thoughts and actions are moderated and considered. A deeper creative space is achieved, the art becomes purer. Meditation is then another level of seeing.

How did you make your living and also include the creative process in your work life?
For over 30 years I made my living as a teacher in private and public school. Teaching itself reaches a profound creativity allowing me to draw on it and awaken this creativity in my students. Art is an excellent basis for the creation of classroom projects as well. When I taught very young children, putting up there work, their pictures were a joy…..the work called out to be observed and experienced. It turned creating bulletin boards into an art form.

You curate an art gallery in your church, what made you decide to begin this venture? How has it evolved?
The Art Gallery at the UU Fellowship came out of a discussion with a number of people. The space that we use is a lobby proceeding the sanctuary. Previously, it had become cluttered with notices and so forth. After clearing off the bulletin board and painting it white, I was asked not to put the notices back up. Remembering discussions about an art gallery, it occurred to me that we could put up art work, so I asked around to different UU Artists and others for paintings on water. A water ceremony is the first official service in September when our services restart after a summer break. This gallery was such a pleasant surprise to everyone that all were willing to experiment with the project. It remained successful, so it continues.

What advise would you give your younger self?
There is a paragraph that I recently read: In ‘Courting the Muse,’ a writer alludes to what Katherine Mansfield called ‘hard gardening’: the hard work of giving time to the creative act, to summon something deeper. I think that is what I would echo to my younger self…in becoming, keep searching for the ‘something deeper.’
How would you advise young artists starting out in life?
Art can be found in any field, so get a good education and keep an open mind to the profoundly creative aspects of life. Continue to grow and know that one learns and becomes all of one’s life.

The UU Fellowship Gallery is located at 1 West Nelson St., Newton, NJ. Hours are Sunday’s 12:15 – 1:30 PM or for a private viewing contact Sharon at 862-268-3858 to arrange an appointment.