This was one of the first paintings I did during my journey into abstract art and finding my voice related to my childhood sexual abuse. At the time I worked on this painting, I had not yet remembered that I had been abused. I was just beginning to have short images/flashbacks appear now and then, most lasting only seconds, and then they would be gone and I would not be able to recall the episode. I remember feeling confused and questioning these images wondering “Are these real?” “Did this really happen?” “Where are these images coming from?” Feelings of doubt eventually led to feelings of denial as more detailed images began to surface and I was struggling with how this could have happened and what had I done? I tried pushing the images out of my mind when they would pop up, but they continued to appear at greater frequency and for longer duration.
I've always been involved in doing art in some way or another since I was very young. I spent a lot of my early years being cared for by my older sister who was an art major in college. She instilled in me a passion for creating. Art materials were always available in our home. I have fond memories of messy paper-mache projects at the kitchen table, clay sculptures, oil pastels and big sheets of paper, even India ink and dip pens. Thankfully, my mother never discouraged us from engaging in art in our home. My dad, a high school biology teacher, would take our family (my parents had nine children) on summers-long camping trips all over the U.S. I have many memories of days spent hiking, climbing trees and rocks, catching frogs and other small creatures followed by nights of campfires, night hikes and lots of bugs.
I did not follow the path of my sister. I continued to enjoy art and took classes here and there over the years, but I did not think of art as a viable livelihood for myself. So, after a long career in education, I am at a point where I can engage with art in a more sustained and intentional way. My husband and I are outdoor enthusiasts, and have spent the last 34 + years traveling, camping and hiking all over the United States. These trips have provided an infinite amount of inspiration and material for my botanical drawings and paintings over the years. Art, like nature, has always been a spiritual thing for me. I am not so concerned with producing a product, but am motivated by the process. I believe this is why I spent a lot of time with graphite and colored pencil as my choice of medium. I love the tactile engagement of pencil on paper. It reminds me of my love for coloring as a young child. The repetitive action of slowly building layers of color is both meditative and therapeutic. In many ways, pencil is the least efficient way to make marks on or add color to paper, but that seemed to be what attracted me to it. I must spend a long time engaged with a specimen, be it a tree, flower, leaf, seed or branch, studying it's properties, patterns and characteristics until I really know it and then can begin to represent it.
I've taken many botanical art courses at the Morton Arboretum in Lisle, Illinois, where they taught a very traditional and precise way to draw plants for scientific identification, which is a bit too rigid and controlled for my taste, but the courses did teach me how to see and focus on the small details. But for the most part I am self-taught. Recently, I've begun to stray from the constraints of traditional botanical drawing which is evident in my most recent work. There are many fine and talented botanical artists out there who can draw and paint very traditional looking plants and flowers. I'm not interested in doing what others have done. I'm interested in documenting the lesser appreciated and lesser known characteristics of plants and trees. For instance, I am captivated by bare-leaved deciduous trees in winter. I used to lament the long winters of brown typical of the upper-midwest where I live, longing to see lush greens again, until I began to see the beauty in the forms, structures and complexities of the stark trees around me. This is what I want to document in my art: the things most people tend to look over. The small, less obvious elements that illustrate the beauty, complexity and diversity of the natural world. I'm interested in pushing the boundaries of botanical art by exploring new subject matter and non-traditional compositions that provide a new perspective for viewing and appreciating botanicals. One of the main goals I have for my art is to explore the intersections of nature, art, science and life by creating innovative and provocative pieces that provide a fresh, new approach to the study and practice of botanical art. Every day is an exciting journey as my art takes me to new places as it evolves and stretches me to look beyond what has already been done.
More recently I’ve been exploring abstract art using acrylic paint on canvas and wood panel. I did not plan on venturing into abstract art…it just sort of “happened.” With the onset of Covid-19 in March of 2020, I suddenly found myself with a lot more time on my hands and I had always wanted to try painting abstracts. The pieces I’ve been working on since March of 2020 have been heavily influenced by recent personal trauma and are a good fit for abstraction. I have found working on the pieces therapeutic and cathartic. My wish is that others will find a common voice in my work that will bring them some hope and possibly healing.