2019 Artist Statement


Musing in the Field of Awareness


"It is usually when you are not seeking that graces comes."~Miranda MacPherson


“We humans live in a dynamic sea of relationships, not just with other people but also with plants and animals, and the whole landscape with all its seen and unseen inhabitants.” ~ Jorgen I Eriksson

Often during this winter season of 2018/2019, I pick up Belle, the young dog I co-parent and take her to a glorious open space, Bear Canyon. It is a great vessel in the foothills of the Sandia Mountains in Albuquerque. And it holds many spirits. We drive the short trip from where Belle lives and then park in a small lot with other city nature seekers, bikers and hikers. This year we have had a bit of snow and so the added element of patches of white on the north side of rocks, bushes and cacti makes everything sparkle.
Once we step beyond the last visible adobe-hued house, I unhook her leash and she is free. It's not the rule here, but I am prone to break the law for the sake of her/our great adventures. She is nearly always ahead of me and has learned to turn back and check on my whereabouts, as I do for hers.


On a mid-February day it is cold but I am in many layers and she has her fur. When we get close to the verticalness of the mountain, the edge of the bowl, there is a bit more snow and I notice a family with small children, laughing as they take turns on sleds in the little patches of white. Belle sees something in the distance beyond them and makes a low-key bark as if to ask a question more than anything. My eyes scan the area ahead, but I do not see what it is that she is looking at, though I am certain she is seeing something unusual.

We turn around at this point and follow the trail back down to the west. In a few minutes, I see a dark shape, the distinct silhouette of a deer head and realize that must be what she saw. Instantly, the vision disappears and I see a man with a backpack and feel confused, as if I am seeing a shapeshifter instead. Belle takes off after something and when she returns, I spot two deer close together looking back toward me. They are still as statues but eyeing me with their infinite presence. Moments pass between us. I am in their field of awareness and it is good. In fact, it feels pure. We are living in the space of silence between us, with just enough distance to feel no threat. I look down and note Belle beside me, her first deer sighting. What is communicated between us is something like, wow!

Spiritual teacher Miranda MacPherson says that in those perfect moments of oneness in the field of existence, when we are in a state of non-duality, there is no resistance: no fear, no angst, no problems, no ego self. Yes, that is how it felt, like being under a momentary spell.


The Enchantment of the Arts

Circulating in the halls of reason, for some decades, floats the somewhat nihilistic notion that artists should not make things. Forget about the original. A friend sent me a piece that was in the New Yorker magazine three years ago about an artist and teacher, Rainer Ganahl who said, “I hate teaching, but somebodyʼs got to be there to stop people from making stuff. You donʼt have to make art to be an artist. You make art through having an interesting life.” The concept that there are more than enough things in the world already is hard to deny. Perhaps if art is made at all, it should be made entirely from recycling or upcycling stuff that already exists, a sort of artmaking from thrift stores and junk yards ideology. I donʼt claim an answer but I have pondered this for most of the past thirty years since reading Suzi Gablikʼs book, The Re-Enchantment of Art. In it she discussed, through interviews with artists, some who had already quit art for environmental reasons or focused on art as a form of environmental clean-up, who
claimed the end of art for artʼs sake.

At the time, I was simultaneously inspired and very confused about how to step forward as an artist. My long desire was to paint, to make something beautiful, to create things with my hands and to put that sacred stuff out into the world. Eventually, I came to the conclusion that there was something within the tradition of painting that still held value.  And just as the hikerʼs journey might arrive at a place where grace happens or not, itʼs pivotal to walk the path of engagement.

A couple nights ago, the newly released film, Jimi Hendrix: Electric Church was playing at my local art theater. The small theater was packed with older folks who remembered the man genius. The footage for the film was shot in 1970 at a huge 4th of July fesitval in Atanta. It would be his last major show, during a time when big music gatherings were still happening. He was playing for 500,000 people, moslty young, white, baked by the southern summer sun, and certainly stoned. Hendrix came onto the stage at 12:30 am and played his set. Thank the gods, there was a last minute plan arranged to film the show. Watching it almost fifty years later brought me to a state of renewed wonder for the man, the high priest of and for that era. He is so soulful, so genuine and so absolutely amazing on the screen.

At a time that was pre-digital, pre-mobile, pre-computer technology yet, so plugged-in and ready to receive the new download, itʼs hard to recall how information was shared (word of mouth, newspapers and live DJs) before devices ruled. I was in my first year of high school and fifteen. Purple Haze was already a kind of new national anthem. Hendrix was the epitome of hip. Sadly, he was also mortal.

I have never known how to fully reconcile that time when the world was leaning toward peace and love, and seemed certain to change for the better. And it didnʼt. The disappointment breaks my heart, when things are so slow to transform on this physical plane. Perhaps it is wishful thinking, but it feels there is a vibe again in the air, that is in this new generation of youth, post millennial, walking a path of creating change by being the change. One can hope.

