Our sixty third interview in this new series of intimate interviews is with talented mobile photographer and artist Karen Messick from Oahu, Hawaii, United States. This interview is one that has stayed with me, it can be mentally stored, almost as a generation-defining self-help guide. Messick demonstrates clearly, both in text and visually that contentment and freedom come from knowing what to care about and when combined with her natural chutzpah, this develops into an intuitive philosophical interview, one that’s immensely thought-provoking. Enjoy!
To read the other published interviews in this series including artists, Adria Ellis, Rino Rossi, Mehmet Duyulmus, Alexis Rotella, Lou Ann Sanford Donahue, Irene Oleksiuk, Kerry Mitchell, Filiz Ak, Dale Botha, Lisa Mitchell, M. Cecilia Sao Thiago, Deborah McMillion, Rita Colantonio, Amy Ecenbarger, Jane Schultz, Anca Balaj, Joyce Harkin, Armineh Hovanesian, Kate Zari Roberts, Vicki Cooper, Peter Wilkin, Barbara Braman, Becky Menzies, Sukru Mehmet Omur, Sarah Bichachi, Michel Pretterklieber, Alon Goldsmith, Judy Lurie Whalberg, Andrea Bigiarni, Sean Hayes, Oola Cristina, Kathleen Magner-Rios, Linda Toki, Deb Field, Emilo Nadales, Lydia Cassatt, David Hayes, Jean Hutter, Frederic Deschênes, Mark Schnidman, Fatma Korkut, Fleur Schim, Rob Pearson-Wright, Dieter Gaebel, James Ellis, Marco P Prado, Jeronimo Sanz, Manuela Matos Monteiro, Bleu Chemiko, Manuela Basaldella, Stefania Piccioni, Luis Rodríguez, Marilisa Andriani (@mitrydate) Mayte Balcells (@artofmayte), Nicole Christophe, Jennifer Graham, Cathrine Halsør, Paul Toussaint, Carol Wiebe, Julie Denning, Kim Clayton (@berleyart) and myself, go here.
All images ©Karen Messick
What was your childhood or earliest ambition?
My earliest ambition was to become an interior designer. I have always loved the relationship between people and spaces, either in commercial places or homes. I love fabrics and textures and the spatial relationships of our furnishings around our daily lives.
My home economics teacher in 10-11 grade Miss Burkhardt wrote in my yearbook that one day she would be wearing my fifth avenue fashions! I loved to sew back then. Well, I did not go on to create or design clothing, but after a divorce at the age of 20, I did spend 35 years in the department store industry and enjoyed merchandising and buying, traveling in and out of New York City for markets.
My first job as a teenager was working in a fast food/counter style restaurant making pizzas and “Broasting” chicken. Truthfully I hated it! Always got busy with servicing customers burned a few pizzas and left! That’s when I got a weekend job in a department store named Stewarts in Baltimore, at age 16.
Private or State/(Public in US) school?
My entire education in elementary, junior and senior high school was public education.
University or Work?
The summer of my junior/senior high school year I took two courses at Maryland Institute College of Art. They were “audited” courses, as I could not earn credits not having graduated from high school. I loved the courses in drawing and interior design. I did not go on to college after high school, as I became a mother and married. Later on after a divorce and a few years working in retail, I went on to Business School at The University of Baltimore, Women’s Program in Management and graduated with a certificate in 1980. The Non-Diploma certificate from The University of Baltimore combined with my retail management work experience enabled me to apply for an Executive Masters in Business Administration program at Loyola University in Baltimore. I graduated with an MBA in 1983.
Who was or still is your mentor?
I have had numerous champions/mentors throughout my career. The value of which can never be underestimated and will never be forgotten. With gratitude I thank them all! All were my immediate supervisors in my retail career. In my photography career they have been numerous in various photographic disciplines.
How physically fit are you?
Now that is an interesting question!! At 67….I enjoy going to the gym at least three times a week! I eat healthy, organic foods when possible, no processed foods and take only one medication for an under-active Thyroid. I can do 20 pound dumbbell presses. I adopted a mantra when at 60, I was close to needing Cholesterol meds, pre-diabetic and substantially overweight. I have lost 50 pounds since then and all my vitals are in safe zones! But it has taken lots of dedication over time.
Now I am nowhere near her fitness level but am doing great!!! And I don’t get up at 3:00am!
Ambition or talent: what matters more to success?
GRIT!!! You gotta be able to get into a career and stay with it; fight for your positions and demonstrate your talents, whatever they are, use them, leverage them, make sure people see them. Promote yourself every way possible in a reasonable manner. There are lots of fish in the sea and you have to differentiate yourself. Sure Ambition matters, but Talent and Grit make it all work.
How politically committed are you?
Personally I can’t stand politics!!
What would you like to own that you don’t currently posses?
The new iPhone 11 and the new Nikon D6. And maybe a cool Tesla!
What is your biggest extravagance?
I am living it! I made a decision to move to Hawaii, the island of Oahu in 2016. Sold my real estate interests in Maryland and Delaware, sold or gave away half my possessions’ and bought condo in a resort!
In what place are you happiest?
Hawaii! In the water! In my condo or out for a walk in the resort and of course I am also happiest when visiting with my daughter in Seattle.
What ambitions do you still have?
Hmmmm…….I have had so many over the course of my life I am taking a break from ambition! But seriously; I gave up my photography business when I moved to Hawaii.
My goal is to live out whatever time I have here in Hawaii, enjoying the outside activities, the land and the people and staying healthy. I have no real “Business” ambitions. Though I have been an extra for Hawaii 5-O and Magnum PI. I enjoyed that! I hope I can do a few more gigs! Just to learn something new about the film industry. I applied for a 20 hour gig for a photography tour company but did not get that job…really just see what comes along. Managing my own portfolio to sustain my time here is a challenge alone. I would like to get back into painting or drawing and am looking into some classes at The Honolulu Museum of Art. I am on the Board or our Community Association and that is a very interesting experience.
What drives you on?
Well the options aren’t good! I love each day! New and different. Uprooting myself has allowed me to find newness: New places, new people, and new ways of living. New images! I have challenged myself to go one new place a week to experience more of the island offerings!
What is the greatest achievement of your life so far?
Several: My very wonderful daughter, my retail career, my second career as a photography educator and my financial position. I am grateful for so many things! I consider myself lucky!
What do you find most irritating in other people?
Well…..It ticks me off when people just don’t follow rules, or are inconsiderate of others!
If your 20 year old self could see you now what would she think?
Geez, what a trip it’s been to get to where I am today!
Who knew there would have been so many curves: bumps: and surprises!!!!
In the end “Damn girl, you did ok!”
Which object that you’ve lost do you wish you still had?
Can’t really think of anything.
What is the greatest challenge of our time?
A world at peace…where we can live as one!
Do you believe in an afterlife?
Well this is a question!! I don’t know, and maybe never will. But I tend to think we just pass on, feed the earth. Life is short…I can’t imagine a do over!!
If you had to rate your satisfaction with your life so far out of 10 what would you score ?
All in all through many ups and downs as I sit here, at 67, in Hawaii, a single woman, in good health, managing her nest egg to hang on to this lifestyle, choosing to swim, exercise, eat healthy, engage with others as I can…..at this point I’d give it a 10! But there surely have been years I would have given it a 2! And I expect at some point it will change again, the only constant in life. Change!!
Mahalo for the chance to be interviewed! I admire your articles and your consistency! Much love! Karen
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