Family by the traditional definition is the people who you are related to by blood through birth, marriage or adoption. The true meaning of family is really what is being considered here. For me family encompasses all the important people who have been a part of my life. I can’t count on one hand the members of my “family”. They are all the people who support me, encourage me and love me unconditionally. The single most important group of people in my life Family takes on powerful and curious meditation of how relations with people are created, developed and maintained over a lifetime.
My brother Matthew had a middle school homework assignment to collect leaves from various specimens around our valley, identifying them and labeling them. It was the first time I discovered my love of science and nature connecting it specifically to botanical subjects. I am still fascinated with today. I credit Matthew, along with my mother, with the spark that lead to a life long interest in photographing illustrating and painting them for years.
On a cold day in December, I had to face one of my most painful sibling relations. My brother Peter had to be moved out of the State Mental Hospital in Pueblo. He had been incarcerated for two years leading up to this move into an assisted living facility. The State of Colorado sued the owner of the facility for discrimination against my brother and won so he could move out of the hospital. Words cannot describe the pain so the painting had to do it for me.
For me it is good to get confirmation about my art from time to time. My daughter liked this one so much she wanted me to hang it in her bedroom. For me that is enough.
My Value Study
This painting is about how things that matter get manifested and become my form of self-expression. This painting is both a study of values on the value scale according to the traditions of fine art and the investigation of my values. This painting came just after the unthinkable occurred after the presidential election. I believe in climate change as I live in Boulder and I learn from scientists and photographers who document this in their work in the field of climate science. I believe in a women's right to choose because it is our body not for someone else to decide what we do with it. I believe in healthcare for everyone. The insurance companies own the politicians along with the lobbyists who are fighting to repeal Obamacare. Meanwhile, my brothers, who are severely mentally handicapped, cannot get the real care they need. I believe that we have the wrong president coming into the oval office. Most Americans agree and for those of you who don't I simply don't have anything in common with you. My father was a political scientist Ph.D. He taught the cadets political science at the Air Force Academy during the Nixon era and was "black listed" by President Nixon as a result of his outspoken views on that Republican President. Watching his impeachment left a lasting impression on me plus history repeats itself. I can only hope so in this case. This value study is just a normal extension of my upbringing while working in the gray scale with paint. Maybe I should have called it "Outspoken in Black and White."
Sometimes relationships start out straightforward and simple. They are often light, carefree, fun and refreshing. These new relations are often a bit of a respite from their more challenging complex counterparts. Even in their simple beginnings they begin to weave a web of layers with each interaction over time.
Red and Not Black
Part of my intersection series working with curved lines because relationships are not just linear they are like circles, they come back around to revisit you. Some relationships are more complex than others. They have various degrees of connection, reconnection and sometimes whole new layers. They are not always the same the second time around either. Just like black is not always black when you take a closer look.
Breaking through the resistance. This is my first large painting in a long time. Working on reshaping the intersection of resistance, art, self-compassion and self-preservation by working through it all. Turning it all out into a series of curved lines. This is about the nature of my relationship with myself as an artist and how my perception of myself has changed over the years.
Sometimes relationships with people who share your same blood are intense, complicated, challenging and powerful. The dynamic range of emotions and variety of interactions can be staggering in a family where there are fourteen people. From a one off comment to a full-blown argument, to an "I love you" there is no doubt that these interactions or intersections are the most difficult and the most valuable of all relations.
Compartmentalizing The Grief
Trying to be all things to all people is overwhelming and exhausting. When I am inundated with loss or revisiting grief I have to compartmentalize it while I am interacting with family. I have “lost” six brothers to mental illness if you include the suicide. Then I lost three of them all over again when they died from complications due to the medications from the illness. When I am doing my art I stay present. That way I feel better at the end of the day. It's one of the many ways I cope with all the loss.
Growing up a tomboy with ten older brothers didn't exactly make me sophisticated. I was a scrappy kid and projected a kind of a tough exterior. Had it not been for taking a closer look at myself I might have never lost my well-developed outer shell. Becoming vulnerable made me powerful. Somehow I figured out how to allow people in and became the person I always knew I could be, despite all the set backs and self-doubt along the way.
