I began my art life as a potter. From my childhood in Boulder, I was captivated by the magic of the potter’s wheel, and loved making things people could actually use. In 1986, after graduating from Oberlin College and doing a year of research in Japan about Japanese pottery, I came to Philadelphia to work with Bill Daley in ceramics at The University of the Arts. After I graduated, I set up my studio as a production potter. Though my first love had been form, I became mermerized by the beauty of deep, rich glazes on the pure white of porcelain. Eventually I realized I was making pots simply so I could paint on them, and that I should just paint.
I had planned to be an abstract painter. I was surprised to discover that the physical world was even more compelling to me than abstraction, and that I wanted to do representational work. I felt lucky to live in Philadelphia, where I was able to study classical drawing and painting at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, the Schuylkill Academy, and Studio Incamminati during the 1990’s and 2000’s.
As I was leaving the clay world for representational painting, I started teaching and loved it. I taught art for a decade in both private and public schools in Philadelphia, and earned an M.Ed. in Art from Tyler School of Art in 2001. In 2007, I started teaching art at my live-work loft in Germantown, the home of Mindy Flexer Art School, www.mindyflexerart.com.
In the early, 2000’s, I started exhibiting my work, and have shown at venues that include Woodmere Art Museum, Sande Webster Gallery, and Artists’ House Gallery. I did plein air painting as an Artist in Residence at Arcadia National Park and at national plein air festivals, including Wayne Art Center’s Plein Air Festival, Art in the Open, Paint Annapolis, and Plein Air Easton. I still live, work, and exhibit in Philadelphia, and am happy to be a Philadelphia painter.
All of my work is based in observation, though what my eye has alighted on has changed over the years. I work in series, just like when I was a potter. It simply makes sense to me to give each idea a chance to unfold and ripen over a sequence of pantings.
In the early 2000’s, I began with a fascination for what was around me, which put me in the traditional territory of still life and landscape. I worked with objects and interior in my loft, with nuggets of space I found in my neighborhood, and futher afield in Philalephia and beyond. You can see those paintings here and here.
In the late 2000’s, I realized I was making paintings about impermanence, and looked more consciously for the right sites for this. I did a series of paintings at Laurel Hill Cemetery, and others at Thirtieth Street Train Station, Swann Memorial Fountain, and on the Schuylkill River. At all of these sites, seemingly permanent monuments are themselves impermanent: they all have a sense of human grandeur and human vulnerability. You can see these paintings here.
In the 2010’s, I became more explicit about narrative when I started a series of paintings that starred first one pig, and then many characters. I discovered the toy pig as an avatar when I was drawing it as a demonstration for a student. I realized the pig was just like me: we were both curious, clever creatures, able to perceive but not fully understand the vast and mysterious world in which we found ourselves. Those paintings are here.
In the mid 2010’s, I realized the narrative I had used the pigs to tell was about impermanence, just like my landscape paintings, and that I needed something different to tell the story. The flying angelsand birds that kept reappearing in my earlier work transformed into origami cranes. In the first paintings, they fly above figures who are standing, walking and being carried along by boats. Eventually, they transcend gravity and learn to fly with the cranes above them. Flocks of birds and figures flying in and out of the space and time of the paintings pay homage to the endless generations before and after me. You can see those paintings here.
In the body of work I’m currently working on, the origami cranes have become pigeons, and finally, crows: much maligned birds who are actually wise, empathetic, and loyal. The figures have become my family and every family. We let go and hold on, move apart and stay together, our personal comings and goings governed by universal forces and geometry. Those paintings are here.
My work remains rooted in observation, at the same time that needing to paint scenarios that don’t exist in the world compels me towards more and more invention. I remain on my quest to use the synergy of these alternating currents to find a deeper truth. I want to honor my ancestors and celebrate those who come after me. I want to share my gratitude for the ongoing mystery of being here with everyone and everything that is. I want to paint my way into finding the language for this.
I continue to be curious about where my work will go, and surprised by the way I follow more than I lead. Or perhaps I do both. As Yeats asks, “Are we the dancer or the dance?” Yes: I remain so grateful there is always more unknown territory that offers itself to me, and that I can offer to others.