Were you always involved with art? Did it play a role in your life while you were working overseas?
Painting is my third career. My father had seven daughters, and he sent us all to nursing school. He was horrified that we would become unemployed. I worked in nursing for a long time. It served me well, because I spent those years in the developing world in Africa and in old communist Europe before the wall fell. Then things changed; terrorism became an issue. My husband and I were living overseas. I knew how to patch people up physically, but I was lost as to how to speak to people who had been targets of terrorism, so I came back to the states and studied psychotherapy and practiced that for some years, largely overseas. By the time I came back to the states, the medical community had moved into technology, and I was still working in the third world. For the psychotherapy community, my resume was just too bizarre. I tried working in Washington for a while, but dreaded that commute. I had been captivated by art and artists of all genres throughout my travels and decided to begin studying art. I wanted to make a big change, and I wanted to move in the direction of beauty, having lived so long in other places. It worked! I work very hard at my art. I’m totally focused. Once a year I try to study with a master artist. It’s full time work for me, so it’s been very fun. I’m fortunate to live in this area where there’s so much beautiful landscape to be near. This morning I went for a run down by the river. Just fantastic!
Such a varied experience must influence you in many ways. You note in your bio that when painting you try to capture a moment of time in a landscape, or the feeling of that moment.
Yes, it’s a quote from Thomas Merton, a Trappist monk and Frenchman. He became a monk at the Abbey at Gethsemani in Kentucky and was a prolific writer. He called it the still point the point around which all things turn, perhaps unnoticed to a passerby. That’s what I look for when I paint, this timeless place. Unless you look very long and are aware, you might miss it. Some things you note in the writing on your webpage resonate with things I’ve seen recently. You say art offers time for a painter to step out of the rush of the day. It made me think of an article I saw recently pondering whether people have certain expectations from art due to the fast pace of entertainment. They equate viewing art to what should be a form of entertainment. They seem to be seeking out an instant thrill any time they go a museum. Do people take time to view art today? Do they know how?
We have a different world today, and America is different than many parts of the world in that we are very technologically advanced. I was just one year ago in Zambia for a few months working, and I spoke to a group of people who were interested in libraries for children. The point was to take back screen time. Cellular devices came long before land lines to some places, and cellular devices are now by solar power available
in places where there never were any landlines. It just transformed with wonderful benefits many rural lives. But there’s also this issue with the idea of language and literacy, the flow of the words, the syntax, one’s own indigenous language, which is being lost to the influx of the Western tradition of words, and perhaps even as a second language. So, I thought it was interesting in a place where there are often not even paved roads, that there was a concerted effort to take back screen time for literacy. I don’t see it here, but certainly our library is packed every day and everyone loves a good book. I’ve seen some rumbling about that here in our American schools. I’ve worked in education for 14 years. Yes there’s a push for technology because you want to equalize the playing field, but I think educators are coming to realize that it shouldn’t always be about getting on a device and that there are other ways to access information or ways to think about things.
I used to talk to Dan Finnegan about the students. He thought people came to bring home one of his mugs because every single bit of it is handcrafted with attention, from the time that it’s a little lump of clay to the time when he turns it into a mug and it’s glazed and fired. It takes hours of work to make one little coffee mug. It’s almost a comfort, like bringing home a stone from the beach. You can hold it in your hand and know that some other human being was connected to this piece. It’s quite lovely. That reminds me of process. When you are painting, mostly your landscapes, do you have a certain process?
FLAR is an independently published literary and art magazine located in Fredericksburg, Virginia.