This painting is my first oil painting. The whole concept of a series on intersections came to me while creating this piece. I fought through the barrier of massive resistance to finally paint with the medium I always wanted to use. This is simply a statement on the process of life, art and painting. It is not always easy but you just have to show up and do the work, face your fears and move ahead with your dreams.
Sometimes you need a do over. If I could just do it all over again I would. I was given a chance to recreate one of my paintings, a painting that an old friend loved. She wanted a smaller size and this was the outcome. Words cannot describe the great joy and pain of this friendship. While it did not heal all wounds of the past it helped move this relationship to a much better place.
Bernie Marek was my beloved art mentor. For five years I would go into his converted garage and paint once a week. He showed me that I could paint. He shared stories and paintings of artists who didn’t go to school for art. He exposed me to artists who had gone to school for art and were trapped by their own perfectionism. He allowed me the opportunity to discover my abilities as an artist and he told me to just keep painting no matter what. He was the one who told me I had a gift and I must use it. I miss him.
Small Intersection Series
Studies of color and those special things I cross paths with in life. The usual and the unusual. The small things and the significant. Thoughts on how color affects me, how important it is for me to study color and nature and most importantly why. Many intersections in my life are represented here.
When old clashes with new the antique stain of the past is brought into the present with this combination of abstract painting and thoughts of past interactions. This painting, really all my paintings, are a combination of looking back momentarily, seeing, feeling and acting on the muse without thinking too much. It's all about the paint, the color, the thought, the emotion, the interactions and the answer. The answer is to paint, always bringing myself back into the present so I don’t live in the past.
The Inky Cap
When I was small my mother used to take me mushroom hunting. Recently, I rediscovered this incredible connection with mushrooms while taking a watercolor class from Sasha Viamensky, a Russian self-taught watercolorist at the Denver Botanic Gardens. He remembered my mother from their time together with the Colorado Mycological Society many years ago. He is world's leading expert on illustrating mushrooms in watercolor. Who knew we would have this connection? Specimens of this mushroom were made available to illustrate. I had this personal connection with these inky caps from my mother’s teachings. The colors alone drew me in. The rich browns of the mushroom's gills and the black ink against the white cap are simply stunning together. This painting is for my mother who taught me to see nature, the original naturalist.
The Dark Side
The dark side, the ugly place where my mistakes dwell. This painting is about my gremlins, my dragon to slay, my war against the resistance. I will not let it get the best of me. I just show up and do the work. This is how I make the change to live in the light. I personally prefer living in the light. At one point along the way it was pretty scary living on the dark side. I am glad I am no longer afraid, lost or confused. It’s been a long journey.
Sky, fields and snow, I connect with all of them deeply. I have a close relationship with the winter season. When I cross paths with a winter field covered in just enough snow to make the winter sky brighter, the field feels like warm milk and honey. The dark lines represent the shadows found in the limbs of the tall trees in these winter fields.
For the person in my life who taught me what love is and how hard it is to look back. The intersection of love and pain and how closely intertwined these two things can be. This represents the dissonance that can only come from such a great connection.
On Monday, after a busy weekend, I'll usually call my sister. We'll recap the week inside the family. It is there where I often get news or updates or tears from the recent happenings within our family that is not usually filled with promotions, success stories or happiness. It's often a discussion about illness, mortality or health issues either our own or others. Emotional exhaustion, physical exhaustion, anything that ails us. Lack of sleep, we cover the gamut. Arguments with spouses. Troubled siblings. We depend on each other to acknowledge and support our frustrations. While we can't always be there for each other we really love each other. We always end on a positive note no matter how sad we feel inside.
Analogous Color Study
I like understanding color. Working with analogous colors, those close to each other on the color wheel, helps me to better understand how colors work together.
This is a curious concept for me about life. So many intersections occur by chance. I contemplate how they have random quality to them but a specific outcome. If my father had been killed in WWII I would never have been born. My parents went on to have ten boys and then, by chance, me. Then they had my sister, by chance. So much occurs this way and I am fascinated by this concept. Chance comes with uncertainty but also luck and freedom. I bumped into one of my VIP’s yesterday, showed her my new web site, and I sold a painting by chance. Chance is here to stay.