I am very grateful for those heart opening moments of bliss when I feel lifted beyond my ego self to a higher state, when grace happens. Witnessing the deer with Belle, watching Hendrix perform, while in meditation, those elusive magical, mystical, supernatural, call it what you will, moments-thatʼs what I have strived for in the studio and in the process of making things. Meanwhile, I am keeping in mind the Zen teaching, “before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.”

And one more thought. While spell checking the word, millennial, I came upon this definition: a utopian period of good government, great happiness, and prosperity. Interesting. One can always hope.


The Grid of Knowing No. 2, 2019


Artist Statement 2018

More than a Symbol:  Medicine Wheel

A readers note:
The word, purview, has crossed my vision in recent years.  It has captured my attention. By dictionary definition it means the scope of concerns of something; it was originally used in British legal documents, specifically followed by the words, “be it enacted”.  Which reminds me of Star Trek Captain Jean-Luc Picard’s signature line, “make it so.”  In the following paragraphs the word, purview, appears with frequency as I consider the scope of a new body of work and desire to make it so.

Medicine wheels, circles, and mandalas are symbols or forms I have been engaged with for twenty-five years. Frequently in 2-dimensional paintings but also in 3-D assemblage installations. As a graduate student, I became interested in Eastern religious imagery and took a course on the history of Buddhism as a way to educate myself and to enter into the iconography of the mandala. Traditional Tibetan Buddhist imagery uses the circle or the mandala as a portal to the deity, Tara, the great being of compassionate wisdom, the one who comes swiftly. Buddhist monks make intricate sandpaintings, portals of focused energy, with patterns of divine meaning and upon completion after many days of work, brush them away, sweeping all the grains of colored sand back into non-form.  Living in New Mexico has brought me into the context of the Native American medicine wheel, a different kind of sand mandala.   I have come to think about the circle in terms of a healing space, a space of ceremony and ritual.  And as an archetypal symbol which creates a space for the focus of energy within the vast expanse of my desert home.

The circle is as old a form as humanity has known, Emerson said the first circle is the eye, perhaps the second is gathering around a fire, or the white vision of a full moon in the night sky. The circle becomes a container in 3D art, it may be the most basic form our hands can create. We see it in vessels of all sizes and materials, a humble tea bowl comes to mind.  In nature it is abundant in bird’s nests and the round eggs they hold, tiny seeds, harvest fruits, the rings of trees, the body's cells.  The symbol for zero which comes from the Arabic word, cipher, connects the circle to everything and no-thing.

Symbols are useful tools.  In his book The Face of the Waters, Rabbi Eliezer Shore writes about symbols as metaphor:
 “Every symbol carries some inner meaning, whether simple or complex.  In all cases, a symbol is an entity whose content is greater than its form, for with just a few lines or gestures, it conveys a message that would otherwise require many words. But precisely because of this meager form, because their meaning is not overt, symbols demand that the viewer reconstruct the original message within himself.  As such, they are vehicles for inner transformation, and are among the primary tools of the religious life, which seeks to convey truths that are altogether beyond words.  Symbols are points of contemplation, for only by dwellling upon them, do they reveal their contents.  And the more one contemplates them, the more meaningful they become.  Furthermore, religious symbols, whose subject is the Infinite, have the potential to convey infinite meaning.”

Such is the case with the mandala/medicine wheel.  It is more than the simple line of the circle. Consider the cypher of a round line drawn in the sand with a stick on the beach: earth, air, fire, water, carbon, mineral, sun, etc., all contained within the circle. The purview is great for the symbol of the circle, in fact, the purview is infinite.  

This past year, a period of extreme upheaval for me, I found myself in the midst of hanging a one- person exhibit of my new work when an unexpected email arrived.  My favorite dwelling, a live/work space, was no longer to be mine, my landlady needed to move back in as soon as possible. Suddenly stretched in many directions at once:  a desire to be with the energy of the show and give it my undivided attention; the necessity to find a new place to live and work, to pack-up and to relocate. All the while, deeply desiring to be with my elderly mother who was on hospice care.

The show, Winged Victory, unfolded, in her honor.  My move coinicided during the period of late July at the time of her 99th birthday, the same time as I was taking down the show.  We spoke by phone on her birthday and by the end of August, somewhat organized, I was happy to be on route to spend a week with my mother.  It was a good week, she had lots of energy and we loved our time together.  Then suddenly she was tired and a couple days later, as if she was just waiting for me to get there, to visit one last time, she passed away.  My rock for 63 years, my dearest island of unconditional love gone.

