Series Statements and Process
General Artist Statement
For me, making art is a meditative process. It allows me to give time and attention to what is important to me. I feel a deep connection to and am a focused observer of the natural world. I am fascinated by the patterns of light and growth in nature. I know that an essential truth of who we are and why we are here is embodied in the material of the natural world..and that there is probably more to this truth than we can perceive. My love of atmospheric light, along with a love of drawing, pulls me in the direction of representational work. I seek to portray the connections I feel between people, places and processes in nature. Repeated encounters and the passing of time deepen my relationship to these subjects. I engage with my subjects through photography, drawing and, sometimes, printmaking as I search for that something that is their essence. These experiments are the genesis of 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, well, natural. They suit perfectly my goals for both a sustainable studio practice and the poetic expression of nature. I had discovered the method of painting, called Nihonga, 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 aesthetics. In Nihonga style painting, which comes from Japan, 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 began studying in earnest and found the materials magical indeed. The fact that the works are about nature, made with a green process and would return easily to nature meets my strong commitment to conservation.
In the Nihonga painting system, subtle color differences 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. I find making paint with my fingers from natural clay, plant dye and minerals to be a lovely ritual. I touch the materials from the earth to make images that depict her wonders. From stretching strong mulberry paper on panels to foraging for clay and minerals to putting on the final touches of gold or silver leaf, 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.