HOW HAS YOUR PRACTICE CHANGED OVER TIME?
In 2017 I began painting a series of flower paintings to commemorate the 50th anniversary of The Summer of Love in the San Francisco Bay Area. It was a fun project and allowed me to not only carefully study the flowers in my garden but also to revisit my academic work in art history. The garden, as a theme, has been used by artists for centuries. Most notably the Impressionists used the garden not just as a quiet refuge but as a laboratory of light and color. Some may think of the garden as subject matter to be a bit old fashioned but I see the garden as a scientific and poetic drama offering boundless imaginative vistas with color and lyricism. Garden paintings reveal that we live in a world much stranger than we think where we can escape the hectic world and enter a world of both wildness and calm. My flower paintings continue the nature themed work I have done since the 1990s. In 2018, shortly after returning from an art residency in Nepal, I was diagnosed with cancer. An unexpected event which forced me to reevaluate my studio practice and exposure to toxic paints and solvents. During the year and a half of cancer treatment I stopped using oils and explored water based media by creating one small painting a day. I have continued the daily practice of creating small watercolors on paper. It has been a wonderful time of experimentation and loosened up my painting style. Still learning the magic of watercolors I am also beginning to use gouache. Stay tuned!
ARE YOUR FORMALLY TRAINED? WHAT WERE/ARE THE PROS AND CONS THAT YOU CONSIDERED OF ATTENDING OR NOT ATTENDING ART SCHOOL?
I received two bachelor degrees from UC Berkeley in art history and studio art. My master's in fine arts from Mills College was focused on painting. My art history degree still informs my painting as I often look to the past for inspiration. My undergrad in studio arts was very unstructured. My MFA, although an exhilarating two years, did not cover the business side of art. In some ways it was a very free and easy time where we all just created artwork and didn't worry about practicalities but as time has passed those skills of marketing and branding have proven to be important in advancing an "art career."
DO YOU DO ANY RESEARCH AS PART OF YOUR ART PRACTICE? WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO LEARN ABOUT?
I read science articles all the time. Having worked in physics and biology labs in my earlier life I find the mystery of science inspiring both personally and artistically. Although my work isn't science-based per se the things I read do make me appreciate the interconnectedness of humankind and the universe. Astronomers have a saying to describe their discoveries – "pulling back the curtain." Artists and scientists seek to pull back the curtain to gain a better understanding of universal truths. We're not different in our desires we just use different tools.
WHAT'S THE MOST RECENT THING YOU HAVE SEEN OR HEARD THAT INSPIRED YOU?
Alan Lightman, a physicist & humanist, writes in his book, Searching for The Stars on an Island in Maine, about the human connectivity to the universe that creative activity gives. He says, "You travel deep into your own imagination and being, and you are totally alone with that experience. At the same time, you find something that is larger than yourself, that exists in the world outside of yourself. It is a double discovery. It is a discovery of something inside of your mind and also of something out there in the world, a pattern, a law, a piece of the fabric of nature." Such a wonderful description of the creative process in the arts and in the sciences.
DO YOU HAVE ANY FAVORITE ARTISTS? ANY THAT INSPIRED YOUR WORK?
I have always loved Georgia O'Keeffe's paintings for their use of color and the emotional quality found in her landscapes and flower paintings. Agnes Pelton's paintings have a spiritual quality that resonates with me. The female surrealist paintings of Leonora Carrington, Kay Sage and Remedios Varo interest me for the narrative quality. A few years ago I saw the paintings of British surrealist Paul Nash in the Tate Museum and the exhibition catalog is always close by on my work table. His color combinations are dreamy. Peter Doig and Enrique Martinez Celaya are painters whose work teaches me about composing a painting.
WHAT CREATIVE OR PERSONAL ADVICE WOULD YOU SHARE?
Think about being the best artist you can be and don't worry about trends, fashion, markets. Focus on the work. I am still trying every day to be a better painter, that is a lifetime pursuit.
WHAT'S THE BEST PIECE OF ADVICE YOU'VE EVER RECEIVED OR HEARD?
"Keep your eyes on the prize," a rallying cry during the civil rights movement of the 1960s. It was given to be by an old activist who said "the prize you want is to be a really good painter. Keep at it. If you do that you'll have lived a good life." An idealist giving advice to another dreamer but to pursue every day to become a better painter has been a worthwhile way to spend my life.
IF YOU HAD UNLIMITED FUNDS, TIME AND ACCESS, WHAT WOULD BE YOUR DREAM PROJECT?
My dream project would be to build my dream studio with high ceiling, excellent natural light and plenty of storage. I work in a converted garage which works but oh that dream studio where I could work really large would be a dream. While my dream studio was being built I would be painting in the Dordogne region of France capturing the brilliant light off the river. One can dream.
DO YOU CURRENTLY PRACTICE ART FULL-TIME OR DO YOU HAVE A "DAY JOB" AS WELL? WHAT'S THE WEIRDEST JOB YOU'VE EVER HAD?