The Medicine Wheel: a tool for healing

Painting can be a solace, an emotional refuge in times of change.  As I find myself in the beginning stages of a two or three year project, the loss is a self-evident fact of life.  I am in the final phase of a ten year project considering, plant, animal and mineral.  It is interesting to me that the mineral aspect of the series came at the end, through know particular conscious planning. It relates so syncronistically to mother and Mother Earth, to that which grounds, holds and of course, minerals are essential substances needed by the human body for ultimate health and for nurturing self.   

The first painting in this new series has no defined circle. The forms within the square structure are scattered, the medicine wheel is evident but merely suggested by the placement of four turquoise shapes at the north, south, east, and west of the image. The circle is implied.

As I am slowly healing, my fractured self is mirrored in this new painting. In graduate school there was a dictate that fine art should not be therapy, so I was surreptitious about it then.  Now, decades later, I am out about it. I consider all creativity as a sacred practice, (a gift) and that includes healing through the practice. The purview encompasses more than academics.

My shamanic teachers have shown me one way to use the medicine wheel, as path to conscious living, through the use of the six directions. Working with the directions is a reminder to begin each day from a place of peace in the east, with the intention of gathering support and clarity of intention so that ones actions might be effortless. The purview of this practice is every moment.  A brilliant teaching that has served me well for some years. Now that I need it most, I experience the medicine wheel as deeper than a symbol, more than metaphor.
1 The Temple of Amount: Searching for symbol in a world of number,  Eliezer Shore. Parabola Magazine, Volume 43, Number 1, Spring 2018.  Used by permission.  www.eliezershore.com


Silver Lining, 2018 Detail in progress




Wing de Coeur: A Story of Synchronicity

Artist Statement 2017



Imagine what it must feel like to fly on silent wings in the night?  
My good neighbor gave me two preserved wings a year or so ago.  Two wings that had belonged to two different birds some thirty years prior.  They are owl wings, one from a Great Horned Owl and one from a Barn Owl.  Beautiful and perfectly intact. I have been working on paintings of them, one of each, both emblems of animal medicine, power, and flight.   They speak to me of the Shamanic belief that everything natural is alive, holds spirit and vibration.  There is a "creative fusion" unfolding as the organic transforms, even in death.*

The patterns of the feathers are all so many complex markings that camouflage the bird wherever this nocturnal creature rests during daylight hours in forested habitats. On this January morning I am inspired to finish up the details of the painting of the Barn Owl wing.   I apply a final glaze to a surface of silver leaf, integrating the image of the painted wing form with the area of silver surrounding it.  It is a risk because once I paint something over the investment of silver leaf it cannot be undone. But today is a rare day when in an almost effortless series of movements, mixing the thin white oil paint, the right brush in hand, the application of it comes together, the glaze works.

It is warm and sunny when I take the painting onto my studio balcony to apply a light spray over the thin white glaze.  In the outside air the smell of turpentine dissipates quickly. Happy with the alchemical result, I bring it inside and dance joy that the risk -taking is effective.  The reaction of the turpentine over the glaze looks like dappled light across the surface.

They say, truth is stranger than fiction.  Several hours later in the day, on the freeway traveling with my friend Glo at the wheel, I spot the unmistakeable shape of a wing on the side of the road.  And evidence of the body of a large bird behind the upturned wing.  It could only be a Red-tailed Hawk or an owl; I am certain the instant I see it.  Glo sees it also and she pulls over when I ask her to stop, quick enough so that we can go back to look at what it is lying there.

What we find is flawless.  A large bird indeed, with one powerful clawed foot visible, the other curled up near to it's chest.  It is the right wing that is raised up slightly moving in the air, almost waving.  Daylight clarifies the distinctive patterns on the wing feathers, I recognize immediately that it is a Barn Owl, as I have been looking at many photos of them in recent months while painting the wings. In person, this animal is from another realm, ethereal and as it is often described: ghostly.  Glo and I are both stunned by the experience. Somewhat breathless, I am trying to calculate how this bird met its fate. Slightly above and next to us is an orchard of winter-bare trees, perhaps his hunting grounds. Carefully, I pick up the velvet body, it weighs almost nothing.  I am not afraid of a bad omen-it is too exquisite-but I do fear for a moment that he might still be alive, so warm the body is from the sun.  Maybe this happened in daylight, though more likely it was downed in the windstorm we had last night or clipped by a car while in pursuit of mice. I wonder many things about this marvel to behold.  How old is this bird, it must be young to be so meticulously groomed. Does he or maybe she have a mate?

If our encounter had happened at any other moment it would not be as significant. Maybe you can guess my disbelief. My increasing inability to comprehend how on this day, this specific bird, this right wing rising to my vision, is the very same.  The very same wing of a Barn Owl that I was painting this morning.  Its full moon face, framed with a circle of delicate darker feathering like a ruffle, black eyes still open and slender pink beak is extraordinary.   Some things happen that we can never ascertain, mysterious and mystical conjunctions beyond the reasoning of the mind. My next painting is yet to be determined, and I may continue detailing the wings for some time to come, obsessive is my nature, but this experience may be the portal to the next image, perhaps a portrait of this face.

