21 November 2018

News of the World

I am honored to have 37 new drawings and paintings on view in News of the World at Paris Gibson Square Museum of Art in Great Falls, Montana. The exhibition runs from September 20th, 2018 through February 4th, 2019. What follows is a selection of the work on view, and the artist's statement for the exhibition.

News of the World, 2018. Graphite & oil on wood panel, 18x36"

“Literature is news that stays news.”
- Ezra Pound, The ABC of Reading, 1934

I believe what the poet Pound said is true of all the Arts. In stories and paintings, songs and plays we encounter themes that are relevant for every generation, even as circumstances change. This is one reason I am drawn to history, mythology and folklore as I investigate my current interests. Imagery and allegories of other times and places continue to illuminate our lives today.

Edge of the Woods, 2018. Graphite & oil on wood panel, 20x30"
In Norse mythology the god Odin appears with animal companions, including two wolves and two ravens, Hugin and Munin. The name Hugin means Thought, while Munin has been variously interpreted as Memory, Emotion or Desire. Each day, these birds would fly out to gather news of the world and report back to Odin. 

Higher Ground, 2018. Graphite & oil on wood panel, 16x20"
Sparks Fly, 2018. Graphite & oil on wood panel, 16x20"
I love the notion that ravens might be engaged in such reconnaissance. What’s more, this legend aligns with what we know scientifically about the capacity of ravens to learn, reason, communicate and remember. I consider these borrowed characters as witnesses who bring historical consciousness and reason to what they observe.

Blue Gloaming, 2018. Graphite & oil on wood panel, 24x36"
House Call, 2018. Graphite & oil on wood panel, 24x36"
Flare Up, 2018. Graphite & oil on wood panel, 24x36"
Gleaners, 2018. Graphite & oil on wood panel, 24x36"
I have also drawn upon biblical symbols in my recent work. In the Book of Revelation, Four Horsemen appear as harbingers of doom. To me, they represent the challenges we must face in order to survive, individually and collectively. The Red Horse of war, the White Horse of plague, the Black Horse of famine and the Pale Horse of death each stand along fields in changing seasons. And in those landscapes, we find humans striving for reconciliation, healing, sustenance and consolation.

Dust Storm, 2018. Graphite & oil on wood panel, 30x20"
As a narrative painter, I work in a composite process. This entails investigating characters and other elements before they take shape in a greater context. Such study delights me, and I’ve chosen to incorporate many initial explorations - including numerous images of ravens - in the show. I want to carry the freshness of my studies into more complex compositions.

Strutting in Dust, 2017. Graphite & oil on art board, 8x10"
Dust Storm Study, 2018. Graphite & chalk on paper, 7x5"
Alighting in Wind, 2018. Graphite & oil on wood panel, 7x5"
The past two years have been a time of great experimentation in my work. In many ways, I am attempting to bring the immediacy of drawing into more fully realized paintings. This has involved changing media and developing new approaches with the materials and themes that have engaged me for decades. One of the things I most prize about artistic endeavor is the continual learning and discovery it provides.

Three Ravens in Flight, 2018. Mixed media on paper 8x10"

p.s. A group of ravens is called a Conspiracy.

I am a recipient of an Artist's Innovation Award made possible by the Montana Arts Council, an agency of State Government, through funding from the National Endowment of the Arts.

01 April 2018

Nevertheless She Persisted

Cover image, Bold Women in California History by Kay Moore
History is a good teacher. It shapes my view of the world today and informs my work as an artist. I firmly believe the the story of our nation will not be complete -or truly instructive- until the many and diverse experiences of life on this continent are told. I applaud all the institutions, formal and informal historians who work to deepen and widen our perspectives.

It has been a great delight for me to work with authors and editors at Missoula's Mountain Press on two books in their Women's History series. First, there was Beth Judy's 
Bold Women in Montana History. More recently I created cover art and illustrations for Kay Moore's Bold Women in California History. This volume contains another 13 inspiring figures active in the region from 1799 to the present day. Persistence is only one of the virtues these outstanding girls and women possess. I encourage you to read these books and others in the series. Below are some of my own brief "character studies" to entice you.

A Foreign Shore, 2018. Graphite & oil on art board, 10x8".
Apolinaria Maria Guadalupe Lorenzana (c. 1793-1884)
An orphan from Mexico City, Apolinaria traveled 400 miles on foot with 20 other children (all under the age of ten) and two adults to the Pacific Coast where they boarded a ship to California. The sea voyage of another 1,670 miles took several months. These children were sent to populate Spanish pueblos in Monterey, Santa Barbara and San Diego. Apolinaria worked initially as a housekeeper for a Spanish soldier's family in Monterey. As she grew up she gained more skills in teaching and nursing and worked throughout the mission system. Both religious and secular governors in the region awarded her land grants, though all of this was lost when Mexico ceded the territory to the U.S. in 1848. By remaining single throughout her long life, Apolinaria was able to retain more liberty in a time when women's lives were typically circumscribed by domestic duties. Through her unflagging kindness and industry, Apolinaria acquired the title, La Beata, The Pious.