Purity, Innocence, Valor
My father fought for the American flag almost his entire career. He was in three divisions of the armed forces. He went to Georgetown for the Foreign Service with the Navy, but he didn't want the post to South Africa in the late 1950's. He wound up in the Marines at Villa Nova. There he was asked if he wanted to go to officer’s training school so he turned into a Naval midshipman after a stint at Northwestern. The Air Force scooped him up to teach political science at the new Air Force Academy after graduating from Stanford. He retired as a Lieutenant Colonel when I was just 18 months old.
Oil in Orange
Orange is cheerful and warm. It inspires greater confidence and self-esteem. It makes me feel happy and optimistic.
Some people have no reason to be kind or democratic but they chose to treat you with respect anyway. This represents a friend who did just that when I wound up at the Kent Denver School after I had to leave my home. I didn't fit in, I was an outsider. She accepted me anyway. It is hard to forget the people whose influence is so positive. For that I am eternally grateful. You know who you are. Thank you.
I have a need to be accepted as a part of a group and to be social. I also have a need to be challenged both physically and socially. Perhaps that is why I chose art. It can be challenging on so many levels.
Oil Paint Life
Oil painting and life are very connected for me. Without painting life would not be the same. It keeps me going. it keeps me present and it keep me from thinking too much about the past.
Everyone has something to teach me. Some people are more influential than others in that realm. I have had so many incredible teachers in academics, in art and in life. This painting pays respect to a teacher I had the privilege to work with at a painting workshop in Santa Fe.
September is one of my favorite months for getting outside. I love the fall and yet it is also a time of letting go and leaving behind the old and ushering in the new. September is also been a bit hard for me when the children go back to school and I am left with myself and my thoughts. So many things happened in September in my life. If I can just channel it into noticing the subtleties in nature I am usually okay. Letting go, moving on.
Poppies can surprise you when you look at them closely. Indeed, all these colors can be found inside a single bloom. This painting is a study of color, of nature and the lasting mark that this flower has had had on me. A symbol of remembrance for the soldiers of war and for me a way to honor all the battles I have personally fought through the years and reemerged from the churned up soil.
A time of year when the grey seeps into the fall color and we lose the vibrant colors we love to admire. The trees lose their leaves and the ground starts it's composting. The grey trees look empty and it is a sure sign winter is coming. Even the oranges fade to brown as the life cycle just keeps churning.
I took a class once called Ravishing Reds and it was based on the watercolor tradition. It's almost as if I had no idea how to mix paints to create reds. I almost forgot how to play. Good thing I remembered.
Siberian Irises are unusual compared to their counterparts. This painting is a color study using the flowers as a reference. Or, was it the other way around? Did I finish the piece and the colors reminded of them? I can't be sure.
I worked at Schwinn in the 1990's and it had a big impact on me. I love to ride, I always have, but this experience propelled me into everything from indoor cycling to mountain biking to road riding to commuting by bike. There is nothing quite like the freedom of getting on a bike. The people I met there and the friends I made are some of the best people ever.
I am working on entering into all my relationship interactions with loving kindness. It is a work in progress. When it works the interaction is always so much richer.
Painting in Pink
I am a bit of a nonconformist. I see life differently than most. That said, I also have a deep need to be accepted and loved unconditionally.
Colors fascinate me. Making colors absorbs my time. Placing the colors on something makes my soul come alive. What more can I say.
Bees of Summer
The bees are a reflection of the environment. Their populations are dwindling as a result of neonicotinoid insecticidal sprays. As a critical component in our food supply chain, it is in our best interest to protect the bees.
Spring where everything comes up new again. Who isn't ready for a fresh start after the long cold winter? The pale greens and the deep blue skies draw me in and get me excited. It is a perfect time for a new beginning. In the studio, in the garden, in my relationships. I work to find new ways to bring my soul back to life.
Tuesdays in Spring
Tuesdays have always been good days for me. I don't know why but I equate them with feeling chipper, working hard and getting things done. I like getting thigs done. Tuesday mornings are good days for getting things done.
This painting is for the person in my life who anchors me. I found a safe harbor there. Inspired by a sailboat anchored in the calm turquoise sea of the Caribbean. My deep connection to nature is at the intersection of color, thought and painting. Feeling connected with my anchor and nature throughout most of my life these are the places I can go to, feel deeply, and get lost there.