I can only imagine what it must be like to fly on silent wings in the night.

* The concept "creative fusion" is from the book, The Biology of Wonder:
Aliveness, Feeling and the Metamorphosis of Science

by Andreas Weber.  For more reference see previous statement from 2016.


Wing de Coeur, 2016-17


Wings of Desire

March 1, 2016

Something opens our wings....




The emptiness is so profound.
I was not prepared.
As I drove past the Isleta fields on the way to Bernardo wildlife refuge yesterday,
a few cranes entered the peripheral of my vision.
I remember thinking, "that's a good sign."

As I continued on my way south of Albuquerque, I noticed a sinking inside me, an existential feeling of  loneliness. I attached it to something else, other than the cranes
But when I exited at Rt. 60 there was not a
bird in the fields along the train tracks, not one.
And when I got to the lookout tower and got out of my vehicle,
I could swear I heard the unmistakable call of a Sandhill crane.
But my mind said, "how could that possibly be?"
There was not a bird-you know the agony of loss-not one, not a crane, not
any birds in the fields at all.  Thankfully a big hawk in a tree and some few pairs of
ducks in the water along the acequias kept me company.  I did cry at the magnitude of the loss.  So many thousands of birds had been here in the corn fields just two weeks ago. Snow geese along with the Sandhill cranes and waterfowl as well as massive flocks of smaller birds that morphed like clouds in the sky. Now the cranes are on route to Monte Vista, Colorado where they will have their ancient spring ritual and mate.

I walked alone in the fields and collected feathers. Gifted a pair of wings, still attached to the breast bone, I put them -with some ceremony- in the back of my vehicle.  They look like misty-grey angels wings.

I am in the midst of a commission, a painting of a life-size Sandhill crane, it is the second crane I have painted.  Just now in the process of creating the wing on the right side of the body, this gift will help me to articulate the feathers better. A new book I am reading by a German author, Andreas Weber: The Biology of Wonder, speaks of the aliveness of all things, even in death.  Weber says indigenous cultures often view the remains of body and death itself in terms of "creative fusion."  These gifted wings carried the heartbeat of crane to a field in New Mexico.  It is with wonder and curiosity that I engage myself with these exquisite remains, a desire to know and to merge spirit with the paint on canvas.

This commissioned piece is part of six recent paintings of birds. After many years, more than thirty, of working with abstraction and pattern, my current work is of specific birds, a series of ornithology images; each has a unique story to share. The birds seem to be asking to be represented on canvas with the ecological question posed: "Are we in the picture of the future or not?"  So much of life on earth is facing extinction and the losses continue to weigh on me as they did in the empty field yesterday.  Something opens our hearts and our wings to the great web of life. And it is within this great quantum field of life that my desire for the flocks to remain in the picture, holds the brush in between my fingers....


 Portrait above by Elise Varnedoe, Wings of Desire by Deborah Gavel



Inspiration 101                                                   June 2015


My focus is beauty.  We live in a world of opposites tugging at us. Beauty alone has no opposite....I should use beauty as an opiate and if I can pull it out of nature and hint at it in paint then I should, and hand it as an opiate to any who would have it.

-Morris Cole Graves



 I consider the artist Morris Graves as a mentor/teacher/guide along the path of making art.  His work and the opportunity to be on his former property in the Pacific Northwest in 2011 has greatly influenced my painting.   (Scroll down to the Artist Statement 2012 to read more about that time in nature).

He passed away at ninety years of age in 2001 leaving a legacy of work in many public museums, private and corporate collections.  In his lifetime he also created a magical property in the Redwood forest which currently houses an artist-in-residency program in northern California.

He was a mystic painter, a rare soul in the contemporary world of art. Although he became a well known artist at a young age, he never succumbed to fame or the passing fads of popular culture. When he was 84 he painted a piece on paper called April Flowering Cabbage and a Glimpse of Continuing. It is an image that seems to be the sum of everything he had made up to that time: a graceful arching stem of a plant coming out of darkness on one side of the painting and blooming into a delicate flower reaching into the light on the other side. Exquisite in form and content. I'd say it is a masterful distillation or essence of all his previous paintings.

His work has inspired me for many years to create. A book by Theodore Wolff -Morris Graves: Flower Paintings is a constant companion, it includes images of his early work as well as his later floral pieces.  In it Wolff said that, "[o]ne of the most intriguing things about Graves's life is that it appears always to be moving toward greater clarity and resolution. In fact, one could almost say that his life has been one long, ongoing process of healing and reconciliation which has taken him, slowly but inexorably, from a condition of profound frustration and longing to one of relative wholeness and peace."