Homage to Biddy Mason, 2018. Graphite & oil on art board, 6x8".
Bridget "Biddy" Mason (1818 - 1891)
Biddy was born into slavery in Georgia. She walked thousands of miles in migration with the Robert M. Smith family she was enslaved to. The Smith's peregrinations led her and her three daughters, Ellen, Ann and infant, Harriet across much of the continent before going down the Mormon Trail to Salt Lake. Eventually they all moved on to California, but Smith decided to depart when slavery was abolished there in 1855. Biddy and her children escaped from him and gained freedom in 1856. In 1959 Biddy became a medical assistant to Dr. John Strother Griffin in Los Angeles. As she acquired skills and became established in the community, Biddy served as a nurse and midwife. She shared her  resources with a generous spirit and continues to be celebrated as great humanitarian to this day.

Sally Ride, 2017. Graphite on paper 5x7".

Sally Kristin Ride (1956 - 2012)
Sally applied to NASA to become an astronaut just before she completed her Phd in physics at Stanford University in 1978. She completed her training with NASA in 1979 and worked on the Space Shuttle Remote Manipulator System as a specialist. At last, on June 18th, 1983, Sally became the first woman to orbit the earth. At just thirty-two, she was also the youngest person in space at the time. Sally's second flight into space was aboard the Challenger Shuttle, before it's tragic accident in 1986. Sally was also an accomplished researcher, professor of physics and advocate for STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math). She penned and co-authored with her partner, Tam O'Shaughnessy, a number of books about space travel and science for young readers. President Obama awarded Sally the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013, shortly after her death in 2012. This is only one of the many awards and achievements honoring this stellar human being.

Dolores Huerta, Huelga: "Strike", 2017. Graphite & oil on art board,  c. 10x8".

Dolores Clara (nee Fernandez) Huerta (1930 - )
Dolores Huerta has been a tireless worker for social justice since she became involved in the the struggle of California's farm workers in the 1950s. Out of high school, Dolores studied to become a school teacher, but as she explained, "I couldn't stand seeing kids come to class hungry and needing shoes." She was inspired to address other fundamental problems in her community. With Cesar Chavez she helped found the National Farm Workers Association, which became United Farm Workers in 1966. Her advocacy for farm worker's rights has expanded to all of the working poor, women and children. President Bill Clinton gave Dolores the Eleanor D. Roosevelt Human Rights Award in 1998. President Obama awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012. Such honors keep mounting as Dolores continues her activism.  In her own words, "We must use our lives to make the world a better place to live, not just acquire things. That is what we are put on Earth for." 

(In addition to reading Kay Moore's brief biography of Dolores Huerta in Bold Women in California History, I highly recommend Peter Bratt's recent documentary Dolores, broadcast on PBS.)

14 March 2018

Sometimes You Win

Glide, 2017. Graphite & oil on wood panel, 12x24".

I was honored to be counted among the eight creative workers awarded a Montana Arts Council Innovation Award in December 2017. Like many artists, I apply for more grants and opportunities than I receive. I am always curious what makes a successful portfolio. Sometimes it's clear what the juror was looking for, but not always. I thought I would share my Artist's Statement, Innovation Essay and a selection of images. And with this sharing I want to express my deep gratitude to the Montana Arts Council and everyone working for cultural vitality in our state.

Taking Flight, 2015. Graphite & oil on wood panel, 16x20".
Solitaire, 2015. Graphite & oil on wood panel, 16x20".
Artist's Statement

