Layering past and present in paint
There’s an ancient Chinese proverb that says: “I learned it from the shadow of a tree, my influence falls where I may never be.” My newest collection of paintings explores visceral memories of people and places that are triggered by sudden encounters in the natural world – a smell, a flower, a walk on the beach. The shadows of things in the present recall the people and places of the past. In so many ways we are changed by those shadows; they make us who we are. The juxtaposition of current reality and memories of things past is expressed in the layering of paint and images.
The longer I live, the more important memory becomes; partly because I’m losing it, and partly because I have an expansive mental catalog of people, places and things to remember. There are times when the emotions that accompany memories are a stew of joy and regret, love and hate. For example, the smell of a gardenia takes me to my mother’s fragrant garden when she was healthy and energetic; it also takes me to her bedside, a gardenia bloom in a small vase, as she slowly lost the battle with cancer. These memories, positive or negative, are triggered by sudden encounters in the natural world, as though they cast a shadow reminding me of a legacy that makes me who I am today. Life is seldom simple. My paintings reflect the complexity that surrounds us as we navigate our way through life and the ironies of the present as seen through the rear view mirror.
I paint many subjects, but I don’t paint just anything. Each painting must have an emotional connection or it’s not worth doing. That’s why I tend to reach into my memory bank and photograph albums for inspiration. For example, many of the paintings in my latest series include flowers – not just any flower from the hundreds I’ve photographed, but the ones that remind me of people and stories.
Ideas for paintings are developed through sketches or the combining and layering of photographs. Then, the actual painting process becomes more spontaneous and intuitive as I “channel” the memories into an emotional expression on the canvas or paper. As I apply the paint, the shapes and patterns become abstract. It’s only when I finally stand back that I can put the pieces together and see the whole picture. This is another metaphor of life that I find fascinating: we so often live in the minutia and miss the big picture unless we’re willing to stand back and take the long view.
I enjoy working in any medium (or combination) that allows me to layer colors and images, splatter and drip paint, create happy accidents, and respond to them as though engaged in an animated conversation with the paint and surface. It’s fun. It’s not painstakingly realistic. I find beauty in the process, so I want the viewer to see my process: the drips, lines, scumbles, and scratches, along with areas of higher finish. If the painting is viewed as mysterious and ambiguous, as well as expressive and beautiful, all the better. If the viewer finds a personal connection that may have nothing at all to do with my intent, that’s even better.
I'm pleased to report that I completed my Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in December 2012, graduating Magna Cum Laude from the University of Utah. This is my third degree, having earned B.A. and M.A. degrees in Theatre from American University in a previous lifetime.
Exhibits and Awards
- Painting accepted in Western Federation of Watercolor Societies Annual Exhibit 2013
- Paintings accepted in more than 15 Utah Watercolor Society juried shows (2002 – 2012)
- Juror’s Award, Utah Watercolor Society Spring Exhibit (2012)
- Honorable Mention, Intermountain Society of Artists Fall Show (2012)
- Third Place, ISA Summer Show (2012)
- Award of Merit, Utah Watercolor Society “Mini Show” (2012)
- Award of Merit, Utah Watercolor Society “Mini Show” (2009)
- Juror Award, Utah Watercolor Society Spring Open Exhibit 2009
- Award of Merit, Intermountain Society of Artists Spring Exhibition, 2009
- Honorable Mention, Intermountain Society of Artists Fall Exhibition, 2010
- Honorable Mention-Professional Graphic Arts Division, Utah State Fair Exhibition 2010
- Eccles Art Center Statewide Exhibition 2009 and 2010
- Painting accepted in 2009 American Association of University Women Exhibition, Salt Lake City, UT
- Painting accepted in 2009 BFA Student Juried Exhibit, University of Utah
- Painting accepted in Western Federation of Watercolor Societies 2008 exhibition in Tucson, AZ
- Second place, Murray City Arts competition (2008)
- Honorable Mention, Murray City Arts competition (2007)
- First place, Murray City Arts competition and show (2006)
- Honorable Mention in Utah Valley State College/Woodbury Gallery statewide competition and show (2005)