He had a singular way of expressing a deep connection to nature through his altar-like still lifes. When I returned from spending time in his former studio, walking through his still intact temple of a house, rowing across the lake, experiencing the wet fern lined trails, trying to take in the Redwood trees, I felt inspired to create a new body of work. Work like a prayer to plant life, to all that supports us here on earth. It has been a good journey an investigation that is not over.

But I find myself in a place of pause now, as an injured arm heals, contemplating what is next.  Feeling gratitude for all that has brought me to this place of rest in spite of the inconvenience.  I too have "a glimpse of continuing" and what it might be to live to be 84 plus and still create; to come to the essence of the matter, to beauty, to relative wholeness and peace.


Morris Graves in his garden.


Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Exhibition: Morris Graves, The Nature of Things


Disintegrated and Reanimated, Morris Graves

Throughout his life, Morris Graves lived in remote settings, drawing inspiration from the close observation of nature and imbuing his subjects—predominately animals and plants— with poetic and symbolic qualities. A native of the Pacific Northwest, Graves pursued this singular artistic vision, deliberately maintaining his distance, both geographically and conceptually, from the contemporary New York art scene despite the sudden acclaim he received after exhibiting at MoMA in 1942.
Morris Graves: The Nature of Things features a focused ensemble of the artist’s works from the 1930s to 1950s, a pivotal period in his career. The early paintings and exquisite works on paper, largely from LACMA’s collection, are on display in tandem with select objects from the museum’s Chinese, Japanese and Nepalese holdings. Together they highlight the ways that Asian aesthetics and philosophy informed Graves’s oeuvre.

Inspiration 102


My elders have said to me that the trees are the teachers of the law. As I grow less ignorant I begin to understand what they mean. -Brook Medicine Eagle


The Temple of Many Sapphires is the title to a recent painting I completed in 2014.   It refers to a healing space and a hidden mandala or circle-like a medicine wheel -that resides behind the palest pink curtain of paint in the center. There is a certain alchemy to the mediums in this painting (enamel, oil and metallic brass leaf applied to a panel) that give the piece a reflective quality.  Light shifts throughout the day and makes it an ever changing image, the mediums make the surface sensual- sort of medicine for the eyes and heart.

The image also alludes to plant medicine, there are several leaf patterns in the painting that are made with vintage Japanese stencils. The central leaf design is from a Paulownia tree which has heart-shaped leaves, it is  a reference to fertility, the fruit of the tree produces thousands of tiny seeds, suggested above each leaf in the stencil.

The trees are talking to us, the plants are important teachers on the planet as they nurture us each day.  I have been reading and rereading The Lost Language of Plants by a brilliant ecologist, Stephen Harrod Buhner.  He states, plants were here long before we were, they are our parents on earth in very significant ways. They provide all the materials for our essential needs, nurture us, clean our air, help bring into existence weather patterns and give us medicine.  I hope we will begin to see the importance of being ecologically discerning with each step we take in nature, we need a greater sense of maturity for healing our tendency toward self-destruction.  In these times of discord in the world, I hope we will, one day soon, awaken to the perfection of life as it was once upon a time. And to see earth, the waters, the animals and the vegetation as a vast temple of many.



The Evidence of History

June 2014                                                                                        


The Temple of Knowledge of Healing, 2014

Collection Gloria Larrieu, Michigan


This study presupposes to call as such the phenomenon triggering the spiritual and 

physical beauty, which everyone touched by art is able to feel, from the point when 

several components combine to form one whole. -Kokarova Vassilena


Several new/revisted paintings for a show, Devotions, 2014 inspire me to revise my artist statement.  After an interesting dialogue with two friends yesterday, Hershel Weiss and Hector Contreras I want to express my sincere gratitude for their time and energy spent over several hours, after a delicious breakfast, talking about my new work.  The Temple of Devotion; Spring, Summer, Falling Snow; The Temple of Many Sapphires and ten smaller text based images were birthed during a frenzy of activity in just a few weeks preceding the show.  But each of the three large pieces has a longer history, another story or a pentimento -as the writer Lillian Hillman phrased-something under something that is concealed, a correction or adjustment to the composition.  The word pentimento according to my recent google search is Italian, meaning repentance from the verb pentirsi, to repent. Usually this term is used in art to refer to a single painting that an individual artist created.  It generally refers to a correction made in the process of that creation only revealed by the use of X-ray.  For instance the adjustment of a limb on the image of a body that the artist revised in the process of composing the painting.  In my use of the term here, the adjustment has come much later to a fully realized painting that I significantly changed after some years.  In the case of one piece, The Temple of Devotion, this has been a ten year process. The truth of this painting is in all of the layers, the ones that are visible to the naked eye, as well as the ones below the surface.

