Art has been part of my life for as long as I can remember, as a wee one getting lost in the play of light, color, and shape as I roamed the fields and woods behind our home,... and as I watched my mother find time, while raising eight children, to make art with us and carve out time for her own creative process. She shared her love of art and gratitude for the beauty that surrounds, and wove it into the fabric of our upbringing. This connection with art and nature has been an integral part of my life, and continues to inspire me and make me grateful to be alive.
Although I received formal training in art at Indiana University, I chose to get my degrees in Social Work. I was both delighted and challenged to discover a much broader world of art than I had yet experienced. It ignited my passion on a primal level to create, and that energy has continued to fuel me in the 32 years that have transpired since that time. I find my deepest learning stems from unending curiosity and a strong drive to continue experimenting and learning new techniques and art forms, and especially from connecting with the creative energy in others.
I worked in the field of social work for 10 years, alongside children and the elderly, with a concentration in medical social work. Those last 5 years I had the privilege of being a hospice social worker, and witnessed time and time again the healing influence of nature and art, in its many glorious forms. Working with people at such a tender and vulnerable time in their lives was a gift that taught me, yet again, to slow down, be present, and truly appreciate each day. This thread of healing has been interwoven in my personal journey, as well, and has helped keep me connected to the goodness and beauty in life. No matter the darkness, I believe that art can soothe and heal.
Much unfolding has transpired in the past 14 years, as I left social work to have our two boys, and moved to the country to raise and homeschool them, sharing this love yet again. Being nestled between the hills and sky serves to ground me and makes me breathe more deeply, and offers endless wonders to explore and express. In the past few years, as my boys have gained a bit of independence, I've been able to dedicate more time dipping into the well of accumulated energy that has been waiting. Working with macro photography keeps me grounded in noticing the small details that can be overlooked when in the throes of daily life, and is a way of capturing fleeting moments of time, often rich with symbolism so reflective of life's many themes and cycles. My intention is that solace, hope, healing, and light are transmitted through these images to the viewer, awakening their own creative energy.
Delving into encaustic art has been a thrilling new exploration, full of discovery. “Encaustic” literally means to “burn in”, and refers to the process of heating the beeswax/ damar resin medium to the previous layer. Encaustic art has been made for over 4,000 years, dating back to the paintings on Egyptian mummies , as well as on the hulls of Viking ships, withstanding both the elements and the test of time. Working with this ancient medium is challenging and deeply satisfying, allowing me to interact with natural elements on both a visual and tactile level. By meticulously building up multiple layers of beeswax, its inherent luminous quality is revealed. These layers also provide the opportunity for additional color, imagery, or substance to be contained within the strata, often assuming a ghost-like appearance. These carefully fused layers are akin to the many layers under which our inner core lies. I believe at the center of each of us, is the quality of basic goodness, and that this core is as integral to us as it is to the encaustic piece, despite being covered by the many layers which develop as we progress through life.
Removing some of my own layers and sharing them outside of my safe circle, was a decision I made 7 years ago, when I had the opportunity to participate in the WITNESS Project through the Lexington Art League. The purpose of the project was to pair an artist with a “storyteller” who had experienced violence as a female. Although I initially signed up to be the artist, who would then support the storyteller in expressing their trauma as depicted through art they would create, that is not how things worked out in the end. One of the leaders asked if I had my own story to tell, and I did. With much trepidation, I decided to share my story, as told through artwork I had made in the last 30+ years of my own healing work from childhood sexual abuse. We created a book as a compilation of these works that had (shamefully) been stored in my zipped portfolio, brought out only with a couple of trusted dear ones. I added text which was meaningful to me, in hopes that it might resonate on some level with those viewing the book. My purpose in transcending the boundaries of private to public was to empower others, especially women, to let out into the light those things that had been shrouded in darkness and shame. We all have things in our lives that need this transformation, helping to reconnect with the inherent basic goodness that is within us all. I felt encouraged by an anonymous quote which stated, “Release anything that is deadening to your spirit”, and have recited this as a mantra many times since.
Being present at the two openings for this public show took tremendous courage for me and for all of the women, but I knew in my gut that it was at least as necessary as creating the book and surrounding sculpture that held it. As I continue personal healing work now, I realize that owning my own story is necessary for my deepest healing. And although it is anything but an easy pilgrimage, I can truly say that it is worth the risk. Being involved in WITNESS was a turning point in my life, and I realized that stepping through my own vulnerability in order to empower others to break their silence was something which I feel compelled to do. Since then I have started co-leading Healing through Art workshops, which has been an honor... an experience that has furthered my own healing, as well as supported others in unlocking their own creativity while in the midst of growth. Tremendous power comes from witnessing that which was done in darkness, allowing cracks in which the light can begin to enter (Rumi).
It is this process of working with imagery and shape, reworking it by bringing out the hidden imagery, and through the addition of further wax, color, and sculpting, in which my work often evolves into entirely new pieces. This is much like the healing process, which is full of many steps and much labor and patience, and whose end result becomes far stronger than my original preconception. Trusting the process in this way has become a good metaphor for practicing this concept in my life. I recently had a profound dream which has impacted me greatly, and whose words are now etched into my mind. They were uttered directly to me through a wise and gentle guide, and I listened intently as I barely held my body upright, exhausted from the effort of healing. He pointed to metal forms which contained clay that had been coiled in many intricate and deeply grooved patterns, as the foundation for print-making. The words were spoken slowly and with deliberation...
These are the molds
And the impressions are deep.
You can always take out the clay
And being again
Transformation is possible in infinite ways! What validation that although our life experiences shape who we are, we are not bound by them-- we have the permission to change and become who we are meant and choose to be. This is a deep message that I hope is transmitted through the energy of my work, awakening and connecting to the healing and creative energy inside every human being...