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Without a Net

Daring Starts From Within

Tag / My Paintings

To Eat the World’s Due

mouse

Painting this one was difficult because I got hungry looking at 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, with his object of affection looming large. 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.

Temptations don’t start out being so irresistible. They can be a comforting way of managing or softening the effects of difficulties. It’s when I use them 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Thy Duty Strongly Knit

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16″ x 20″ 2011

I like to take care of people. I like it so much that I go overboard and get angry because I think people

  • Don’t appreciate it enough
  • Take me for granted
  • Don’t help enough
  • Don’t notice and see that I am angry (because I don’t say anything)
  • Expect me to keep on doing all the work

My Irish Catholic upbringing nourished this hard-working, guilt-trip laying, over-do-it part of my personality I’ll call the Workaholic Martyr. When I started this series knowing I’d be depicting my mind-states, this was my first choice for a painting. I can get caught up in this one very easily.

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Tender Churl

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16″ x 20″ 2012

In my freshman year of college I painted a sailboat on a lake with a sunset. My teacher told me I was simple-minded. I learned quickly in college that there were subjects that were taboo for educated artists. They represented the low-brow, uninformed masses that clung to art that was pretty, trite, and maudlin. These subjects were the butt of jokes and their makers the object of scorn. I learned to make art like a thinker.

I never fully rejected pretty art, though. I could never forget that I once gazed adoringly at lovely, mindless pictures. “Tender Churl” began with a rebellious stab at something I’ve wanted to do since college. I painted almost all the well-agreed-upon forbidden painting subjects, together in one painting. I didn’t realize when I began the piece that I’d encounter broader concepts than I expected in this somewhat humorous and (I thought) shallow endeavor.

While I painted I thought about why people painted unicorns and baby kitties. Cutesy subjects are very popular with a whole lot of people. They say there is a Thomas Kinkaid painting in 1 out of 20 homes in America. The answer is simple. This kind of art is an escape from the humdrum, the tragic, the real. It displays universal ideas of goodness, so we can drift away from our imperfect lives, if only for a few seconds. As my painting took shape I identified with this diversionary subject matter, and recognized many ways and means that I find to distract myself from life when I don’t like what I see.

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In Profound Abysm I Throw All

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16″ x 20″ Oil on Board 2013

I can be a rebel. In various ways throughout my life, in different degrees, I’ve chosen to reject the status quo and invent my own way of going about things. I’m not always a sweetie-pie in the process. I have been quick to walk the other way when I see something unsuitable for me, and although many times this has proven a good decision, I’ve also done it at times with not-so-enlightened motives.

I’ve rebelled against the work-a-day world by insisting on a life of self-employment, no matter what the pit-falls. I am suspicious of a whole host of socially accepted institutions, and would come off as a little too controversial if I listed them here. I’m not a joiner, and start edging my way toward the door if I become aware of the frustratingly messy interactions that bubble up whenever more than a few humans get together to accomplish something. I am aghast at some of the much-loved TV shows and other popular pastimes people go on about. And, as is suggested in my coyote painting, I have had my share of getting wild.

I chose the coyote to stand in for the spirit of rebellion because, growing up in Colorado, we had many wild coyotes roaming around the area. We’d watch them run through the fields as we drove by on the school bus in the morning, and my impression then was that they were smart, untamed, and free. They didn’t need us and were unafraid of us. My dad taught us to respect them for these qualities.

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And That Fresh Blood

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16″ x 20″ Oil on Board 2012

Like everyone else, I get angry from time to time. It can be anything from a slight annoyance to a tizzy fit. There’s no way this series was going to be complete without addressing anger.

For my painting I chose an animal with which I’d had an encounter in childhood. I was junior high age, and my friends and siblings and I were hiking in the country with our dogs, a pack of 5 large purebred mutts. The dogs came upon a badger, and very quickly had him surrounded. We helplessly watched as the dogs barked and taunted the badger; our yells and commands for the dogs to back off were fruitless. Although the badger was almost as big as one of the smaller dogs and looked rather menacing with his bared teeth and arched back, we were convinced he would soon be torn to shreds. Well, not so. An initial attack from one dog left the big canine yelping away with his tail down, nursing a bloody foot. Another dog took a shot only to be turned away seconds later with a scratched face. It didn’t take but minutes before the whole pack was high-tailing it down the trail while the little badger waddled away into the bushes. I’d never seen such a ferocious animal.

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Forgot For Which She Toiled

Possum

16″ x 20″ Oil on Board 2013

I was the oldest kid in a large family, and I did a lot of watching over my younger siblings. I don’t think this is unusual, and it had its benefits and drawbacks. With my Possum Mama painting, the mind-state I intended to portray was about feeling responsible for the wellbeing of others. It’s not necessarily a bad thing unless I overdo it until I’m worn out and am resentful over it. In that case I feel alternately selfish (for not liking it) and trod upon (for not meeting my own needs as well.)

A possum, with babies crawling all over her, was the first animal to come to mind for this piece. A possum carrying her babies can look pretty cute; my version looks like she’s got her hands full. I wanted her to look like a mom in a normal neighborhood, and I chose to place the setting at twilight, always a bittersweet time of day, to me. She’s doing that thing that possums often do—crossing the road when it’s hard for drivers to see. The obvious implication is danger, or at least some negative possibilities.

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A Famine Where Abundance Lies

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16″ x 20″ 2011

This painting refers to money, but it isn’t just about money. Money issues are about survival, abundance, greed, security and safety, giving and receiving, and about worth.

I chose the rattlesnake to represent the difficult emotions that grip me when money seems to be going wrong in my life. To choose an animal for the painting, I thought of the fauna to which I was exposed in childhood. I grew up in rattlesnake country, and of all the dangerous animals I could imagine, I am most familiar with the rattler. For the most part I never had a strong fear of them because they always give you warning to get away. But there was never any doubt that you were in trouble if you messed with one.

In defense of the snake, it is not portrayed as a demon in all cultures. In fact, in most cultures, it has a long list of beneficial and spiritual properties, none of which are negative. I only chose her for this painting because of the element of danger and her ability to strike at any time.

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