Each of the three large 48 x 48 inch pieces in this series have traces, evidence from the previous work-underlayers. They are reclaimed and reincarnated into new images which carry the history and spirit of the old. In an essay on Interpictuality- the author says, 

 "In certain artists the quotation can have the shape of a self-interpicturality. In some the quotation can have the shape of a re-painting. Certain artists transform the repainting into a continual repainting or a variation of the same work." 1

The words, interpicturality as well as intertextuality and intermediality are new to me. Though the conceptual aspect of these words has become second nature to me; in our global existence we continually cross reference in conversation and every time we make a search on the World Wide Web.  Derived from the Latin intertexto, meaning to intermingle while weaving, the term intertextuality was formulated by Julia Kristeva-who wrote in the 1960's about shaping meaning in text through the use other texts, into a unified whole. Shaping meaning or image by the layering of multiple references, parallels my process as I write this on my Mac computer in a program called TextEdit.  I am engaged in the process of intertextuality while multiple windows are open on my desk top: a Wikipedia definition of the word; an essay by Koralova Vassilena on The Interartistic Phenomenon; another on Interpicturality in Braun-Vega's Paintings; all of this on top of a digital image of one of my paintings as a screen saver-another layered image.   Like it or not, it is the world we live in now, mulit-layered windows open on our desktops forever shifting the way that we engage with information and images.

Were it not for the computer and the digital age we live in, I wonder if my work would develop as it has, I wonder whether other artists would have given themselves permission to work with interpicturallity.  We see the birth of this in both Picasso's and Braque's earliest collages, where there is a layering of images sourced from various media. To paraphrase what my friend Hector said in our conversation, "the observer needs to connect through their intuition to the work of art.   What the artist does is to provide conditions of meaning."* They do that through the media, perhaps the title, the scale, color, texture, etc. The conditions of meaning might also include other factors like location, light, sound, etc.  We do live in a new age far different than artists worked in even a generation ago. We weave in and out of so much each day on our screens, a plethora of possibility with media.   


Inspiration: A Japanese Textile

I love stories and as time seems to move faster and faster into our collective future, I believe we need our stories more. I do not believe we leave behind the past but carry it forward with us in the cells of our inner librarian. My work as an artist is about reconsidering history, the layers of media act as metaphors for this personal quest.   My favorite aunt and uncle recently passed away, earlier this year, within two months of one another.  A piece of extraordinary cloth that they had brought back from Japan after WWII impressed me as a child.  It is a silver threaded masterpiece of weaving, a silk cloth for an obi-the broad sash worn around the waist over a kimono. My aunt had a long piece of it framed vertically and it always hung in their living room. It has a pattern of trees, pineor pinon type trees that appear to be flying through a silvery space. After their recent memorial service my brother sent it to me and I now have the great pleasure to live with everyday.

Both my father and my uncle served in the military during WWII.  My uncle, a surgeon, was stationed on a military base, I believe, in Yokahama and my father was a paratrooper sent there during the U.S. occupation post-war. The work I am doing now and just previous to this (see Plum Blossoms for Adversity) is connected to their time there and acts as a sort of healing to the wounds they suffered psychologically and emotionally. The obi cloth threads, the weft and warp of it still inspire me.

All these factors, afford me as a 21st century artist the ability as Vassilena says, "to be better able to express the inexpressible...."2  And that is my ultimate goal, to be better able to express that which is beyond words or images. The spirit of these paintings is meant to convey sacred stories, the text of which continues to arise out of the heart and soul of me. Often the greater meaning runs ahead of me and I catch up to it later. The pentimento of these pieces connects to the past, as a healing balm for what transpired in the world before my generation was born and to the present.   


* "The Conditions of Meaning is a phrase Hector Contreras coined during our conversation June 21, 2014 in reference to my exhibition, Devotions. 



2. The Interartistic Phenomenon, Kolarova Vassilena



Artist Statement January 2013


To Enliven:

ORIGIN mid 17th cent. (in the sense [restore to life, give life to] ; formerly also as inliven): from 16th-cent. enlive, inlive (in the same sense), from en- 1 , in- 2 (as an intensifier) + life .





A canary was sitting on my bed yesterday, right in front of a stack of pillows on a duvet -covered comforter. It is January and my bed is dressed for winter nights.  The canary, (we just met last week), is a recent adoption.  He came from a friend who has cancer and feels less than able to take care of him.  I am pleased to know this little creature, Piccolo, I think we are going to be a good match.  As he is singing his beautiful song as I type, yes, I am very pleased to make his acquaintance. He is known as a Red-factor canary, bred to produce red feathers depending on his diet.  But now he is more a mixture of cadmium orange and lemon yellow.  Piccolo got out of his cage yesterday, all my fault, as I was cavalier in opening the largest door wide during the action of changing the papers on the floor of the cage.  


