A Little Maternity Break

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My husband and I are thrilled to be joined by our first child this spring! Since encaustic fumes don't mix well with pregnancy I've taken a break from most painting and teaching during this time. I plan to return to it next summer. 

Thank you for all your well-wishes and love on social media. Looking forward to meeting her and introducing her to the world. 

Cartographic Stories: Beverly, Massachusetts

What place have you moved on from, yet it still lives on inside you?

The same summer I moved from Western Massachusetts to Reno, Nevada, one of my good friends also moved west. Michelle moved from the North Shore in Massachusetts to Tacoma, Washington. Before we both moved, her house was a haven for me. That time in my life I spent a lot of time cozied up on friends’ couches, chatting about life and how to show up in the world. The fact that she lived in the town I was born in, completed a circle in my story.

She lived 2 hours away and by the time we both departed for the west I didn’t need a GPS to get there. I ran to the ocean from her house and snuggled up with her son to read books. Each January we created vision boards. We dreamed and challenged each other. Her presence in my life and the safety of her home was like the whiff of something magical and beautiful in an otherwise difficult time in my life.

They have since sold the house and live in another beautiful home overlooking the Puget Sound.

Michelle’s mom recently commissioned an aerial landscape of their old house in Massachusetts as a surprise for Michelle and her husband. This warmed my heart because it was such a special place to me and so many other people. The result was one of the most endearing pieces I have created.

beverly massachusetts satellite

Her response when she received it was completely in line with how she has taught me to perceive and open up to the world: "Thank you for your amazing offering, friend."

Yet the offering of what that home and her wisdom gave me was infinite and my own gratitude continues.

But this piece also begs the question: what place have you moved on from, yet it still lives on inside you? What home do you no longer own the key to, yet you cannot help but wander the halls in your mind? How can we continue to integrate the energies of those places into our life when all we have are hazy memories and larger-than-life stories?

One answer is just to remember. Tell the stories. Walk the halls in your mind. Feel all the joy, love, pain, and growth that happened there. Let your formative past continue to inform the you that continues to evolve. Never forget what you've lost. Never forget where you come from.

My challenge to you:
Answer the question for yourself. What place have you moved on from, yet it still lives on inside you? How can you continue to integrate those energies into your current path?

Borderless Earth (Why Jammu and Kashmir?)

A couple months ago I had one of those self-limited moments that my husband is particularly good at shattering. I was explaining to him that I really wanted to paint the earth without borders, especially areas of the world where there are territory disputes. I think at the time I felt held back by some bizarre lack of understanding of those issues, but in true form, my husband simply said: "then go do it."

Of course. That's always the answer.

He helped me brainstorm a list of disputed territories and of that list I chose to work on Kashmir and Jammu first. In case you don't know (because I really didn't) Jammu and Kashmir is the mountainous region on the northern border between India and Pakistan. The area is disputed and despite it also being "heaven on earth" and a vacation spot for Indians, there is much fighting and conflict there. The photos I have seen of the area have blown me away every time. I started following a few Pakistani photographers on Instagram and am still blown away by the stunning scenery they post. (Check out @pakistan_amazing and @aq_abbaxi)

There are two main reasons I chose this particular part of the world to paint first.

Kashmir and Jammu, 3x4', encaustic and oil. View it at The Hub University in Reno for the month of May.

Kashmir and Jammu, 3x4', encaustic and oil.
View it at The Hub University in Reno for the month of May.

First, I am fascinated the geology of this region of the world. From satellite images, it is so obvious that India smashed into the rest of Asia millions of years ago and created the giant, wrinkly ripple that is the Himalayans and their surrounding hills. The impact the mountains have on weather is incredibly evident as well with a massive desert sitting behind them running into China.

Second, creating otherness and division is an obsession in this country and (as stated in my last post) I don't buy it. Jammu and Kashmir are regions with very different cultures than where I live and I am terrified of violence but, when I let go of my fear of our differences, I know we are all human and very much the same. I push myself to reach for the sameness through a mutual appreciation for beauty and painting somewhere you will never see in an American travel brochure.

Mexicali/Calexico, 8x10", encaustic and oil on Claybord

Mexicali/Calexico, 8x10", encaustic and oil on Claybord

Along with the giant Jammu and Kashmir painting, I have also recently been looking at the Mexico/USA border. Most of my fascination with painting the earth from satellite view comes from the fact that I can turn off all borders, but there are some places on earth where you don't need a superimposed line to see a border. That's how the Mexico/USA border is. Why? Because we've stolen all the water.

