Bio / Statement
I live and work in Portland, Oregon, having moved here in my mid-twenties after growing up in a small town in Pennsylvania. Like any good Northwesterner, I love the trees, mountains, rivers and ocean, the quality of light and even the half year of grey drizzle that makes it easy to work in the studio or put your nose in a book. My surroundings have a big effect on my work, whether the beauty of the natural world or just the experience of being out and about - moving, seeing, sensing - all reverberate back into making.
Education: a BFA in Art from Penn State and later a BFA in Interior Design from Marylhurst University
Publications & media:
- "Encaustic Works 2012 - A biennial exhibition in print", published by R&F Handmade Paints and curated by Joanne Mattera.
- "Authentic Visual Voices: Contemporary Paper & Encaustic" by Catherine Nash, 2013
- "Oregon Art Beat": featured artist on Oregon Public Broadcasting television show in May 2011
- "Embracing Encaustic" by Linda Robertson Womack, e-book 2015 and book 2008
- "This Dirty Little Heart" by B.T. Shaw, cover art, published 2008
- Oregon Home Magazine, artist profile in Nov./ Dec. 2006 issue
- 2017 Siren Nation Group Show, "Reflections", at the Portland'5 Center for the Arts.
- 2015-17; Member of Waterstone Gallery in Portland
- 2016 Northwind Art Center, Port Townsend, WA, "Prescence/Abscence" an 8-person invitational exhibit of artists using encaustic.
- 2014 Waterstone Gallery, Portland:"Hidden and Reaveled", a 3-person exhibit
- 2013 12x16 Gallery, Portland, group invitational exhibit
- 2013 Lake Oswego Festival of the Arts “Artists’ Vision: 50 Squared”, an invitational exhibit.
- 2015, 14,13,12 & 11 Sitka Art Invitational: exhibit benefiting Sitka Center on the Oregon coast.
- 2012 Island Museum of Art, Friday Harbor, WA: “Waxed”, a 10-person invitational exhibit.
- 2012 University of Portland, Buckley Center Gallery: “There Was a Tree”, two-person show.
- 2012 Portland Center for Performing Arts: “Come to Your Senses”, a group exhibit of encaustic art.
- 2011, 09, 07 & 06 Portland Open Studios: a juried event of artists opening their studios to the public.
- 2010 23 Sandy Gallery in Portland, OR: “Hands and Minds”, a solo exhibit of mixed media paintings.
- 2010 Anka Gallery in Portland, OR: “Entangled”, a 4-person show.
- 2010 Lake Oswego Festival of the Arts: “Luminous Layers”, a juried show of contemporary encaustic art.
About the Artwork
The desire to explore a particular series of images or a certain subject doesn't begin with a defined underlying interest or philosophy, but is rather a process that I can apply to what interests me. There are three major elements that intertwine to become a finished work. I think of them as offering, in order, an appeal to the hand, the eye, and the mind.
The first element is media. My art background includes work in drawing, printmaking, photography, ceramics, papermaking and sewing, as well as working as a cook for several years in my twenties. Putting my hands onto material and manipulating it has always been compelling, as has trying to combine multiple media in some resonant way. Different media have different strengths and beauties, and figuring out how to exploit them and have them play well together is one of the interesting challenges of making work.
More than a dozen years ago I took a class using encaustic (wax based) paint and felt it was something that could bring together many of the skills and qualities I enjoyed in using other media. For the past decade I have been working with encaustic, often combined with paper, drawing and collage, and using a wide variety of techniques. Encaustic offers an appealing range of options to explore: the ability to layer, to obscure and excavate, to engrave and inlay line, variations in transparency and opacity, saturation and subtlety of color, and the transitory liquidity of the heated wax paint. It's a very rich material.
The second important element in making work, sweetheart of the eye, and perhaps my favorite child, is composition. Every line, shape, color or pattern carries weight, direction and energy. A series of relationships and proportions is created – a see saw, a balancing act, a conversation, a traffic cop at an intersection. Each element affects the others in a visual energetics - the small orange spot talks to and enlivens the large blue shape and they are both corralled and held by the curving black line. The eye is subconsciously or even dictatorially moved around the picture. It may feel serene or destabilized, or have a sense of flatness or depth.
Composition is both created and discovered while working. I begin with a compositional structure – usually a simple drawing or layout - a map to start the journey or a scaffold to hang things from, knowing that there will be a back and forth between structure and improvisation, that the thickness and depth of a line or a certain pattern can alter the dynamics of a picture. Sometimes it is a puzzle to work out and sometimes it is revelation - the “OMG, look at that”, when one small thing changes everything.
The third strand of the braid of making work is imagery and subject matter. Even if traveling is about the journey, it helps to have a destination and the subject stands in for the destination. I prefer to work with the figure or an object. The recognizable or readable in an image is for me a path into relationship with the piece, a way to find meaning and to have it revealed. It opens a door to metaphor and symbol. It acts as a guide to making aesthetic decisions. – Here is a woman standing with one foot in water, so what does it look like to have water over one’s foot and why is she there and what is that analogous to? - I begin to make choices about the picture based on her foot and the water. It is another level of dialog with the piece.
I try to remain attentive to what my interests are urging me to make. An idea might come from a photo I’ve taken, the way it feels to stand a certain way, a line from a song, a picture ripped from a magazine, old clothes in a box at the curb, a pattern in bark, something in the news. The world is speaking and you listen and take some of the bits that move you and use them.
What pleases me is when a piece begins to have what I think of as flickering metaphor - a coherent set of associations, a gestalt or theme, that shifts depending on how it is viewed or considered – that it may imply an individual or personal perspective and also a cultural or an environmental one. The beauty of the flickering is that I may have thought of the work as being about one thing and it is a surprise that there is something else, or several something elses there. It feels like meaning coming to me, not from me.
A recurring preoccupation underlying much of my work is that things fall apart and things arise, that we exist in a state of (relatively) controlled disintegration. There is a still spot in there somewhere – maybe acceptance, maybe resignation. At times the pieces feel like a prayer, or a poem, sent up by one who is amused, sad, perplexed and amazed - all at the same time.