It was perhaps a subconscious move on my part, to see how he would react, never-the less, I was surprised.   He saw the opportunity to spread his wings and went for it.  Then spent the entire day hopping and flying around my bedroom, hiding under a mirrored nightstand or behind a chair while I vainly attempted to rescue him.   Since he hasn't had much opportunity to fly during his four or five years of life, I suppose I feel kind of sorry for him.  And so I let him have as much time as he wanted, took a relaxed attitude about it -what else could I do-and marveled at the wonder of him throughout the day.  I came and went from the room, careful to close the door lest he get out into the rest of my house.  


Seeing this tiny winged one sitting on the bed looking so absolutely charming, a brilliant yellow life on the white comforter quickened my pulse.  His presence lifting the spirit of the space as he moved from an upholstered chair seat to the floor, then again, flying across the room landing on an Asian cabinet like a living figurine with feathers amongst the framed family photos.  And that brings me to the subject of painting.  It's all about animation right now.  Light and animation. All about making something that references nature but in an ever changing way.   I am working with metallic leaf, composite materials of aluminum and brass, applied in thin layers with varnish to the surface of prepared panels.  I let the leafing make it's way to the tacky varnish when it is almost but not fully dry and with the lightest touch like a feather, press it down.  Sometimes a whole leaf will adhere perfectly without a blemish but more often, it cracks, splits apart and reveals the under-color in the process. I have to accept the organic aspects of this medium and surrender to the nature of the delicate material.   The grid structure the shiny square pieces applied in formation along side the unexpected irregular breaks give the pieces both order and chaos, something like a garden. But it is the way the overall effect of the metallic finish reflects light that I most respond to.  There is no way to capture the changing luster of these paintings photographically.  They never look the same way twice.  They change at all hours of the day, with the seasons, at dawn and dusk, reflecting what is around them. As you move in front of them, your refection glides across the surface, evident in a subtle way, as are the other elements in the room, be that a canary or a jade plant.  I have had to surrender to a semblance of the truth in documenting them because there is no one truth to them.  


The Flora Series is a continuation of a body of work I started last year, early in 2012.  I wasn't sure when I started this work where it would take me, I only knew that something needed to change about my process to accommodate me in the space I work in.  I am fortunate to live in a semi-rural neighborhood in New Mexico.  Urban enough to have community and just enough of what matters to me in terms of landscape: a white horse across the road named Sunday and six goats he lords over, an old massive cottonwood tree.  Always the pace of nature around me, especially in the spring when Rose, my land-lady makes her organic garden available and a field in the back which abut's a park.  But the little house/casita I live in is small and though not nearly ideal in size for a large scale oil painter, it makes up for in character and location.  A friend of mine, also a painter, once told me of a scene from a film she saw about an artist.  The artist only had an armoire and an area rug to call a studio.  I always think back to this vision fondly,  a romantic notion, yes, and as a serious consideration.  That is, in some ways, all we need as artists, everything else is a luxury. 

Piccolo inspired me when he left his cage for a day, the confines of which are, for the most part, all he has ever known.  He animated my space with his curiosity, stretched his wings into my imagination and helped me to consider how these paintings enliven the spaces they exist in, how they receive light and reflect it back.  It is a question I am still considering and no doubt will for some time. It's a dance and I am still learning the steps. And oh yeah, Piccolo is back in his cage singing his beautiful song.



For more of a dialogue on my process, here is a link to a conversation I was part of at Humboldt State University in 2010, with Kirsten Dorje, Lang Julian, Lynn Risling and Deborah Gavel -PAINTING SPIRIT: A Four Part Conversation  http://humboldt-dspace.calstate.edu/handle/2148/37



Artist Statement 2012

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First for the “artist” himself when he paints a piece, and then for the people who are later going to work on seeing this image, to meditate on it and its meaning—and what is more, through this meditation, finally to make the divinity herself appear.

-Franck Andre Jamme

In May of 2011 I was graced with the opportunity to have an artist-in-residency at the Morris Graves Foundation in Loleta, California.  My new work is in response to that time in nature, connecting with the primal Redwood forested land there, walking the wet fern-lined trails to a waterfall.   And in response to the absolute wonder of seeing a bald eagle flying across my field of vision three days in a row over the lake outside the studio space. 

In this moment, I feel on fire with a breath of life that I have not felt before.  Sometimes there is a creative urge that wells up like a torch song, deep and sensual.  Creativity can manifest itself through the body in many ways, all at the same time.  Sometimes it is slow and melancholy for me, or inspiration comes in suddenly like a hiccup in unexpected jolts but does not last. There have been years where a sort of static agitates my body the way a radio station not quite on the mark does, during those times the path as an artist is a struggle to bear with; my clarity is hard to find. For now, in this moment, it is springtime and the birds are chirping and bees are active in the field behind my casita in New Mexico. Life is bursting from the earth in welcome abundance this year. The wisteria in bloom around the neighborhood has never been so fecund and the forever sweet scent of lilacs, my favorite flower, wafts through the airwaves. In the garden outside, though it is still early, much is growing. Everything is reborn and resounding gratitude drips from my brushes.