When I was studying resource economics (yes, that was my major...hence the fascination) I had a professor tell me that future wars will be fought over water. Not oil. Water. I believe this. Especially when you look at Calexico/Mexicali. The border between these two cities is so obvious it's shocking. Green, lush fields on one side; pale desert on the other. For a world where most borders can't be seen from space, it is a sad anomaly.

My challenge to you:
What region of the world have you ignored? Not even on your radar. Google it and find the beauty in it. It's there waiting to light up your day.

This work will be on view at The Hub University (941 N. Virginia, Reno, NV) for the month of May. Come say hello at the reception on May 19, 5-7pm!

Study of Jammu/Kashmir, 4x4"

Study of Jammu/Kashmir, 4x4"

Study of Jammu/Kashmir, 4x4"

Study of Jammu/Kashmir, 4x4"

Border/Immigration Art (What's Inspiring Me)

This weekend I finished up my "Meet the Artist" video (you can view it here) and towards the end of the video I talk a little bit about my explorations with border-themed art, but I wanted to talk more about it here. The themes of immigration, borders, and walls have been popping up all over the art world, especially in the last year. I find using art to examine both the physicality and emotional connections to walls and borders incredibly visceral and moving.

I came to my own examination of border art through the joy of exploring Google Earth. I can lose myself to hours staring at those beautiful satellite images, spinning the globe round and round. The best part of Google Earth is the ability to turn off all map layers. Maps have their own allure for me, but so does looking at the earth in its naked, geological simplicity. Without any scientifically overlaid information, the world is all swirling color, collided continents, vast deserts, and complex maze-like mountains.

Getting lost in the artistry of it made me realize something: I had no concept of what countries I was looking at and – while cultural identity matters to us from a sociological and psychology perspective – when you appreciate the world for the geological marvel that it is you completely remove the fact humans live and fight across its surface. The artistry of the geology and botany at that scale is present regardless of our human-constructed differences, tribes, and modern countries.

I have also been incredibility moved by all the border/immigration art I've been seeing. Perspective-taking is a lost skill in today's world. People like Brené Brown are trying to highlight and bring a conversation about psychology and empathy into our mainstream (which Brené does mostly through the lovely medium of storytelling). Artists do their part in a different way, but powerfully just the same. Art asks us to question the way in which we see the world.

"State of Exception/Estado de Excepción" asks us to consider the nameless, the discarded, and the dead who try to walk to a better life. The piece "Reflecting the Border" is a powerful bending of light and perception. I found the submission for a Mexico-USA border from the J.M. Design studio light-hearted yet pointed. The Most Beautiful Wall is an incredible use of web design to interactively think about borders. This actual proposal from PennaGroup is one of that acknowledges both humanity and artistry. And I am so looking forward to this exhibit here in Reno coming this summer.

In my life, I am pretty decidedly apolitical. I know many of my friends have a problem with this, but I tend to believe most strongly in the middle ground that doesn't really exist. I find it more important to see both sides of issues, just like I teach my middle school students to do. But there are some truths that I do believe I can speak to, even if they don't really fit a political paradigm.

Borders and territorial disputes are two of these, but my message is still not super political.

My message is this: Consider another perspective.

Consider how many empires the mountains have seen rise and fall. Consider the beauty of a region you know to house violence. Consider the size of a region compared to the region where you live. Consider geography. Consider that some people love and live amidst violence. Consider how very short a time humans have traversed this planet. Consider the resilience of Earth. How does that help us understand that which matters most?

We always have more in common than we think. Our humanity unites us rather than divides us when we really listen. We are many, but we all come from one very small population of hominids. We are all related.

Even some decent marketing is cashing in on the timeliness of this message.

My challenge to you:
Remember a time when you dissolved a barrier between you and another person. Can't think of one? Can you think of one you should?

Next post I will show you some of the border art I've been creating. 

Cartographic Stories: Sand Harbor

Sand Harbor lies on the eastern shore of Lake Tahoe. It is my favorite beach on the lake, so it was fun to paint this as a commission for someone who loves it as well. Sand Harbor is a place that captures the magic of summer. Rocks jut out of the crystal clear water and create a landscape unto itself – part land, part water. There is ice cream nearby, the smell of sunscreen, and a long beach stretching invitingly. Home away from home.

This painting also represents a shift in perspective. Laura, the client who commissioned it, grew up visiting South Lake Tahoe. The view across the lake from the south was her view of Tahoe. Since moving to Reno and starting a family, she now spends more of her lake time at Sand Harbor, with almost the opposite view. The shift in perspective took a while, but how Laura thinks of the Sand Harbor view as her view of Tahoe and her second home.

Courtsey of Google Earth

Courtsey of Google Earth

My challenge to you:
Think of summer. It's right around the corner! Where is your favorite summer spot?