Endlessly inspired by both nature and culture, my art ranges from observations of flora and fauna to intricate compositions depicting human endeavor. I work enthusiastically with both fact and fiction, delighting in myth and metaphor as much as the vital world around me.
Overseen, 2017. Graphite & oil on wood panel, 20x16".
In narrative painting my objective is to present the essential elements of a story: a character or two, a sense of time and place, a moment of connection, tension or reflection. I seek figures and scenarios that are both personally compelling and socially relevant. I frequently work in cycles, series and sequential images. Repeating characters, settings and other elements gives greater cohesion to my visual inquiry. With careful measures of clarity and ambiguity, I hope to create imaginative space for viewers to bring their own perspectives into the tale. In this way I do not so much tell stories, but evoke them.
Follower, 2016. Graphite & oil on wood panel, 12x24".
Representation is both an authentic and challenging aesthetic language for me. I have embraced a naturalistic style with populist ardor, trusting in it’s far-reaching communicative potential. A degree of anachronism signals my interest in enduring traditions and conventions, while also indicating the fictional nature of my images. Recent developments in my methods and materials make evident the contemporary concerns and creation of my art.
Rest on the Flight, 2016. Graphite & oil on wood panel, 20x30".
Rural life is among my long-standing artistic interests. Such scenarios reflect my own heritage, while also providing opportunities to examine the broader relevance of agrarian life. All of our lives unfold within the cycle of the seasons, but perhaps nowhere is this more deeply felt than in the rural landscape. There humans enter an ancient and essential collaboration with nature. Wilderness and civilization meet and intermingle. In such places human beings strive with other creatures, both wild and domestic. They live in exquisite intimacy with the blessings and vagaries of each season. In rural places people are literally at work with the elements: earth, air, fire, water. In these natural circumstances I find fertile ground for allegories about the unnatural circumstances affecting our lives, wherever we live, whatever our labors. 
Plank, 2016. Graphite & oil on wood panel, 16x20".
Another perennial source of inspiration for my art is water. Wading, crossing over, plunging through.. the mythic allusions and allegorical possibilities abound, while the visual effects of transparency, reflection and motion in and through water fascinate me. Riparian settings are rich with the splendors and dangers of this fluid element, essential to all life.
Shoving Off, 2016. Graphite & oil on wood panels, each 18x12" (18x24" overall).
I am perpetually intrigued by the beauty and drama of the natural world and human life as a part of it. My artistic endeavor is an expression of wonder, exploration of personal questions and effort to create meaning with others through the connective power of image.
Poise, 2016. Graphite & oil on wood panel, 30x20".
Innovation Essay

I have destroyed over half my work of the past two years. I have not destroyed these paintings in fits of temper, but in an effort to rid myself of old patterns and strategies for image-making that have grown tedious or stale. Yet nothing is forsaken. Indeed as I mature artistically, my skills and resources increase with my empathy and understanding. Season by season, I have more to place in the service of art.
Dreaming a Kindred Spirit, 2016. Graphite & oil on wood panels, each 8x10".
The scope of my imagery expands too with a desire to more vividly address both the lights and shadows of life today. I strive to give these visions substance, revealing the energy of inspiration throughout manifestation. Recent innovations in my process demonstrate this search for more vigor and immediacy in a process that still includes subtlety and refinement. A dedication to strong compositions and reverent naturalism remain in a new form of layering and inscribing that synthesizes drawing and painting.
Dreaming a Full Pantry, 2016. Graphite & oil on wood panels, each 8x10".
In order to open my process and vision of resolution, I have experimented with various dry and wet media, sometimes making a single image multiple times to discover the treatments and materials that best suit it. I have also changed supports, replacing the spring of canvas for the rigidity of wood and art board panels. Whatever materials I combine, I ensure the artwork is stable and archivally sound. Through this mix of media I am devising ways to present more images without framing under glass -another way the work appears more present, accessible.
Dreaming Safe Passage, 2016. Graphite & oil on wood panels, 7x11 & 14x11"
In recent efforts, the directness and delicacy of graphite blends with the opulence of oil paint. Simplified palettes have been essential to bringing these media together in a coherent fusion of line and form. Still interested in local color as an element of naturalism, I have often limited hues to earthy warms and cools through most of an image’s development, and sometimes coming to nearly monochromatic conclusions. In the way of traditional drawing, value most powerfully illuminates form and space. Color enriches the illusion and serves symbolic purposes too. Different textures result from the flow and massing of lines integrated with the substance of paint, beckoning further exploration.
Dreaming a Nest, 2016. Graphite & oil on  wood panels, each 14x11".
I have always employed both additive and subtractive techniques in image-making. Formerly, sanding was used to eliminate textures, especially with major revisions in a painting. Now I am using abrasion to create textures, curious about the aleatory effects of such a step. Inviting the unexpected into my process positively alters my creative decision-making, helping to clarify priorities within the imagery.

Sickle I, 2017. Graphite & oil on wood panel, 14x11".
Studies of flora and fauna with simpler figure/ground relationships have been instrumental to the development of new techniques. Four recent mural projects have also enhanced my sensibilities and fostered innovation in my personal work. The Montana Natural History Center Radiant mural brings the qualities of fresh observation in a field journal to monumental composition. In the collaborative mural projects (Flourishing 200 square feet, Seasons 310 square feet, Twilight 280 square feet)with students of Willard Alternative High School, I was prompted to combine line and color in new ways and on a grand scale.
Sickle II, 2017. Graphite & oil on wood panel, 14x11".
No longer seamless and smooth, my paintings now contain more traces of the process of building and integrating imagery with less predictable resolutions. I am excited to discover not just a new synthesis of drawing and painting, but a continuum of image-making that spans from the simplest line drawing to the most elaborate layering of colors and textures. In this new range, the potentials for both spontaneous and meditative image-making expand to hold what I have mastered and all I hope to learn.