Mixing paint makes me happy. I love working with color, have always wanted to be an artist and love what I do. Experimenting with color and paint with the use of gestures and design is what I do. I am lucky and grateful that I can do this every single day.
Primary colors can drive everything else in a painting but they do not have to play that role. When you actually start experimenting there are so many options for achieving the color you want. It is a good place to start if you are a beginner but over time you come to realize they are simply a tool in the tool box.
The green grass of summer and the blue sky and white clouds building up over the mountains, along with a hint of yellow for the sunshine, turns this painting into a wonderful summer day. The black adds the contrast. Always a touch of grey as the thunderheads roll in late in the afternoon. I hope they bring some rain.
Sunday in Spring
Sundays in the late Spring are quie and a great time for me to get into my studio and work. I don't always work on Sunday, I just happened to be there on a Sunday when I created this piece.
Summer Has Arrived
Summer. Green grass, blue skies and a bit of yellow make it until the thunderheads roll in and then you'll find the white gives into grey and sometimes the skies turn black.
The first girl after ten older brothers. Challenged by growing up in such a large family with so many problems. Left home at age thirteen. Sent to the Kent Denver School from 1975-1980 by Sam and Nancy Gary. I write, paint, and take photographs. I am the mother of two girls. Survivor with the help of supportive husband and a lot of therapeutic work. Continues on healing journey. Have wanted to share this family story for many years.
The brother who graduated college and moved to Idaho, running away from the family and the problems. He did not tell his two children about his brother's health history. His children found out about the mental illness in the household when our father passed away. A life-long musician, retired music teacher, fisherman, hunter. Quiet. Former football player. Kind.
The last of twelve children. Independent from a young age. Went to Hotchkiss three years after I left home. She has two smart children. She is a successful business owner in event planning. Struggles to find a balance, works very hard. Lives in the mountains. Still married.
Born in West Point New York. Story teller, functional or “well”. Talks about his big business deals, likes golf and travel. Takes trips to New York, Costa Rica, Europe and Bahamas. Always appears jovial. Claims he is not affected by the family and he has a kind and loving wife.
Works hard. Quiet and reserved. A cab driver who worked at the CU bookstore for thirty years. Very good hockey player in high school. Didn’t graduate from college. He had three children, they all seem like they are doing really well.
The first of twelve children, my oldest brother became a paranoid schizophrenic when I was just five. Much to my surprise this straight A student on the pre-med track and All State football player lost touch with reality. The CIA was "out to get him", the walls were closing in he on him and he couldn't get a grip on reality. His behavior was the cornerstone of my fear, shame and embarrassment of my childhood.
The intersection with the bad apple. The father figure. The betrayal. The second oldest brother who caused significant problems in the family. The fights, the torment, the fear, the abuse. He was diagnosed with bi-polar but eventually he fell into psychosis towards the end of his life. He died from a life-threatening adverse response to antipsychotic drugs. He went to the ER complaining of chest pain, and they told him his EKG looked normal. The grief and sadness surrounding him and his behavior are profound and widespread among family members.
Died in 1973 in San Joaquin CA while on LSD from a gunshot wound after killing his girlfriend. This tragedy was the catalyst of the entire family unraveling. After this incident, the illness seemed to strike one of the boys every couple years. Our father suffered a debilitating stroke shortly after the murder/suicide. A gifted musician from the start. Heavy partier. Flute player, piano player, guitar player; he could play almost any instrument. Abused me and my sister. Never married, no children. He went to college for music but moved to California to escape the family and to become a professional musician.
Happy, easy going. Thrown into a hospital for resisting arrest while in California. A conscientious objector to Vietnam War. Never bought into the family “Koolaid” or pharmaceutical medication for mental health challenges. Ironically, he one of the few who is happy and healthy today. Into sustainable organic local foods and music. Excellent classical guitarist. Conscious. Stable. Funny.
Schizophrenic, lives independently in Section 8 housing. He has a driver’s license. Thinks he is Paul McCartney sometimes. Likes to help his friends, misses his family. Always has a joke to tell. Vacillates between clarity and delusion depending on how he is doing. Collector of stuff. Musician. Formerly a good hockey player. Flute player.
