For as long as I can remember, my idea of heaven has been being in an art supply store surrounded by all manner of color. As a child every time my mother took me to town, I made her promise to give me the run of the tiny art supply store we had to pass by on our way to the department store where she wanted to shop.
Even in those early years, it never ceased to amaze me when my drawings or paintings impressed people. Being ADD at a time when it was yet to be recognized as a problem, nothing else in my life worked for me. So when I told my mother I was going to pursue art in college, her reply, as obtuse and insensitive as it was, made a disturbing sort of sense: she told me that people who otherwise lacked the intelligence to do anything else become artists.
But when I began exploring my options to study art in college, it seemed joining that group went against my grain. In my mind, “real” artists wore slinky black outfits, had pierced ears, and knew exactly what they were doing—at least these were the reasons I gave myself for shunning art schools, graduating instead from Milwaukee Downer College of Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin in 1966.
Unfortunately for me, abstract art was all the rage when I started college in 1962. Translated in terms of teaching, this meant professors urged students to “do your thing”–which made absolutely no sense at all. How can I be fluent in a language if I don’t learn the basics? After a few courses in drawing and basic design, I eschewed further courses in art. Considering my father was paying for my education, I wanted to put his money to better use. I turned my sights to the sciences, majoring in geology and only minoring in art.
However, once my children were launched into the world, that ‘thing’, this art which I had always found strangely mystifying due to the way it lured me in and impressed other people, began itching, aggravating me until I finally had to give in to it.
In three years I progressed from watercolor workshops to classes in drawing and painting at the University of Louisville and, finally, gallery representation at the Yvonne Rapp Gallery in Louisville, Kentucky. After numerous one-woman shows and exhibitions, as well as being “discovered” by Grace Borgenicht, the owner of a New York, New York, gallery of the same name, and included in her group show, “Pastel Anthology II”, I set aside painting and drawing to write. The year was 1994. Now, after twenty-three years, a radical move to Minnesota, and my manuscript slowly creeping to its conclusion I have resumed pursuing my talent as a visual artist.
Over the years my approach to my work has remained consistent. For me to be attracted to a version of a scene, person, or still life enough to draw or paint it, I must find a view peculiar to it or include elements most people would not consider worthy of a photograph, much less elevate it to the level of art. Whether it is a landscape or portrait, I begin with an underpainting using my all-time go-to color of cadmium red light. The other colors I apply thereafter vary according to the subject, but when possible I use their transparent versions. I love the sense of depth and richness that can be achieved by layering transparent colors as glazes over one another. This peculiar approach and use of color is my way of inviting viewers to wake up and look—really look at what you are seeing: this exquisite planet, the miracle of the human body. If you look beyond the ordinary first glance, you might see a beauty that resonates with your heart, and this experience can change the way you interact with the world around you.
At age 74, despite the fact I did get my ears pierced, I will avoid wearing black in perpetuity. Nevertheless, if I ever get to the point where I think I know exactly what I am doing, that certainty will have destroyed the challenge, the learning experience of trying something new that is the crux, the heart that feeds my passion to explore life through art.