Menu Close

Without a Net

Daring Starts From Within

Thy Self Away

IMG_1069

I’d drawn the nude many times in classes and studio settings, but I’d never painted one. I’d certainly never created a finished piece of one. So this painting was a challenge on several levels. I wanted to portray the idea of exposure.

The process of making my Without a Net series requires exposure, and sharing it with others pushes it farther. In going forward with my artwork (and a few other things) I partly want to show myself and at the same time I want to hide. I chose the peacock to portray half of this idea because it popped into my head as a most showy of animals. And to represent the side of me that feels exposed, I could think of no outfit better than the birthday suit, and some feeble attempts to cover up the most private parts.

The act of painting the piece was, as I said, a challenge simply because for the first time I would be presenting a finished painting of a nude. I had plenty of reasons to be level-headed about it. My former training had given me a clinical outlook on rendering anything. My state of adulthood and its accompanied experience has given me at least the average amount of maturity in regards to showing the human figure. My years as an art historian have given me a thorough acquaintance with the nude represented in a thousand different ways. None of it stopped my childlike embarrassment about painting a naked lady for all the world to see! And boy, how that feeling was appropriate for the mind state I was depicting.

Continue Reading

Herein Lies Wisdom

elephant

16″ x 20″ Oil on Board

I love elephants. I see them as wise, intuitive, devoted, patient, and perceptive. I see these qualities in myself sometimes, and sometimes I just aspire to them.

Wisdom is big concept and an easily-tossed-around word. In the spirit of not over-thinking things, I sought to be in touch with a wisdom that an elephant might have. Mysterious, deep, timeless. It is not analytical or clever. Wisdom comes from a place deeper than my intellect and my emotions. It comes from a clear and eternal place within.

My paintings were originally inspired in part by animal deities of the Hindu tradition. I couldn’t help but call to mind Ganesh, the elephant-headed God, when I began this piece. At first I imagined my wisdom painting would depict references to ornate and colorful religious iconography, but the more I allowed the idea of wisdom to percolate, the simpler I wanted the imagery to be.

Continue Reading

The World’s Fresh Ornament

samuri duck

After I had done several paintings in the Without a Net series, I noticed a pattern. The traits I was depicting all represented some way I escaped or tolerated or managed a discomfort inside. They were all forms of armor, so I tried to imagine what I’d feel like without any protection at all. Right away the baby duck emerged as the winning candidate for the role in my painting. They are adorable and funny-looking, and quite helpless.

I decided to outfit the defenseless little duck with the amount of defensive covering I felt like I’d been using, an amount I’d only recently become privy to after getting real with myself through my paintings. My artwork had revealed to me how much of my behavior and motives were fueled by my protective responses.

Continue Reading

I Saw Anne Lamott

Last night I went to see the writer, Anne Lamott, speak. She was just like I imagined. Along with being funny, irreverent, and exuberant about letting us know how imperfect we are (and how great that is) she read us a Facebook post she’d just written. It was about, among other things, how damaged we humans are by age 5. Since I had just been talking about that very thing with my sister, Dana, it has spurred me to want to explore this idea in a painting. More to come on that subject. For now, here’s a link to Anne’s Facebook post. It’s also about being grateful and living one day at a time.

A big thank you to Anne Lamott for putting herself out there for so many years. Her bravery in revealing the good, the bad, and the flabby parts of herself have been a light for those of us who want to do the same.

Her Tender Heir Might Bear Her Memory

mamabear

My kid was getting picked on in school, and it made me very angry. It surprised me how riled up I got. I painted this piece during that time, and choosing the animal to symbolize my reactions was easy. I have a history with bears.

In Colorado during the time I grew up, bears were almost completely hunted out. Even my outdoorsman dad went many years without running into one. Even so, I had an overblown fear of them. When I was elementary school age I read an article in the Reader’s Digest about a man in Alaska who was mauled by a bear and had to crawl for miles without legs to get help. (Or some equally disgusting story.) I had nightmares for months, and was very shy about how far I would go into the wilderness alone. Since the wilderness was literally right out our front door, it made for some limited enjoyment of the endless natural wonders around me. I never lost my apprehension about bears.

I was 13 when I had my first bear encounter. I was not far from our house, and I was rounding up my horse to put him in his corral. I turned to see the bear, and I ran and screamed. I’d been trained for years about what not to do when you see a bear, and that is, do not run and scream. The bear came after me, but I got to the house in plenty of time. This was the first of many bear encounters, which tend to happen most times I set foot in the woods. Hippies would say I’m attracting them with my weird bear energy, and in the South they say I’ve “called it up.”

Continue Reading

Disdain the Tillage of Thy Husbandry

Disdain the Tillage

This piece started with the desire to portray something about the battle of the sexes. It’s hard to be a human and not encounter some misunderstanding and frustration with the opposite sex. I decided to explore this theme when my husband was annoying me enough that it brought up an age-old attitude to which I am no stranger. It’s the “men are a bunch of jerks” outlook. It’s easy to intellectualize my way out of this feeling. I can reason that it’s not a useful attitude, that men can say the same thing about women, that it’s over-reactive, over-generalized, and melodramatic. But sometimes I succumb to aggravation and fall into the habit of blaming half the population for being different than I am.

