Under The Surface
PFA: Tell us about your background. Where did you grow up? Your family?
I grew up in the heart of very rural Alabama. My sisters and I are about as close as sisters can get, and they having always been my number one fans. My mother was a tole painter and my father was a draftsman. I think of them often while working--- my mother painted on a lot of my clothes and my father worked an extra job drawing when I was born to pay the bills…I keep his drawing tools pinned up on the wall in my studio--- It reminds of their sacrifice and passion. Family now is growing and changing, I never dreamed that I would be married to someone who encouraged my passions so intensely. My husband, has rallied behind every move—and hand in hand we have walked through some great creative triumphs together.
PFA: How would you say our background influenced your career? And at what age did you become curious about art?
I was always making things for as long as I can remember. My favorite parts of the day were always the “free thinking” moments. I seemed to constantly excel is public speaking, writing, and the language arts. As for my background, it provided a visual basis for what I knew and what I visually could understand. I had very limited travel experience, and did not even board an airplane until my 21st birthday…it was 2 seater prop plane flown by my husband. I believe from that point forward, I realized I was going to experience things much bigger than me. Years later, and with many world travels under my belt…I still look back at the south with much visual integrity. For some reason, I was born with the notion that there was a lot outside of my Alabama upbringing, but maintained the idea that what I had known was still precious. I remember in design school hearing of other countries and constantly being absorbed in books that expanded the horizon of what I knew. It was a gift, to walk down the streets of Paris and feel like I had been there a million times, but still be able to close my eyes and see white front porch swings and my great grandmother’s handmade tiny cotton dresses. I didn’t have a clue how to use a camera but something electric happened when you put it in my hand. My mother, my dad, and my sisters would take turns driving me around town so that I could photograph behind the glass of a moving car. It was the first time, Wal-Mart’s and strip malls didn’t make since to me anymore. I realized there was an incessant need to save the southern American landscape or at least document it as it dissolved. The day one of my favorite houses that I had photographed for years got bulldozed…I was so upset I called the fire department to make sure it would happen properly. If something as horrific as that, could happen properly. I was living out of state at the time and my parents drove to the demolition site with there own cameras and photographed the carnage. My sweet mother was literally climbing over piles of debris when she was kindly asked to leave. The firemen sat her and my dad artifacts to the side of the rubbish that they in turn brought home for me as keepsakes. I can’t describe what circles in my head when I discuss the visual imagery I absorbed as a child, but I can promise that my work is a conduit for it. I can’t escape the memories of my fathers old green truck and hanging my head out the window screaming in excitement for a truck ride to the car parts junkyard…or climbing on the back of the junkyard dog that lived there, and riding him around like a horse. You just can’t erase those things…and sometimes in attempt to “move up” in society, I think we do forget the most precious visuals we own.
PFA: What inspires you, and how do you stay inspired? How has this shaped your artistic philosophy?
Visually, I am intrigued by artifacts- I am constantly surrounding myself with natural curiosities…and it keeps me thinking… I get on kicks where I collect things and after a few months of carrying them around or staring at them long enough they become my work. I’m also music crazy—I don’t paint without music and certain compilations. Also, this past year I learned what the word “grace” actually means for me as a person. The forgiveness, love, and acceptance in this tiny little word has shifted my paradigm from simply emotional works to extravagant attempts at inspiring hope. This required more and more contemplation, research and study. How to evoke emotion was easy for me, but how to engage the most withdrawn individual with simple color and imagery took completely absorbing myself into the work.
PFA: What artist(s) has (have) had the biggest influence on your work?
Firstly and most passionately it would be Matisse… at 80 years of age feeble and bed ridden, he was still creating works of art from his bedside…they hung paper on the walls and he drew with charcoal attached to a pole. I knew I wanted to be that driven, and I knew my passions had to run that deep. My heart beat faster when I was a young painter and I read those words…something rose up in me to create at all times and to be completely involved with something that must come into existence.
Secondly, to Maya Lin, one of the most thought provoking artist and architects of our time. At age 21 she designed the Vietnam memorial and thousands upon thousands began to engage. She has the simple ability to create spaces and works of art that encounter the whole person, and the whole heart… I remember holding her book in my hands for the first time and contemplating it’s size and shape…she is constantly inviting the viewer to great moments of reflection. I have always been moved by her ability to anticipate the moment of encounter between art and observer—with that anticipation she creates successfully broad yet intimate works. Works that cause us to interact beyond our initial expectation.
Thirdly, to William Christenberry . Who made famous the Southern Landscape he grew up on… when I first picked up William Christenberry’s work I didn’t feel alone anymore. His passions for the rural south echoed my own, but with the maturity I desired.
PFA: What is your artistic philosophy?
Be honest, and unapologetic.
PFA: What do you need around you while you are working in the studio?
Food… and lots and lots of music, and my life sized (foam) horse gifted to me by my friend Todd Murphy.
Although, my contemporaries would argue that it’s my propane heater. I physically cannot work when it is cold. (and we do not have heat so this can often be a problem)…
PFA: What do you most enjoy doing while you are not painting?
PFA: What is your favorite traveling experience?
PFA: If you weren't an artist, what would you be?