Wildflower Field Project, Oil with wax and sand on panels. 32" x 144", 2011. The above painting was painted (from my photos) of a field of wildflowers I had grown when I lived in Jackson County. I had 2-3 acres tilled up and I planted black-eyed susans, cosmos, mexican hats, and various other varieties. Mostly for the birds.
My focus has long been on nature. I studied subjects in college relating to ecology, botany, and global warming. Later I took classes on creating wildlife habitats, and organic gardening. From the late 1980s, I’ve lived at the edge of the woods (and in a small town for a bit). I have planted 1000s of trees and 10s of thousands of wildflowers - including an area at a county park (working with the park people). They are for my own and other's enjoyment, as food for wildlife, and to restore some wildness to the landscape.
In Art History, I have been attracted to art that expresses spontaneity, and that has a sense of spontaneity in execution. I learned about Zen Sumi painting as an undergrad and I applied the concept to most of the mediums I used, whenever it worked. These included watercolor, acrylic, oil, pastel, charcoal, etc. And ink, of course. While it is not the only technique I use, I feel like it is at the core of what I do. That is - getting to the sense of the thing, and transmitting it to paper, canvas or panel.
Starting in 1990, I created many plein air paintings, partly inspired by the exhibit, "Monet in the 90s: The Series Paintings” at the Art Institute of Chicago. I still paint outside from time to time. Meanwhile, I returned to school to learn Photoshop - soon after the program came out. It was practical for getting a job, which I got at Sunrise, where I worked designing and sometimes illustrating ‘social expressions’ for about 10 years. After Sunrise, I returned to school and worked on my Masters in Fine Arts, Visual Arts. My focus was painting and drawing along with some video. After working with computers, l was led back to actual paints because of their materiality. I enjoy the actual mixing of colors, the mental activity of drawing, and creating thick textures with paint - sometimes mixed with sand, wax medium, and sometime other materials. The videos I made were essentially stop-action animation created with paintings.
While working on my MFA, I considered concepts related to mortality - that is, to my own life, and also the state of the earth - ecosystems, and habitats. I was also interested in women’s issues - of agency and of being visible. During that time, I was introduced to several significant women who write about art and philosophy, including Mira Schor & Griselda Pollock. I studied the links in philosophy with materiality and feminism, along with ecology. That is when I created several pieces with skeletons incorporated into landscapes, followed by the ‘Women & Snakes’ series - using oil paint mixed with a wax medium (which I created) and sand.
Since 2011, I have had 3 main focus areas. Water, Black birds, and the Earth & Roses series. With the “Edge of Water” and “Hurricane Sandy” series I continued using oil paint with wax medium and sand. Both series were about capturing the sense of water, and the movement - with a lot of texture and layers. With “Hurricane Sandy,” it was also about the power, and the sense of being overwhelmed.
I started the Black birds series while I was commuting to a teaching job. I became very aware of the sky and the flocks of birds - various sorts of black birds, flying together - murmuration. Over the years, I have noticed the increasing amount of jet trails, as more and more people fly. Depending on the weather the residue is more or less apparent. So the paintings are a basic juxtaposition of nature and human technology. Images of birds flying and the lines in the sky left by people traveling in huge jets.
In 2016, I started a group of paintings which is the Earth & Roses series. I started this once I had my studio in the iFell building in Bloomington. I used oil on panel with palette knives - with no wax (as I had been using previously). While painting these, I explored and become more acquainted with weather patterns and with geography. I become more aware of drought areas, and of how the clouds relate to the land. And then there are the roses. Visually they complement the continents and clouds, a play of scale and color. They are open to interpretation and work on various levels of meaning, including rational and emotional, conscious and subconscious. Roses are sentimental symbols - of affection, of beauty, love, women.… Many places on the earth are becoming unfit for life, or are on life-support - so roses seem appropriate for that.
This year, starting 2017, I’ve started painting the earth in more detail, in acrylic. I am creating some relief textures, as appropriate. I have also painted the earth to show how it will look in the future with sea level rise, melted ice, as well as expected drought / rain / other effects. I finish the background in oil — with the background consisting of my studio, or somewhere here ‘on earth’. This little bit of surrealism brings the big picture earth ‘down to earth’ - in Southern Indiana.