Lake Norman & Mooresville

Born to be an artist, she's still busy at 60

Denver artist Ginny Boyd, 60, knew earlier than most folks what she wanted to do when she grew up.

"By the age of 2, I decided that the best thing you could do in life was to be an artist. I was raised in a family of engineers and scientists. Dad was a chemical engineer and mom was a zoologist. I thought I was adopted, because I was the paint brush in a box of No. 2 pencils.

"I drew on the walls behind the furniture in our home with a purple crayon, my favorite color. My father said he could never move any of the furniture in our home because of the purple walls," she said.

"Dad also said, 'Ginny, I love you but I do not understand you.' He still says that to this day. Maybe it was because I always wanted to color outside the lines and make the sky purple. First grade was hard for me."

Boyd's early interest in art persisted, and she found herself in a high school art class soldering knitting needles into sculpture using an acetylene torch.

She majored in art in college, finishing her B.A. in Fine Art at UNC Charlotte with an emphasis in 3D sculpture.

"Part of the charm of welding for me," said Boyd, who lives in the Sailview neighbhorhood of Denver, "was that most folks don't think of it as a female pursuit."

She married Roger, an accountant, at 22. "I needed someone I could push and pull with."

But with the birth of her first child, son Joshua, life changed.

"Motherhood for me was full-time, so art became secondary. I had Joshua in a backpack when he was an infant while I was doing my art, but when he was 2 years old, I decided that an acetylene torch and a 2-year-old in the kitchen was not a good combination.

"I love machines, so I went from acetylene torches to printing presses for printmaking."

As her family grew with the addition of son, Lukas, and daughter, Molly, Boyd returned to school to become certified in art education. "I had taught pre-school at my kids' school so they could attend, so I knew I liked to teach art, even though my husband told me that you can't teach art, you have to be talented. I knew that I'd have to prove him wrong.

"I briefly considered teaching in middle school, but I realized that I didn't even like my own kids at that age, so I began teaching high school instead. I could see some merit in ninth-grade students."

Any students who entered Boyd's art class at West Mecklenburg High School thinking it would be easy were soon disabused of the notion. One student, she recalls, asked another student who he had for art. Hearing that his teacher was Mrs. Boyd, the first student replied, "Oh man, she ain't no joke."

"My greatest rewards," said Boyd, "were the A-ha! moments, when the light came on and they got excited about their work. I told my kids that art is everything, and everything is art, and I meant it.

"The most frustrating part was losing students with real potential, either because they moved away or just dropped out of school altogether.

"After 15 years, I was burned out with teaching, and I wanted to do some of my own work, so I left teaching and became the project manager for the new Mecklenburg courthouse mural. I used students from 14 different schools with their art teachers to create a football field-size mural. It took an entire year to complete."

That project was followed by other positions that have kept her fully engaged in her art. Boyd is a teaching artist-in-residence at the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art in Charlotte, and she runs workshops at the McColl Center. She has a studio at Red Rooster, in Denver, and has participated in the Denver Art Trail for three years.

Slowing down is definitely not an option.

"I have to do art," she said. "It's necessary for my sanity. It's like an itch you have to scratch. I have been known to go downstairs in the middle of the night and fingerprint with jelly on the kitchen counter - grape, of course - because I had an idea in my head that I had to exercise."

Asked if her artistic inclinations were inherited by her kids or grandkids, Boyd frowned. "I had hoped that I would have an artist or two in my family, but none of them have followed in my footsteps. I keep giving my three darling granddaughters art supplies - priming the pump, so to speak - but I haven't seen any of them wielding the purple crayon yet. I thought everyone would think the way I do, but they don't, they just don't, and I'm amazed that they don't."

Boyd's current passion is a series of cards and posters about Southern women.

"My goal," she says, "is to replace old myths and stereotypes about Southern women with new truisms."

And what are these truisms? "Southern women are as fragile as barbed wire. Southern women are nice until nice doesn't work. Never give a Southern woman a weapon because she'll use it."

As for making a living through her art, Boyd is somewhat philosophical.

"Making art is one thing, but marketing and selling it is another thing altogether. Selling my work is an afterthought.

"It's nice that people like my work enough to want to buy it and in some cases, they actually do, but I'm going to create art whether they buy it or not. It's in my DNA."