As a very young girl, among the flowers in my great grandmother’s garden, I became aware of an exhilarating sensation growing within me. I was standing, lost in wonder, in the shade on a hot summer day watching a Monarch butterfly gracefully flutter about and land again and again between the Lantana and Phlox blossoms gathering nectar. Was it love? Yes. Wonder? Yes. A yearning to understand how I was like the butterfly and the butterfly was like me. Yes.
Walking through the world paying attention in this way, listening with my body I hear the universe and its contents: elements, animals, plants all living, breathing, growing, blooming, vibrating with signals and suggestions of similarity. Sensing with my skin the temperature of the air the scintillation of the wind coaxing me to see and recognize, embrace and connect. I record and collect interactions and inspirations and use observation based drawing methods to convey the connections I see within these encounters.
Standing in front of my paper, my left hand holding a few drawing tools, my right hand holds a soft cotton rag infused with mica powder and charcoal. The air and the paper’s surface begin to sparkle as I gently push the rag along to create a tonal gesture of my subject. My eyes at first searching for shape transition to observing details of light and shadow. From the moment I begin to focus I become more aware of my body, my breathing, my stance as all myself is directed toward the study and understanding of the subject. I strive to articulate the unique characteristics of each subject and illustrate a recognizable likeness. The drawings accumulate and I see and feel the relationships between seemingly disparate subjects. How is this human body like a tree? How is a human experience of loss like a tree losing a limb? How is a hand like the blossom of a flower reaching toward the light or toward connection to other? Further, via collage and use of other media, I orchestrate the relationships I see between people, plants, animals within hybrid landscapes on wood panels imbued with color accentuating the grain patterns and curiously explore how we might continue to evolve to more overtly display analogous ideas, emotions and experiences to that of our environment and our wild counterparts.
The action and attention required in observation based drawing cultivates a pathway for an intimate connection between the drawer, the subject and the drawing. It’s a responsive activity that allows for the possibility of knowing akin to tenderly holding and touching. It creates both love and empathy for my subjects. It makes me all the more human. I am linked together with the struggles and triumphs of my subjects. I am myself but also the flower, the bird, the wolf. I am myself but I am also you. I see the physical realities of our earthbound existence and our relationship to all that we evolved with and through. I believe this awareness is a key to cultivating a future of mutual survival and thriving for ourselves, our planet and all its inhabitants.
I am profoundly grateful to have had the opportunities to cultivate these sensibilities through the support of my family, my education and other artists. In particular the work of Frida Kahlo, Judy Chicago and Hung Liu has been of significant inspiration to the development of my own work. In their work I discovered both the conviction to trust one’s individual experience, intuition and the powerful healing that comes from relating stories of our individual and collective human experiences.