Autobiography

I double-majored in art and theatre at Edgewood College where I did a lot of painting, lots of plays and worked in the theatre building sets.  Then I studied at University of Wisconsin Madison, which was great because I took dance, life drawing and anatomy, women's bodies and art history, all at the same time.  It was wonderful.  I studied printmaking at Loyola University, in New Orleans for a year when I lived down there, before moving to New York City, where earned a Certificate in Botanical Art and Illustration, from the New York Botanical Garden.  My teachers were all professional, New York City artists, so aside from learning a specific skill in art, I also learned how to make a living with the skills I acquired

Where did you study art?

I stayed in New York and worked freelance in the fashion industry, and as assistant to the Facilities Manager at Barneys New York.  I painted mannequins, installed windows displays, worked for months getting ready for Christmas, organized the storage warehouse and got fixtures ready to be shipped.  In my spare time, I attended at The New York Open Center, studying art, movement, herbalism and Native American studies.  I was also doing a great deal of research for a writing project I was working on, so I spent days in the reading room, of the New York Public Library.  That was my life, until I moved to Richmond.

What did you do after school?

When I first arrived, I carried with me from New York, a Village Voice article about The Fever, by Wallace Shawn.  I hadn't read the play yet, but the article entrigued me.  Once I read it, I was driven to perform it.  The play deals with class, privilege and the rule of law.  It took me six months to memorize the 68-pages and another two months to overcome my stage-fright.  I ended performing the two-hour monologue the way Shawn did----in living rooms, art galleries and small theatres, raising money Amnesty International and the Women's Caucus for Art. 

I became heavily involved in the Richmond Women's Caucus for Art.  I made some of my oldest and dearest friends in that group.  I served on the board, and then as Chairwoman, did fundraising, wrote the newsletter.  I educated artists on the business of being an artist, created opportunities for women to exhibit their work and educated the public on the contributions of women artists.

It was around this time, I opened my own business, painting a wide variety of things like ceiling murals, gymnasium floors, furniture and even an altar table.  I got one great client, the Millwork Specialist, and that client opened the doors for me to connect to The Homestead, Scott and Stringfellow and The Glave Firm.  I started exhibiting my fine art, first with the Women's Caucus, then at the Martha Mabey and Fulcrum Galleries.  More recently I have exhibited at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Studio School and at Crossroads Art Center.

How did you get established in Richmond?

The same thing that happened to my first painting----nothing.  But it was of tremendous value to me because it shaped me into a writer.  Since that project, I have gone onto complete a collection of prayers called Novenas to the Universe, a consciousness raising deck of cards designed to be used in a support group titled The Juno Cards and a yet-to-be produced musical----Circle of Mysteries: The Word, The Song, The Dance.  My intention with my writings, like my teaching and performance work, is to help people examine themselves, assess the box they have allowed themselves to be put in and use art as a way to break free from internal and external limitations. Something I have learned to do over and over again.  

What happened with your first writing project?

Only interesting things that I care deeply about.  I like doing grassroots community events, combining music, dance, poetry or story telling.  I have written, performed and choreographed, both solo and ensemble work for Unity of Richmond, Charisma Dance Company, Electric Nomad and Beyond Barbie.  I collaborated with Twila Jane Sikorsky for the 2012 production of Raqs Illuminaire: Dance of Lights and the 2018 production of Eternal Forest.   Beyond Barbie is Susan Singer's collaborative performance series by women, about women, for everyone.  I produced and performed in several events with her.  My work with both Twila and Susan, grew out of our shared dedication to women and helping them find their own voices, by reclaiming a positive relationship with their bodies and expressing creatively through dance.  For me, movement is a practice, very much like painting, of releasing what we no longer need and becoming clear, finding our true authentic voices.  I've practiced yoga since I was 18, trained to teach yoga, bellydance and Bollywood and taught my own blend of movement for seven years.

What kind of performance work do you do?

The focus of my visual art reflects my love of the natural world, which is my personal source of solace and inspiration.  I grew up on a farm, spent a lot of time outdoors and loved sleeping in the woods.  For the past four years, I have been Creative Director for The Forest Project, documenting 60 acres of urban forest before, during and after it was clear-cut for development. I supervised volunteers in rescuing plants, collecting seeds and salvaging parts of an 1865 farmhouse.  To date, 30 artists were inspired to create 100 works of art and I'm still collaborating with some of them.   It was easy to get people involved because everyone cares so deeply about deforestation.  I was mightily attached to that forest.  It was my muse for 20 years.  It was hard watching it come down, but I was able to do so gracefully because of the work of The Forest Project.

What is the focus of your visual art?

Making more quilts, prints and installation pieces for The Forest Project.  For much of the last four years, I have been in collection mode, gathering a tremendous amount of resources from the forest, and from the house that stood at its center. Now it's time to refine it into art. Thankfully, I just received a grant from CultureWorks to install electricity in my studio, which will mean I can start transforming a storage space into a working space.  

I also spend a lot of time teaching drawing and painting, which I have been doing for the last seven years.  I am faculty at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and teach at Green Spring Gardens in Alexandria, Virginia, Shake Rag Alley Center for the Arts in Mineral Point, Wisconsin, and at The Clearing Folk School in Ellison Bay, Wisconsin.  I love teaching because it makes me a better artist and I get to meet the most wonderful people.  I lecture and teach at garden clubs, quilting groups, botanical gardens, schools, art centers and museums.  I have a wonderful life.

What are you working on now?