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Artist Statement

Featured interview: 70+ Life At the Top magazine.


My painting can be described as “witnessing.”  The work is often based on images and stories in the news, people who look out at us every day from the printed page and television screen but who are usually nameless — refugees, rebels, farmers, men and women who tend and defend their land, homes, children, animals and ideas. My intention is that they speak out from the paintings: “HERE WE ARE.”

I lived in Latin America for 18 years, learned Spanish and Portuguese, traveling to out of the way places: Indian settlements and ancient ruins, Baroque villages and areas where Afro culture and rituals flourish, in Brazil, Venezuela, Mexico, Peru, Colombia, Argentina, Bolivia and Guatemala. I accompanied rustic pilgrimages where people rode for days in the back of trucks, on horse and mule back and in ox carts in biblical fashion to make offerings, sell their wares and livestock, buy salt and other supplies, marry and baptize their children in group ceremonies.

These experiences still have a strong impact on my paintings and connect with my own raw upbringing in Missouri which varied from the pop culture of Kansas City streets, reflecting jazz, corrupt politics and racial inequality, and where my earliest visual and artistic influences were in the dime stores; to the Missouri farmland where my mother’s people raised grapes and apples and where my sister and I fashioned our toys and dolls from mud and sticks, hollyhocks, corn cobs and corn silk, concocting our paints from mulberries, beets, boiled onions, grasses and laundry blueing, and where gypsies parked their wagons along the oiled road in front of our small house. I was aware of the poverty and prejudice of those depression years, of the dust wrecked farm land, the losses and foreclosures, the stunted lives and lack of education, the Black ghettos and segregation. This early background still gives intensity and vision to my artistic endeavors and affects my approach to materials and techniques.

Though much of my work has this social content, I also paint landscape, portraits, and any subject whose color and form draw my painter’s eye and enthusiasm, such as the giant red and white hibiscus now in bloom. Technique and meaning are discovered simultaneously.

I have worked in theater for many years as designer and performer in Off and Off Off Broadway theaters and universities, often with dancers, poets, actors and musicians. I am now collaborating on a small theater piece on the life and prophecies of Nostradamus and one based on the life of my mother.

Painting is about bravery. For both artist and viewer. Art is emergency both in the sense of urgency and coming forth. Accept the unexpected and the surprise of the accidental and choose discovery over perfection every time. Rely on your hand to know what it is doing and respect your own process. It will be different from everyone else. This is my advice to myself.