About The Artist
It was in the Portland Art Museum, during the Rau Exhibit of 2004. I was fifteen years old, part of Mrs. Mulaney’s drawing class, filing dutifully past the Cezannes and the Fragonards as our docent led us on a rapid clip, punctuated with educational information. It was a small painting, really, less than a foot square, entitled Woman with a Rose, by Pierre-Auguste Renoir. A girl’s face emerged in pink, creamy pastels from the somber background, a red rose placed jauntily in her hair. I was transfixed. The painting seemed to glow under its spotlight, practically breathing with a life all its own, light years away from the flat photographs in my textbooks at home. I lagged behind the rest of the group, not wanting to leave. Eventually my teacher came to guide me back to the flock. But all I could think about was that painting. There was a postcard in the gift shop that I purchased and carefully transported home in its rustling brown paper bag. It’s probably still in an old journal of mine somewhere, pasted in the pages and labeled with care. That was my first encounter with “real art,” as I thought of it at the time, art that moved beyond its materials and time and became a living entity unto itself.
Fast forward four years, to my sophomore year of college. I was an English major, carefully formatting all my papers in MLA and reading more pages in a month than most people did in a year. I loved the magic poetry of words, but something wasn’t quite right. Recently, I had been going to a sterile doctor’s waiting room to find a solution to the depression that I had struggled with since adolescence. I felt dead inside, the world too much to handle. I decided to take a drawing class to relive some of the creativity I had left back in high school. I assumed that it would be easy, led by a kind, middle-aged woman in hippie skirts. I could not have been more wrong.
The class was led by Karen Bowdoin, a short, no-nonsense book artist with an intense work ethic, on a mission to weed out the men from the boys. We drew, collaged, sketched, and more than anything else, critiqued. Those first few group sessions nearly killed my soul. Karen looked at my rushed, wrinkled work and immediately outlined its flaws in bullet points that hung in the air above my head: poor craftsmanship, faulty value shapes, unclear shading. I was taken aback. Perhaps this class was not the New Age haven of creativity and serenity that I had imagined. My assessment of artists, whom I had previously catalogued under “flaky people who couldn’t get a real job,” went up a notch.
I worked harder, stubborn enough to rise to the challenge I had been presented. Seated on the drawing horse, bent over a chalk pastel or charcoal still life, I found a peaceful core beneath the terrors and uncertainties of everyday life that normally so overwhelmed me. Halfway through the year, I changed my major to Visual Arts, with an emphasis in Studio. At first I felt dislocated—torn from the intellectual debate and reading lists that I was so familiar with, tossed into an arena of young, overly-perky freshman that had known their artistic destiny since birth. But I kept working. Slowly, I figured out what worked for me. I was drawn to art history, my academic nature too strong to give up lengthy papers completely. I also loved figure drawing, finding myself attracted to the forms of the body. Eventually, I carved a place for myself as the budding cynical feminist who liked to draw naked people and spent too much time in the library.
Today, I’m a little different than I was in those first few timid months. I still love academia, and will be the first student to graduate from George Fox University with the new minor in art history. I find myself torn between the making of art, and its critical study. Recently, I completed a research grant that allowed me to curate an exhibition of contemporary Native American art of the Pacific Northwest. I’m looking at graduate programs that focus on indigenous arts, and will probably go to the UC Santa Barbara to take advantage of their emphasis on pre-Columbian forms.
My personal art at this moment in time consists of contemporary, mixed-media paintings of the nude female body. I find this to be an affective site to challenge assumptions and create new paradigms—redefining both our conception of beauty, and the tradition of nude female representation. My goal is to make good art, with good ideas, for ordinary people. I am not interested in becoming the next big thing, but I am interested in spreading a lot of little things: tolerance, joy, beauty, and understanding. I make art for human beings. I am repulsed by both the cold special effects of most postmodern art, and the Thomas Kinkade school of romanticism. I strive to make my art conceptual, intriguing, and provoking, while also being humane and welcoming. Someday I will perfect that balancing act. Until then, I keep practicing.