Nearly every member of the Ramberg-Joler family is an artist -- from matriarch Joanne Ramberg, who carves delicate birds from blocks of wood, to 7-year-old Copper Ramberg, who creates mushrooms and fairies from clay.
But to say art is in their genes is to oversimplify the family's commitment to creativity.
Creativity is a living, breathing entity in the clan -- an entity that must be nurtured and appreciated, an entity that can enhance as well as strain relationships.
"Art has become a part of our family life all the time," Joanne Ramberg said.
So when son Karl, a Lawrence artist, came up with the idea to have a joint art exhibit by family members it wasn't long before everyone jumped on the bandwagon.
"I'd been wanting to do it for years," Karl said. "My sister, my wife and (my sister-in-law) Margaret have been trying to make a go of it as artists, and I thought why not do something together?
"And that made me think of the other people in our family and then the nieces and nephews who are starting to mature as artists, and it just sort of came about."
"A Family Makes Art," a show of works by 27 members of the Ramberg-Joler family, will open with a reception at 7 p.m. Friday at Terra Nova Hall, 920 1/2 Mass., and then will be shown by appointment through March 14.
"My hope for the show is to show how a family can be encouraged and discouraged, and that compromises and dreams are altered because of family. Sacrifices are made," he said.
"Creativity is a family legacy. Now I see the kids are paying attention to it, and I wanted them to see that it comes from the same place and they have choices to go for it and do it."
`A part of life'
Joanne Ramberg, a retired registered nurse and psychologist and professor emeritus at Washburn University in Topeka, started painting birds as an 8-year-old in Chicago. Because she lived in an urban environment, she copied the images of birds from an encyclopedia.
Today, she continues to do carvings of birds and has expanded into painting. Her late husband, David, was a writer. Together they had four sons -- artist-musician-writer-actor Karl and Steven Ramberg, a family physician, both of Lawrence; Jim Ramberg, a journalist in Topeka; Erik Ramberg, a nuclear physicist in Batavia, Ill. -- and two daughters -- artist Laura Ramberg and Linda Joler, a special education teacher, both of Lawrence.
"I remember that my parents encouraged art. Dad was a singer in a choral group and brought me toward music. Laura was considered the visual artist in the family and Dad would get his shirts from the dry cleaners and take out the cardboard and give it to her," Karl said. "I remember that I got a book of poetry from an uncle and so I knew poetry was a part of life."
He also remembers his brother Jim staying out too late and then trying to ward off his punishment by writing his mother a poem. And he remembers his father and uncle arguing over the meaning of a word and reading from poems to justify their reasoning.
"There was a sense that creativity was not foreign," he said. "There was not a notion to make a living at it, but that it can be a part of your life."
Karl's art these days revolves around his music, sculpture, stone carvings, acting, drawing and landscape design. His wife, Ardys, is known for her jewelry, welded steel sculptures, pastels and other drawings. Their 11-year-old daughter, Zoey, is into collages.
Doing what they love
Living the life of a full-time artist isn't easy. There is no financial security. Creative efforts are often interrupted by parental or marital responsibilities.
"For me, I'm lucky to have an extended family who are there for my children," Laura Ramberg said. "It's been a huge help. There's been times when the kids have eaten a lot of rice and beans."
Laura, who combines making art with teaching art, is the mother of a 20-year-old son, Jonah Seibel, and four daughters -- Ella Seibel, 17, Julie Seibel, 15, Katy Seibel, 13, and Copper Ramberg, 7. Jonah, a welder who owns Seibel Fabrications, designs and makes functional furniture. Ella and Julia are into photography, while Katy is a filmmaker who has placed in the last two KAN Film Festivals. In addition to her clay sculptures, Copper also sketches.
When asked who has influenced them artistically, all fingers point to Laura.
"I've taken art classes but she's been most influential," Katy said. "She's the most important art teacher I have."
Unlike some youngsters, Laura said she never had to struggle with choosing a career path. She always knew she was going to be an artist. Today, she teaches for the Kansas City public schools and Douglas County Youth Services and offers art camps at her home.
"When I was young, I thought an artist was a painter, so I studied painting at KU. Then I got into dance, performance and theater. I wasn't a great painter; I was better at three-dimensional so I focused on sculpture in the late 1970s," she said. "I got a bachelor's of fine arts in sculpture in 1981, and basically that's what I've been doing."
`A religious mission'
Although Steve Ramberg occasionally gets involved in creating art, he describes himself more as an "artistic diletante" with an "aesthetic sensibility." He has helped build and finance the foundry at Laura's home and occasionally collaborates with his wife, Margaret Rose, on an artwork.
Margaret is the one in the trenches, both as an artist and as a part-time art teacher for the Lawrence public schools.
"It's my religious mission," she said.
Margaret's family has an artistic legacy of its own: Her grandfather, Edward Gustav Lind, was a primitive painter who had an attic studio in his Wyandotte County home. Her mother, Mary E. Lind, did paintings and drawings and was a patron of the arts.
"My mom would bring art books home. I remember ones about the Impressionists, and I was in love with van Gogh," she said.
Margaret, who earned a master's degree in art education at KU, said
See Ramberg-Joler family, page 14
her artistic evolution began with assemblages, perception and performance works and electronic pieces. She then moved on to printmaking and painting, and then to three-dimensional mixed-media works and assemblages.
"My theory is that one of our intelligences is artistic," she said. "It's an intelligence that's part of us. To ignore it would be sad. ... It's an elemental joy."
Margaret's two sons, Mason Engling, 16, and Austin Engling, 14, are beginning to find their places in the art world. Mason, who has been drawing since he was 3, is a cartoonist and jewelrymaker. Austin takes art classes at school.
The Linda and Ron Joler home is decorated almost solely with the artworks of family members. Living in that environment has contributed to both of their sons -- 20-year-old Jake and 17-year-old Alec -- pursuing art-related careers.
"The presence of their art has influenced our children," Ron said. "Art is a way of life and a way of thinking for us."
Linda is a jewelrymaker, and Ron, a self-employed real estate appraiser, is a sculptor and writer of plays and screenplays. Jake is a third-year scholarship student at the Cleveland Institute of Art pursuing a degree in industrial design. Alec, a visual artist who also has won several filmmaking awards, is applying to art schools around the country.
In addition, Ron's sister and brother-in-law, Jan and Paul Jay, are professional artists who live near Pittsburgh, and his mother, Joyce Joler of Lawrence, draws and paints.
"Art has always interested me, and I've always been told to do what you're interested in," Alec said. "Art is a big part of our family."
"The whole aspect of creativity is such a life force," Linda added. "I see it happen around me. It's very exciting to see what someone can produce and feel when they are producing. It's all part of the process of living. I can't imagine life without it."
Her husband agrees.
"Art is like a window into our own humanity. Art equals beauty, and beauty is essential to living."
-- Jan Biles' phone message number is 832-7146. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.