I chose the Ruby-Throated Hummingbird as my animal for a few reasons. At first glance they are delicate, lovely creatures—feminine and flowing in movement and line. But anyone who has a feeder knows that they are also territorial and aggressive. And another thing. Unlike most flock birds who help each other by flying in formations, tiny hummingbirds migrate 600 miles alone across the Gulf of Mexico from Central and South America in every kind of messy weather. They are considered the macho species of migrating birds. I chose to portray the male hummingbird in my painting, with its bright red neck. As is the case with many bird species, the male is the prettier of the genders. All of these incongruous and opposing traits touch on contrasting ideas of masculine and feminine.

Continue Reading

To Eat the World’s Due

mouse

Painting this one was hard because I had to look at those cupcakes the whole time. I felt like the mouse in the center, wanting to resist something that looks so enticing. My intention was to paint temptation.

I painted a mouse because he’s small, so he helped convey how large this problem can feel. And mice have mousetraps. Every successful mousetrap is evidence of the power of temptation. As for the cupcakes, my gallery/studio is right next to a cupcake store, so I see the prettiest, sweetest-smelling treats everyday, and had access to easily paint them. But my use of them here is only for symbolic and visual effect. They are not my treat of choice.

Cupcakes (and other temptations) don’t start out being so irresistible. Cupcakes look delightful, taste wonderful, and are a great way to celebrate. The effects cupcakes have on my belly and brain are soothing. They can be a comforting way of managing or softening the effects of difficulties. It’s when I use cupcakes repeatedly as a coping mechanism that they get harder to resist. Eventually, if the same coping tool is reached for repeatedly, there comes the time when the object of attraction becomes an automatic habit so ingrained I barely recognize it. I make excuses for doing it. I don’t realize how important I’ve made it. It becomes a drug of sorts.

Continue Reading

Buriest Thy Content

Buriest Thy Content

Around the time I wanted to start this painting, we had a cockroach infestation at our house. (This means I saw more than 4 in one day. The exterminator said this was by no means anything like a true infestation.) Nevertheless, I saw the cockroaches as disgusting, invasive, and impossible to get rid of. The roach became an easy first choice when I tried to come up with a creature to represent the critical, overly analytical thoughts I sometimes get while painting. They come straight from my art training in academia and have little to do with art or education.

In these messy encounters, a long list of considerations run through my mind that dissect my creative process, the end result of my work, the way I might sell it in the future, its relevance to art history, how it might be perceived by a wide-array of viewers, and whether it is important, poignant, smart, catchy, unique, or relevant. In other words, I pick my art to pieces. The cockroach represents those times when I allow those old “professors in my head” to make art a whole lot less fun than it should be.

Continue Reading

Thy Self Thy Foe

Thy Self Thy Foe

When I was a little kid I was convinced I was the ugliest girl in the world. To come up with an animal to represent this overblown insecurity issue, I imagined the closest thing to a modern-day monster—an alligator. I dressed her in something I could have worn as a child, and placed her in school, where my self-loathing was most strongly felt. In life I eventually grew out of my certainty that my looks were hideous, but this painting is about being insecure in general—about a strong, false self-perception.

The images behind her on the chalkboard are reminders that, even when I feel bad about myself, forces of power (Wonder Woman) and protection (Our Lady of Guadelupe) are at work. Even when I was sure no one in the world was as hideous as me, I was surrounded by encouragement through experiences, people, and my surroundings. This strength and inspiration seemed to emanate from everyday life, but in retrospect the effects were as magical as if Wonder Woman and Our Lady were really involved.

There is another interpretation of the two women on the chalkboard. In a way, their influence may have contributed to my bad opinion of myself. Through my construal of societal expectations, I determined that I must aspire to be a super woman, able to do everything better than normal. I was pretty sure I could never be as beautiful, sexy, strong, honorable, smart, and sparkly as Wonder Woman, and indeed no one could. And then I had the impossible standards of the saintly and loving image of the Virgin herself to live up to. The two images inspired and taunted me at the same time.

Continue Reading

The Ills That Were Not

IMG_1061

I have health problems. My body’s constant reminders and their affects on my mood made me want to explore this theme in a painting. I chose the buffalo because I was looking for an animal that could represent pain. When I was young, I knew the buffalo had come close to extinction in 1900, and though its numbers slowly rose throughout the rest of the century, it was still a sad, painful tale. There were two buffalo that lived on a ranch outside town where I grew up, and their rarity made it quite exciting to see them. But I always felt dreadfully sorry for them. Seeing them couldn’t help but remind me of the fate of their species, and I associated even the way they look with sorrow.

I placed my buffalo lady on a background somewhat similar to what I remember the Black Hills of South Dakota looking like. I saw it many decades ago, when the spaced trees reminded me of cotton swabs dotting the land. It may be a seriously abstracted version of a memory so old it’s warped, but it captures a feeling of what I remember. I choose a bright blue dress so my buffalo stands out. Literally and figuratively she no longer blends with the land that was once hers—kind of like how my health problems make me feel like my body is no longer mine.

Continue Reading

Newer Posts
Older Posts