Fertility expressed everywhere, the wonder of baby green leaves appearing on winter trees, bursting out clouds of tenderness onto the landscape.  With brushes in my hands, oil paint on my fingertips, I want to match the orgy of birds and bees mating around me. My long desire is to visually express the mysterious wonder of all that is; I think I understand better what the Baroque period of the 17th century was all about.  Embellishing the palaces of France and Italy with the most extreme extravagance found in the gardens of nature at springtime.

Stephen H. Buhner, in his book, The Secret Teachings of the Plants explains why Science gets it wrong when thinking compartmentalizes any aspect of being. “Life will never be found in the DNA nor any part of the whole. Life is the thing that is more than the sum of the parts...” We are together in this experience, one superorganism with earth and we cannot exist without other--plants, animals and minerals.  My current work is about an imaging of that idea. 

A new book of Tantric tempera, gouache and watercolors on paper from Rajasthan, India,  I have only seen in reproductions, has inspired my current body of work. What makes these small pieces so compelling is the character of the handmade papers, which has become stained and randomly marked over time, adding something to the overall effect akin to modern art. I bow to the anonymous artists who made these abstract Tantric meditations in an attempt “to make divinity herself appear.”*

In this moment, working with the alchemy of metallic leaf, beeswax and oil, I am enjoying a reverie with mediums - I am thinking about what a painting might look like that weaves the music of Lana Del Rey with the teachings of  the Dali Lama- goddess lounge singer meets the sacred path- with full appreciation for the merging of the sensual and the spiritual.

* for more on Tantric Song


Artist Statement 2009

The Pharmacology of Nature

It is clear we are in a sea change of experience. For some the world seems to be falling apart 

while others see this as a time of great potential for immense change. In the studio I meditate on the 

latter; I am involved in making images that reflect a sense of a flowering of hope for humanity and the 

environment around the globe.  My new work is an effort to communicate an awareness about our 

changing environment through painting. Nature is a theatre of textures and colors, all of it medicinal, 

every flower, every substance has the potential to be healing.  I am interested in the connection be- 

tween creativity and our evolution. 


 Two new paintings, Milk and Honey, True Love and Milk and Honey, Nirvana perhaps best express 

these thoughts. They are amalgams, the result of many materials and combined influences along my 

journey as an artist-- Tibetan mandalas (Thanka paintings,) a love of pattern in nature, textiles from 

indigenous cultures, and long walks in New Mexico. They are offerings of beauty in these troubled 



Often I am influenced by what I am reading and currently rereading, James Elkins’s book: What 

Painting Is has greatly affected my teaching as well my studio time.  Elkins’s book attempts to unfold 

the act of painting and that unlanguaged time artists spend in their studios, mixing and stirring like 

alchemists working with “water and stones,” the basic ingredients common to both painting and al- 

chemy. Elkins’s brilliant sentence, “painting is liquid thought,” says it best.  In the studio I am chef and 

sous-chef, a little mad scientist experimenting with ingredients, answerable only to my intuitive re- 

sponse to the physical qualities of paint. 


A recent “recipe” of wax, gold leaf, turquoise stones, glitter and broken French porcelain has turned 

the tactile surface of my oil paintings into something approaching assemblage. But it is the spiritual 

qualities of these substances or the potential for that which drives me in the studio, --the idea that 

painting like alchemy can be about the pursuit of an ultimate aim, transformation/evolution, appeals to 

my artisan nature. Working with material matter in a quest for truth and beauty, the methods, like the 

mythology of alchemy, can be obscure.  Yet it is just that mysterious quality, ever elusive, which com- 

pels me to continue the quest. 


In the broadest sense, my work is multi-cultural.  It has a “heritage” that is as diverse as my own 

Eastern European and Native American ancestry. My paternal Grandmother, who was a Polish immi- 

grant and spoke little English, communicated with me through other means. I remember the shelves 

in her dining room always had elaborately painted Easter eggs resting in little stands. The eggs were 

covered with intricate floral designs, using a wax- resist method.  She was also an alchemist, trans- 

forming eggs, flour, water and golden raisins into the greatest bread.  My childhood memories are 

framed in a sort of synesthesia of sight and taste, a merging of my senses to experience visual pat- 

terns as something delicious.  Essentially, this work, like my Grandmother’s bread,  is about an en- 

gagement with the physical senses, a sensibility that reaches toward a visual seduction and a culture 

of the heart.