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"

My Cartographic Stories: Lake Tahoe

In 2012, on my life changing road trip (which I seriously need to write about soon), I stopped in Reno, Nevada. Sarah Stevenson was helping support my quest to promote creativity around the country, so we hosted a free art-making evening at Swill here in town. I had never been to Reno and honestly didn't see much of it while I was here that time. But, as many of us Reno citizens do, Sarah made sure that her out-of-town guest saw Lake Tahoe.

I still remember cresting the pass at Mt. Rose (highest year-round pass in the Sierras!) and ceasing all conversation just to look hard at the beauty of the glimmering lake shining bright and oh so blue between the trees. I was driving with my friend Brigitte, but Sarah made sure we all stopped at the big viewpoint to take in the colorful entirety of the lake. Then we went and ate at Jake's, now a favorite summer spot for my husband and I.

The first photo I ever took of Lake Tahoe, July 2012.

The first photo I ever took of Lake Tahoe, July 2012.

Two years later I moved to Reno. It was fairly unexpected to end up here, but it has been the best move possible. I met my husband and Tahoe became the place where we revisit favorite spots and make new memories all the time. I now have dozens of Tahoe stories and I am sure I will write more of them later.

For now, top 3 moments at Tahoe:

30th Birthday. I had just moved to Reno, knew basically no one, started a new job and there met an amazing man I instantly fell in love with. The first night we grabbed a drink together, Bret told me he knew someone who owned a condo on Tahoe that I could use for my birthday party. (BTW, best way to meet new people when you move somewhere new? Throw a party!) Little did I know that his parents owned it. We went up for the weekend and threw an awesome party. I went swimming at midnight in the freezing lake in October. Fun times.

But it doesn't end there. Monday night was my actual birthday that year and Bret reserved a window seat for us at the Lone Eagle Grille. We ate charcuterie outside by the firepit beforehand and paused our meal later to watch the sunset. Definitely one of his finest moments of romanticism and definitely sealed in the significance of the Hyatt compound in our traditions.

Sand Harbor. Lake Tahoe is actually not the easiest waterway to access when you're new to town and don't know where to go. It's easy to stare at from afar, but since the shoreline is mostly privately owned it's tricky to get to the beach. When I first started going to Sand Harbor with my friend Jodi I quickly decided it was my favorite. With a bar on premises that serves a delish pina colada, we always go to "boat launch" beach. It can be overrun with enormous boats blasting loud music, but it is also where the iconic, smooth rocks are found. I can close my eyes any time of year, see the crystal clear water and remember the first time I dove down in between the rocks or jumped off one of the ledges. I constantly find myself arrested by the beauty of Lake Tahoe and getting lost in it, sitting on one of the large rocks, is one of my favorite summertime activities.

Wedding. Last June, Bret and I got married in Tahoe. It was a wonderful weekend with family and friends from near and far. We chose to again center the festivities on his family condo in South Lake. Friday night we had a beautiful catered dinner and time to mingle on the beach. Saturday we took beach photos before dodging hail for our outdoor, mountaintop ceremony. Sunday we had brunch back at the condo again and said some teary goodbyes to our loved ones. It was a whirlwind and a beautiful gathering of all the souls we hold dear.

I've painted Lake Tahoe and various parts of Tahoe almost a dozen times. It is a lake known for its views and its completely iconic shape. Locals and tourists alike wear Tahoe shaped jewelry and sport the Keep Tahoe Blue bumper stickers. Most people, around here at least, can pick out the shape of the lake from an early age.

Tahoe sits trapped between massive mountains, suspended thousands of feet above sea level, deeper than imaginable and colder still. A mystery and a marvel, it has captured the hearts and minds of many painters, myself among them.

If you love Tahoe too, check out the paintings of Lake Tahoe that I have currently available in my shop.

The Art of Darkness (Look Even When It Hurts)

Some stories are grounding. Some stories are uplifting. And some stories are hard to hear for their raw truths, their discomfort, their guttural pain, and their gory details.

Some art is hard to look at for the same reasons. Pain is hard to bear witness to. The work of Anselm Kiefer comes to mind.

I had a difficult weekend.

The physicality of having surgery and living in a recovering body feels just like good art often does: real, raw, and hard to look at. It hurts and is incredibly tangible.

I am finding it difficult to bear witness to my own scars in this moment. Looking at incisions and bruises on my own body leads me to believe I am not seeing my own body at all. I become foreign, alien. Then I feel the pain, remember the anesthesiologist holding my hand, feel my husband's parting kiss on my lips, remember my night of anger, and know it all happened to me. The emotional loss around it feels like a beast moving just below the surface. I have never experienced as much physical pain as I did this past weekend, yet it wasn't my darkest moment either.

Me: half broken. A failed IV attempt. My stomach is a similar color, but I'll spare you.

Me: half broken. A failed IV attempt. My stomach is a similar color, but I'll spare you.

Half Broken, 4x4" oil on panel

Half Broken, 4x4" oil on panel

As always in my life, I am pulled back to the art I see in the earth. In these moments I am finding comfort in the way the earth mimics our human bodies and lives on.

We mine the earth, creating scars and altering the composition. We dig our roads, build our houses, and reroute the water to our liking. We infiltrate and take.

And yet the earth keeps living, healing, and growing.
And yet the earth will take back every area and nook we don't tend.
And yet the patterns we make on the earth are often beautiful from far above.

And so I heal. We all do.

My challenge to you:
Look even when it hurts. When you find a way to tell hard stories they become an art form unto themselves.