I am Rebecca Miller Campbell, a 30-something year-old artist living in the foothills of Appalachia. I simply love making things. I love being able to take simple items & an idea & create something beautiful & important. I LOVE antiques. My oldest & most expensive antique is the 95 year old farmhouse I share with my husband & kitty. There’s a long list of ‘to-do’ projects that needs to be completed & I suspect that it will be that way for a while. But we all adore it.
I love worn wood, curious objects, chipped paint, old linens & rooms dressed in shades of white. They are serene & comforting to me.
I’ve lived in Eastern Kentucky since birth & really have been creating for as long as I can remember. I am primarily self-taught, having had a handful of elementary art classes & one intro to art class in high school. My preoccupation with art began early as I grew up surrounded by creative people. At Christmas, my mother painted elaborate winter scenes on every available surface; in the fall, we lined our porch with hand-painted pumpkins. My father crafts primitive furniture and cabins and anything that suits his fancy. Like so many people from this area who create, he will never consider himself an artist, although he has every right to wear that title. My step-mother is a quilter & constructs beautiful works of art from fabric. She introduced me to the world of sewing at the age of 13. I attribute my talent & creativity to characteristics inherited & learned from my parents, the free & creative atmosphere I grew up in, and Appalachia in general. I adore the make-do attitude & the ability of Appalachian people to make something out of nothing–including art. This area & its people are infinitely inspiring to me.
An interesting fact about me: I grew up in Lee County, KY until the age of 12, then moved to Wolfe County, KY, home to Edgar Tolson, one of the most celebrated 20th century folk artists. As a child, our family doctor was Paul F. Maddox. A trip to the doctor, for my brother and I, meant that we got to run to the tall glass case & gaze at all the ‘wooden little people’. We had no idea that we were looking at a massive collection of coveted folk art. Dr. Maddox allowed Edgar to display his art in the clinic & randomly Edgar would bring collectors by to view. Dr. Maddox was the recipient of many of his pieces in exchange for medical care. I wonder how many people in Wolfe County & neighboring counties were inspired by (or for the little ones viewing–shaped by) that collection.
I wrote this several years ago as an ‘About Me’ on my personal website. Since the original writing of this, I’ve grown in immeasurable ways, added a husband (and house & kitty) to the mix, moved, moved on, acquired new skills. Despite that, I think it is still the truest reflection of me as a person…as a daughter, a sister, an Appalachian, a poet, an artist. It answers the hows & whys and, I think, one of the ultimate questions when it comes to any form of art: what makes an artist an artist?
I am a product of all the love I’ve experienced or been witness to in 29 years. I am a Southern girl who memorizes moments & feelings & tries to articulate them as best I can so that my history is well documented & my love catalogued. So that no one ever doubts exactly how they made me feel. I am a girl who is in love with living. In love with all the small seemingly insignificant moments that occur every day…that make this life chaotic / messy / moving / beautiful / sorrowful / ugly / extraordinary. I am a girl who lives for words & songs, soft hands on foreheads & conversations that are not necessarily spoken. I am moved by grit, by grime, by people who roll up their sleeves & dig into the mess, without worrying about the consequence. I believe we all have the ability to heal. Ourselves & others. I believe we have to choose healing. Everyday. In the smallest of ways. Even if it’s sometimes just reminding ourselves to breathe.
There are pieces of everyone I love inside me. I collect stories & memories in every inch of my skin. I love hard. Because it’s the only way I know how. Because that’s the type of love I’m accustomed to. Because that’s the type of love I’ve received.
I am Mamaw’s doodle eggs, Dottie’s strawberry freezer jam, Marcie’s kindness, Billie’s belief. I am Joan’s cat head biscuits, Lisa’s chuckle, Andrea’s adventure, Tammy’s down home persona, Sam’s wit, Beverley’s slip stitch, Marilyn’s childlike perspective & Scott’s loyalty. I am Barbie’s daughter, Junior’s daughter, a girl who was placed in the most tender hands during the summer of ’78. I am someone so moved by the people I’ve met & cared for–they’ve each become an intricate fiber in the make-up of me.
I am one in an anthology of men and women, boys and girls, believers who were meant to be celebrated & remembered–a girl, plunked down in these hills, just trying to get this right–just trying to take in all that I can possibly take in and at the same time, give all that I can give, in whatever form that may be.