Patricia Stockman. Courtesy photo.

Q&A with Oakdale High School photography teacher Patricia Stockman

While Patricia Stockman teaches full-time at Oakdale High School, she still finds time to pursue fine art photography, showcased at the The Artist’s Gallery in the month of September. Stockman’s newest series titled “Departure” features translucent, clear figures in various natural environments. Located in Frederick, Maryland, Stockman has pursued photography since college and has showed all around the area.

Liz: When did you first know you enjoyed photography?

Patricia: My junior year in college. I went in as a declared advertising design major, but when you work towards getting an art degree, you have to take an art class in every discipline. When I picked up the camera in junior year, that was just the greatest thing ever for me. I struggled in the technical side of drawing and painting, those frustrating ellipses. My teachers always critiqued them. To be able to capture what I could see in my head and then shoot and print, it was everything. Photography, that was it. I fell in love. It was probably the technical side that solidified it for me.

Liz: So what did you end up get your degree in?

Patricia: My degree is a bachelor of fine arts in two dimensional design with a concentration in photography.

Liz: What do you do for a living?

Patricia: Out of college, I worked for a yearbook company taking photos. I then moved to a portrait company and I stayed with them for about 10 years. While I was technically excelling in the company, as I moved up, I moved farther from photography itself. I thought “no,” this wasn’t what I wanted to do.

That’s when I decided to open my own studio, a portrait studio. Plus some graphic design, both portraiture and graphic design.

Liz: How did that work out?

Patricia: It went well. I’ve photographed sports for newspapers, I worked at Fort Detrick in the visual information department, worked in photo labs, got to do aerial photography. That was so much fun. I did family and personal portraits, along with graphic design work. And while I enjoyed all of those, I needed something steady. I always had to keep a second job, it just wasn’t enough money in the end.

Which leads me to today. I’m currently a high school photography teacher, which gives me plenty of free time to pursue my own personal fine art photography.

Liz: So when did you start showing in the area?

Patricia: I moved to Frederick a year out of college. My very first time showing was actually at Frederick Coffee Co. From there, I was approached to decorate corporate offices, to doing juried shows, to showing at the Blue Elephant, which is now NOMA. And here we are today.

Liz: So what was your inspiration for the show?

Patricia: A lesson plan I had seen years ago. It was actually a collaborative student project. When I first saw it, I thought it was ridiculous. Making these forms sounded messy and odd.

Liz: What made you end up pursuing them after all?

Patricia: It was intriguing how versatile these forms were. I happened upon these mannequins when a store in the mall was closing, and figured it was time to try this out. I created the forms by applying packing tape to the dolls, cutting it off of them, and then retaping it all together.

Liz: How did you pick the locations?

Patricia: I was very interested in different times of day and different cloud formations. I was also intrigued by other environments and surroundings that might convey a similar transparency as the dolls, such as water. I wanted them to be loose and fun, such as free falling in the sky or floating on water.

Liz: So, what’s the theme here, or was it just a fun project?

Patricia: It started out as just a fun project. I was really happy with what I was creating. However, there still is a deeper meaning behind what I’ve been doing.

I talked about how universal the form is, that the form could be anyone. The form itself has no race, no gender, no disabilities. It can be anyone. Everyone brings their own experiences and knowledge to their understanding of these images.

It’s been really interesting to see how other people interpreted them. So much of art is interpretation. Some people ask if there’s a religious meaning, if it’s political, or if there’s something about childhood.  It’s so open to interpretation and I love all ideas. Is it the presence, the absence of presence? Are they ascending, are they up, are they down? They’re clear, transparent figures, a blank slate.

Liz: Any final thoughts or reflections on your show?

Patricia: I’m so thankful for this opportunity, and I’m so happy to hear a conversation around my work. Even when people make negative comments or confused gestures, I’m happy to solicit a reaction from people. It means they’re thinking about what I’ve done, and what it all means.

I think keeping the arts in conversation is key to the preservation of it’s value. I look forward to new challenges thrown my way, and to interpretive projects in the future.

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