Schizophrenic who died due to complications from the medication, Neuroleptic malignant syndrome but cause of death was heart attack on death certificate. Worked as a baggage handler at United Airlines for many years before becoming sick. Good hockey player. Never married but heartbroken over lost love. He was fun, loving and funny in his prime but as he became distressed he was out of sorts.
Bi-polar and Schizoaffective. Took the brunt of the physical abuse and is severely traumatized by some of the older brothers as well as the mental health system. Incarcerated at State Mental Hospital for over two years and recently released. Severely Bipolar. Chronically ill. Likes to play his recorder. Formerly a good hockey player. Now lives in a locked nursing home environment for Alzheimer patients.
B&W Flower Photography
Color Flower Photography
Twenty years ago I started my pursuit of macro flower photography. I did not realize just how challenging it can be. For one, the wind can interrupt you at any given moment, the insects pester you constantly as you shoot, mosquitos and wasps are just a given. The early morning wildlife encounters are sometimes scary and often exciting. The depth of field and aperture dilemmas combined with low light conditions are not for the faint of heart. The complexity of using a tripod while working various angles, the patience required to wait out the weather, the difficulty in getting just the right focal point, the incredible attention to detail on the flower specimen itself and the list goes on. From cold temperatures to lost lens caps to the sunlight being to o bright there is always a challenge involved. All of these keep me coming back year after year. Maybe for some people who master a sport you’ll understand both the joy and frustration that go along with the endless pursuit of mastering the game.
Honoring My Mother
In order to honor my mother and everything she went through I decided to depart from my abstracts to create a series of flower paintings using my photographs as a reference.
I've been taking macro flower photos for over twenty years waiting for an opportunity to do something with them. I am truly honored to have twelve of my photographs get purchased for a permanent installation at The Dahlia Center for Health in Well Being in Denver.
Creating a few flower paintings in oil has been rewarding and enjoyable. So much hope and healing there.
I stumbled upon this flower many years ago at Rancho La Puerta in Tecate Mexico. I had never seen a gazania before and have learned they are drought tolerant, low maintenance plants. They close up at night and offer a pop of color in the early spring. I have always wanted to paint a flower like this one and the day has finally arrived.
The Dahlia Center is where my first public installation of my fine art photography hangs. The installation took place last October. It seemed appropriate to mark the moment with a dahlia painting. My mom loved dahlias.
llustrating flowers, as beautiful as they are, is a bit formulaic. There is a process for creating flower illustrations and paintings. The black and white value study and the values based on the colors with which you are working, it’s like an assembly line.
Painting abstract images is at my core and I have to go back to painting that way. It’s not that I can’t draw, I just want to get past the foundations in art and into a more creative process. Using blue is symbolic in the departure as I head back into abstraction.
Underneath this is a is story about being one of the roses after all the thorns that was kept alive in our family of origin. It was a saying that used to describe the girls as roses and the boys as thorns. Here is where, at least for me this story comes to an end. Every rose has it’s thorns. We are all flawed in some way and not only do my flaws not define me they don’t define anyone I know especially my brothers. Our collective humanity has to be greater than this kind of limited thinking.
An old friend from high school commissioned me to paint this flower, his wife's favorite. I faced my fears and the result was this special outcome. I enjoyed creating this so much I am now open to other projects like this one. Who do you know deserving a favorite flower painting?
At the covered bridge in Vail Colorado, I found this gorgeous specimen of Icelandic poppy growing next to 10th Mountain Division Soldier statue. It's brightness caught my attention at first but it's hardiness and delicate fleeting quality kept me intrigued. Plus those colors are spectacular!
Here are some the first group of paintings that just came out of me while I was “learning to paint”.
I look back on them with amazement. It was almost better to not know anything about art and to just experiment with the process and paint medium. Now that I do have the art school knowledge in my toolbox I am glad to have it but there is something very real and free about this original body of work. Some of these originals still exist and I can make prints of any of these original paintings.
I spent five years learning botany, light on form, color theory, pen and ink, watercolor, colored pencil, egg tempera and more. I loved working with the art educators there. A fantastic program that I highly recommend.