She's Come Undone

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When I was 12 years old I didn't tell anyone because I thought it was my fault and because I didn't think anyone would believe me. Of course, there was no one who could corroborate my story.  Years later, I got the message loud and clear.  Today, 64 years later, I got the message loud and clear. Today, nobody would believe me, or if they did, they wouldn't care.     

  83 year old woman (October 6, 2018 )

During the Senate's Supreme Court's confirmation hearings I started reading through my Twitter feed as #believeher started trending. The above quote was the one that stopped me in my tracks. In 2016, before #metoo I completed a series of paintings and conceptual pieces, Terrible Beauty, based on my own childhood experience of sexual assault.    Like countless survivors, 30 years passed until I told anyone.  As I went through the other comments on Twitter I came across another that hit me equally as hard.  A young women railed against those who came forward so many years later, not understanding why something that happened so long ago had any impact on them now.  Her final advice, Just get over it and move on.  I am guessing that this young woman has not have the same experience and given that one in five women in this country have been raped and one in three have experienced some form of contact sexual violence the odds are pretty great that she may have survivors in silence in her life.

As I took in all that transpired over the last few weeks I kept coming back to the hard reality that women have not been believed and in many cases have dealt with the destructive and life changing aftermath of sexual assault alone and in their own way.  In my mind, the work I did for Terrible Beauty was not only hugely cathartic, but in the end was more about the effects of those years of silence as much as the event itself.  The painting Fear was My Imaginary Friend, summed it up best for me,  An undercurrent of fear was always present, its tentacles reaching all parts of me, affecting every decision and idea about myself.  I thought about the 83 year old women on Twitter and wondered what her silence and the festering of this most intimate of wounds would have cost her throughout her lifetime.  

In my studio, I had just hung a 60"x60" blank canvas, gessoed and prepped for a new painting.  The plan was to paint several figures since I have just recently returned to painting with oils after a 4 year journey with mixed media.  I intended that this canvas would be completely experimental to "move the paint around" and to not get fussy about the outcome.  Instead, I couldn't seem to help myself as I imagined this 83 year old woman. Her narrative emerged; the girl, the woman and the witness, leaving it for the viewer to fill in the blanks.  Its titled, She's Come Undone. In the end, I am hopeful that we as a country will one day look back at this painful moment in history and recognize it as the moment of pivot for things to start changing, a time when women will be believed.

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Who taught Whom?


Having spent over 20 years in the classroom teaching elementary and middle school students  my view of the world is always colored by my experience with people in their formative years.  I am always hopeful.  A teacher is in a completely unique position to spend the bulk of one year in the life of a child, a predictable and sustaining presence.  In light of a teacher's influence, it is a great and solemn responsibility.  I think most teachers just want to do their best for each student and make a positive contribution to their academic, social and emotional growth and development.  I always said, "I never met a kid I didn't like."  I meant it and I looked for the small things which made every child special, something that was not readily seen unless you spend 7 hours a day 5 days a week with someone. No matter who the student was, I always found it.  

As an artist who has often incorporated candid photos into my work I have appreciated looking at life though the lens of a single moment.  When going through the artifacts of a teaching career; letters and notes, yearbooks and photographs I revisited and remembered these moments, these students.  In looking back, I noted that these moments not only revealed something about the day, but the students as well.  It may be a feeling of ambivalence, a show of strength, a touch of vulnerability, a glimpse into their imagination.  Looking back, it was magical.  I can't think of a series that I have more fun painting.  My students continue to give back to me more than I could ever give to them.  I am the lucky one.  

Images may be viewed here.

Lessons Learned, opens on May 8th at the City of Shoreline gallery on the 2nd floor. The opening reception will be held from 6:30 - 8:30 on May 8th. The exhibition will run through July. Hours are 9 - 5 Monday - Friday.

Coming Full Circle

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I continue to explore the idea of shift and in preparation for a residency working with middle school students I have returned to the notion of generational transition.  My early work reflected my observation of the generation of parents and grandparents.  As my own children have reached their early 20's the hard realization that my generation is not leaving them a sustainable world has set in.  They and the generations that follow will need incredible problem solving skills, creativity and compassion to tackle their future.  The cyclical nature of generation transition continues as it has throughout all time and hopefully our gift will be wisdom to know when t move aside and act as a supporting role to the generation behind.  The painting below, Animate Existence speaks to the junction between planet and mortals embedded in the subtle narrative of the comings and goings of young and old.

Change is the Ever Constant


Life has shown me that change is a companion to get used to and to make peace with.   While change can bring uncertainty it can also open up unexpected horizons.  Much has changed since I first began my art career, leaving my teaching career and discarding my education in computer animation for painting.  After the first couple of years of paying the bills, painting still life and landscapes I soon realized my voice felt disconnected from this early work.  The advice of my high school English teacher still resonated with me.  "Write about what you know." I realized that the scaffolding for my art was built from my life experiences.  Although, life provided plenty of fodder, guarding my privacy was a bit of a hump to get over.  As I found myself squeezed during the years of raising children and caring for the older generation I realized that these were very common experiences that are shared by many.  My artist's voice sought expression not just for myself, but had the hope that the work would resonate with others as well. Each series unfolded from there, leading to the most vulnerable work, Terrible Beauty, an attempt to put the past's ghosts to rest.    


In the meantime, life presented a challenge, forging an enduring and indelible connection between life and art.  Life forever changed as a result of an extended illness, two surgeries and extensive rehab.  There were moments when Art literally tethered me to this life and although I had to change everything about the way I created art, I have never looked back.  For those of you who have followed my work over the long run it has been a noticeable transformation and the current work may seem far removed from that early work, however, I look at it as a most amazing journey, not only the journey of my art, but of my life.  I am left with only gratitude for life, the lovely spots and the difficult ones as well.  The world is changing, both collectively and individually and I look forward to turning my lens to the wider world.  More change to come for all of us.  Peace to all.



From Life to Paint

I have never considered myself a painter of landscapes, however, I have a secret stash of plenty in my studio closet that I view as my art hobby.  When I travel I cannot stop myself from drawing and painting what is in front of me.  When walking the dog in the neighborhood, something will catch my eye in the way the light falls or the subtle changes of the seasons. I get ideas that I usually have to and by have to, I mean, I must translate observations into paintings when I get back into the studio. Sometimes I will look to a photo, but most often paint from memory and then take over from there.  I do not have a lot of time to spend on them because I am usually in the middle of two or three other projects so they are not large, 18 x 24 or less. I have noticed that one of the reasons I like to do them is there is a certain freedom and immediacy when work is done only for yourself.  Working on these studies can prove meditative and probably more importantly, fun.  I’ll share a few every now and then on the blog.