I am retired from non-profit work. The weirdest job I ever had was "cookie girl" in which once a week I served coffee & cookies to physics professors and their grad students. That led to a job analyzing bubble chamber film looking for quarks and interacting with the most imaginative and abstract thinkers I've ever encountered anywhere. Many of those folks are still friends and continue to amaze and amuse me.
DO YOU HAVE A DAILY PRACTICE OR ESSENTIAL ROUTINE WHEN IT COMES TO YOUR ARTMAKING? HAS THIS BEEN IMPACTED BY THE CURRENT HEALTH CRISIS?
My current daily practice, which began with my cancer diagnosis in 2018, has been to do a small painting a day. Sometimes these are watercolors on paper, sometimes small drawings in a travel sketchbook. Every day during the week I go to my studio whether I feel like it or not. Some days I am not feeling inspired or energetic so I clean up the space or read my art books. Some days I work on several paintings at a time. On the weekends I use my time to garden, read, household chores and just sit outside and observe. Sometimes in the studio I listen to music, mostly instrumental, but mostly my studio time is quiet. My studio practice has remained the same during the covid crisis.
HAS THE CURRENT HEALTH CRISIS AFFECTED YOUR CREATIVE DRIVE IN ANY WAY? ARE YOU MAKING MORE WORK OR LESS?
The covid crisis has been distracting in many ways but having a home-based studio has allowed me to continue working. I am not as productive as I'd like due to distraction and concern but I find myself reading more poetry and biographies of female artists. I just finished reading about the lives of Leonora Carrington and Agnes Pelton, two painters whose work I admire. Surprisingly much of my creative energy has been directed to my poetry writing, perhaps due to the contemplativeness of this time. Several of my poems will be published in an historic literary journal chronicling this era. I have also been inspired to create paintings to support health care workers and food banks through artwork auction donations.
My time in cancer treatment gave me a preview of social distancing as my suppressed immune system required avoiding crowds so this time of self isolation is just more of the same.
HOW DID YOU BUILD AND DEVELOP YOUR OWN PERSONAL ART TASTE? WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE OTHERS AS THEY DEVELOP THEIR OWN TASTE IN ART?
I would say follow your heart. Art should first and foremost driven by what you respond to on a gut level. Buying art solely for investment purposes seems a hollow way to buy art.
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT WHEN YOU ARE CONSIDERING PURCHASING ART (OR EXCHANGING PIECES WITH ANOTHER ARTIST)?
Whether I like the work and whether I can afford it.
WHAT TYPES OF QUESTIONS AND TOPICS DO YOU ENJOY CHATTING ABOUT WITH COLLECTORS? WHAT SHOULD PEOPLE ASK ABOUT WHEN THEY COME IN-STUDIO TO VIEW WORK? IS THERE A QUESTION THAT PEOPLE DON'T TYPICALLY ASK BUT YOU WISH THEY WOULD?
I enjoy finding out what draws collectors to the work - does it remind them something, do they respond to the subject mutterer color. I like chatting about the history which led to the creation the painting. Maybe it was a direct path from a personal experience or a memory or maybe it was a slow percolating process where the artist was feeling his/her way to this particular painting. Sometimes the artist paints more intuitively and might not know what led to the painting and then it's nice to hear the collector's impressions. The question folks don't ask is the emotional content of a painting. My paintings often use common objects as personal symbols so a rose might not be just a rose but rather a memory a time or place.
WHAT IS THE MOST MEMORABLE THING SOMEONE HAS SAID ABOUT YOUR WORK? (POSITIVE OR NEGATIVE!)
"Paint Big, really BIG."
"Don't Use Black Paint."
"Don't paint flowers, no one will take you seriously."
Good or bad that I didn't follow any of this advice...dunno.
IF YOU'VE RECEIVED CRITICISM ABOUT YOUR WORK, HOW HAVE YOU RECEIVED IT?
Actually I value criticism if it is given with good intent, to help me become a better painter. If it's given with snarkiness or as a putdown then I try to ignore it.
WHAT IS THE HARDEST PART ABOUT BEING AN ARTIST? WHAT IS THE MOST FUN OR REWARDING PART?
The hardest part of being an artist is the constant self doubt...is this painting a mess or should I keep at it? Does anyone care about any of this work? What the hell am I doing here? The best part is the time alone with your own imagination, uninterrupted where you can let your creative juices run wild. The best part is when a painting hits that point when it just sings to you and you do a little happy dance. It's like all the stars align and you just feel like you've hit some unexplainable deep satisfaction. It is an amazing feeling when a painting just falls into itself with happiness and heart.
WHAT IS YOUR LEAST FAVORITE PART ABOUT THE ART WORLD?
The commercialism, the cliques, the misogyny and the posers.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE PART ABOUT THE ART WORLD AND PRACTICING ART?
The incredible amount of talent in the world with many practicing in obscurity but creating beautiful thoughtful work. The freedom to follow one's artistic vision is a gift.