Artist’s Statement

context & concepts, mythology, meaning

I am a woman artist of many gifts and many challenges, of mixed heritage and mixed story, working (perhaps not surprisingly) in many/mixed media. I am very visibly white, yet have inherited through my mother and her mother, a line of Anishnaabe heritage that touches my heart and therefore my work though it has not touched (and is therefore rendered invisible by) my AngloCeltic skin. I am a survivor of multiple forms of abuse and assault, both in childhood and as an adult. Though I would wish it other, these things have left their marks, yet those scars are invisible to others. At this juncture, I am verging on becoming an elder (albeit somewhat prematurely); as well, rather plumper than not in a culture that finds fat abhorrent. Either of these tend to render a woman invisible in this media-dominated day and age, let alone both. I have been and will always be at my core, a mother… among the least seen of peoples in this messed up modern culture. Being female, of course, will always bring issues of visibility and invisibility; scrutiny of our bodies, erasure of our skills and minds... is it possible to be a woman artist without being or becoming also feminist? The answer for me would be "no", and the issues of being a woman are surely woven through my work.

For much of my life I have suffered from invisible disability; I have lived with high level chronic whole body neuropathic pain (aka RSD/CRPS) for almost half of my life; medical distress has been a near constant companion, as have multiple, complex, frequently life threatening, rare, genetic conditions. The most crucial of these, Systemic Mast Cell Disease, remained undiagnosed for most of my life, the rest were more often than not under-treated, mismanaged or ignored. Though angels of mercy (and medical knowledge) have appeared throughout my life, it is only in the last decade that the devastating impact of this rare and overwhelmingly complex disease has begun to receive wider recognition. And despite challenges with joints, connective tissues and mobility since very early on (thanks to Ehlers Danlos Syndrome), it is only for the last decade that I have also "come out" as a cripple by virtue of needing a wheelchair for locomotion. And yet "coming out" in this case has given me yet another taste of invisibility... as people speak to my caregivers rather than to me, speak over my head, avoid meeting my eye. For so many reasons, I have been, and am often yet among the ghost-people of this world… issues of the secret, the hidden, the invisible, the unseen and untold have been lifelong; as such they inform my life’s work as well.

Some find my work surprisingly varied; but then, that makes sense, too. I have lived in or traveled through nearly every province in Canada, almost every US state... and in this varied life, a radical range of experience and emotion... Given my history, it is surely not surprising that pain and trauma are voiced through my work as through my life. Yet I know that the joy, humour and lightness of heart that have sustained me are equally apparent. Despite my compulsive mothering tendencies, I am at heart, not childish, nor even exactly child-like, more truly still the child I was when I came in; both mother and child are at work and respresented in my art. I have been confined to a wheelchair, at times to a bed or a room (hospital or other) for large segments of my life. I lost the use of both arms for over a decade, and with that, lost the priceless gift and succour of creating art. I know isolation and restriction while I have yet found freedom and flight through artistic expression. I know grief and despair as well as physical pain; I have been betrayed by those I trusted while frequently finding kindness in unexpected places. I have experienced poverty, especially in my youth; I have repeatedly lived without home. Yet I have been richer than a prince in terms of love received. All of these contrasts and juxtapositions can be found in my work. My condition often involves life-and-death battle, and I have been informed that I may anticipate a truncated life expectancy as well; yet I have out-lived prognoses time and again, beaten back the sythe with weapons of spirit (mine and others') as much any. Death and deterioration, rebirth and renewal, the contrast between the vibrancy of the human spirit and the viscerality of being housed in mortal flesh are among the mysteries my work at times explores.

I have not survived the challenges of my life without being given gifts to balance them… innate, inner strengths; imagination, compulsive creativity, a relatively agile mind, a humorous eye, a love of learning, a leaning toward joy, the ability to love truly and a will to live without lies. I was born a creature all heart and hands and eyes, with an instinctive connection to the mystery and magic of the earth and its plant and animal people, and a fervent drive to create. I was lucky to have loving caregivers (especially Grandparents and adopted parental figures) in earlier life who encouraged those parts of me to thrive despite my struggles. I have had the indelibly precious gift of incredible loving, loyal spouse and (now adult) children who are among the deepest and most supportive friends of my life. And have been gifted by the appearance at important junctures of rare special healers and health practitioners who have kept the Reaper at bay, and ever and always, by kindred-spirit strangers and loving, true-heart friends scattered through my life as stars in the darkness. Also artists, writers, farmers, philosophers, scientists, shamans and teachers who have shared their knowledge, their skills, and their stories. Each of these gifts and gift-givers nourished and sustained me through trial and travail.

These gifts have engendered gifts in turn (as is the way of gifts); they haven given me gratitude, an open heart, clear sight (even as the glorious clarity of my optical vision wanes), a knowing hand (I often think it knows much more than the rest of me), accurate memory (sometimes painfully so), acute perceptivity and strength; a vitality and endurance that have outdistanced even the epic and unrelenting medical battles of my life, as well as the other less corporeal struggles. All of these fuel and are fueled by the act of artistic creation… both challenges and gifts have made me a person who must communicate, who must create, who must make art of any and every kind. Literature has been another caring constant counter-force in my life; I have been nursed by nursery rhymes, fostered by fantasy, prepared by poetry, mentored by mythology; yet for all of that feast of the flow of others’ words, and my not so secret love affair with word-play of my own, it is the silent, sacred medium of visual art that remains my glowing heart.

In the pieces of life between struggle, I have tried to be of service; to care and to comfort, to share and succour, to reach, to teach, to listen and to love, to always put others first. But in this the latter part of my life, with the truly miraculous return of the use of my hands and arms (despite the price I still so often must pay), I find that aside from taking time for the people closest to me, it is at last a time to be selfish; to feed that glowing heart by setting aside the myriad other demands and desires of life and to focus on creation… on colour and line and form and tone… to paint, to dream of painting, and then to paint again… for as long as I am able. I am grateful to my family and all the friends and forces that have come together to give me a beautiful studio for this time of my life, and I promise to use it for all I am worth.

For visitors to this site, I ask that you respect my copyright, refrain from attempts to reproduce my work, only ever use my work with my explicit permission; I also ask that you enjoy yourself in the sometimes strange, sometimes silly, sometimes sacred, sometimes scary (so I have been told) worlds of my creation. If you find solace, enjoyment, or inspiration here, I am glad. If you feel that some piece calls to you and you would like to see it daily, or give it to someone who would love it as well, please do not hesitate to contact me via this site. Although not all of my work is currently available, I can provide exceptional quality prints of most pieces upon request, and I am open to custom creation. To all of my visitors, welcome, I wish you good travels here and elsewhere, I wish you the joy of creation, I wish you kind interactions, I wish you peace.