Series Statements and Process
General Artist Statement
I feel a strong connection to, and am a focused observer of, the natural world. Drawn to the beauty in patterns of light and growth in nature, I sense that an essential truth of who we are and why we are here is embodied there and that there is probably more to this truth than we can perceive. I seek to highlight the importance, for both people and the earth, of reconnecting with natural (real) life. The ritual of walking near my Marin County home, with dog and camera for company provides daily reinforcement and endless inspiration. Sometimes my lens is expansive, encompassing the subtle changes in light filtering through morning fog. On other days, my focus zooms in on the play of light and shadow in a tangle of roots and fallen leaves. I bring my outdoor liturgy back to the studio in hopes of capturing some of the solace and sanity I find there in studio paintings that can take many months to complete. Meaning accrues to a piece as I combine memory and feeling with the slow building up of layers of color and texture. I draw, glaze, collage, or sand the surface, observing at each step until I find a quality of light and life that, for me, holds a moment of grace. I am inspired by books and poetry that examine our interaction with nature and also by music. What I listen to and read while painting often finds its way into the final image.
Natural materials (Soil, Minerals and Plant dyes) 2019 to present
My interest in working with natural materials was inevitable. Natural minerals, soil and plant dyes suit perfectly my goals for both a sustainable studio practice and the poetic expression of nature. As an avid forager, with a geologist Grandfather, I had already collected many beautiful rocks and shells from hikes at home and while travelling. I discovered a method of painting using these materials, through the work of Makato Fujimura in a book given to me by my sister. We had lived in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia as children, and there I developed an interest in Asian art. In traditional Japanese painting, called Nihonga, the glowing metal leaf combined with gauzy layers of mineral paints capture nature in the way my eye perceives it: luminous and magical. I sought instruction in the medium and found Judith Kruger's workshops in the U.S. I have been studying the use of natural pigments in painting since 2018 and find the materials enthralling. The use of minerals and soils to create art works about our connection to our environment feels essential.
In a mineral pigment painting system, subtle color changes are achieved by layering pigments of varying particle sizes. Drawing from my experience in western watercolor and oil painting, I expand on the traditional techniques and materials to create unique contemporary imagery using site specfic materials. I find making paint with my fingers from natural clay, plant dye, minerals and found materials to be a lovely ritual. I touch the materials from the earth to create imagery about deep connection to place. From stretching fibrous mulberry paper on panels to foraging for clay and minerals, to breaking down rocks to making pigments, the entire process is tactile, meditative and meaningful. It is slow art that includes earth, time and much of the maker's hand in every piece.
Uniquely Human Portraits 2016 to 2020
This series of portraits is about individuals living with physical or neurological differences. They include alphanumeric documents or other background imagery that tell a story about the unique experience of the person depicted. These can include their medical records and interactions with agencies. The layers of material are intended to reflect the complexity of this experience. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to more deeply develop this work during a Chalk Hill Artist Residency in California. By choosing traditional portraiture, I was able to spend many hours truly seeing my subjects. I found sustained presence with another person's journey transformative.
The genesis of the project was my love and understanding of my own son with severe Autism and Cystic Fibrosis. The first portrait sprang from my need for my son and our life circumstances to be seen by others. I felt that he had no voice in the world and was not fully understood, even by close family members. He cannot speak in the ways one needs to in order to participate in our culture. I saw the light in him, as mothers do, and wanted others to see it too. I also felt that our family situation, being outside the norm, was overlooked and not well comprehended by our community. I wanted to be seen too, it seemed. I was also angry at how difficult the situation was, angry that I had no choice but to take it on. As I turned to painting as an outlet, my son soon became one of my frequent subjects.
Painting and exhibiting formal portraits of an individual with disabilities began a dialogue with others on the subject. When I showed the work in my studio, visitors would share the stories of their struggles with difference in their own families. During one of these conversations, I was moved to ask another mother if I could paint her son with autism and also eventually asked permission to paint some friends and acquaintances living with other types of differences.
During the years it took me to learn to paint portraits and execute these works, our national conversation on differences of all kinds became louder. At the same time my own focus began to shift outward, movements were springing up all over the country calling for changes in how minority groups and other people with differences are seen and treated in our society. The morphing of my own anger into empathy was accelerated by the events unfolding on the national stage.
I offer these works as a small individual contribution to that conversation by honoring these people walking their paths with dignity and grace. It is my hope that my own meditations on difference will flow into the much larger river of reckoning that is flooding our current collective moment.