Lost In Composition – interview

Activism, Art, collaboration, creativity, family, Film, Narrative, Origin story, process, Story

I’m so grateful to art collector Paul Drinkwine for inviting me to partake in his project, Lost In Composition, “an art blog focusing on living artists and their works.” What a gift, to have this growing record of folks making art in our region at this moment in time.

Our conversation covered a 30 year span ~ starting with my activism, then moving through my work in film, photography, parenting, and finally visual art. What a rare treat to have this much time and space to reflect on my life and creative journey!

Paul created this dedicated page for our conversation which includes his reflections, images of work we discussed, and links to other artists mentioned in our conversation.

I look forward to seeing who he selects for future episodes…

 

 

Winter/Spring Art News…

Art, Art For Sale, collaboration, creativity, education, Exhibition, Gallery, inspiration, Narrative, Origin story, process, Speaking, Story

Just published my Newsletter with updates on 1) creative collaborations with filmmakers, authors, musicians & chefs, 2) my foray into teaching, and 3) shows in venues around town.

You can click the Subscribe button at the top of the page if you would like receive my newsletters (I send out 2-3 a year).

Composing a Life” – Acrylic mixed media on 24″x 24″ wood shipping panel.

 

Memorial Day (Commission) – Origin Story

Art, collaboration, creativity, inspiration, Narrative, Origin story, process, Story, Works In Progress
This Spring, I received a captivating commission request. Chris Weber and Jack Gingrich were long-time employees and soon-to-be co-owners of The Herbfarm, a restaurant that creates thematic 9-course dinners showcasing the exceptional seasonal food and wines of the Pacific Northwest.

In his initial email, Chris shared The Herbfarm’s compelling origin story. Theirs is an inter-generational story of hope, ambition, success, tragedy, resilience, and grace. At its essence, this painting would be about inheritance and legacy ~ my creative core. As I read it, I could clearly see how every layer of this painting could correspond to a chapter in The Herbfarm’s life.


On our site visit, a few more things came into focus. The decor of the restaurant is formal Victorian, which is not in my artistic wheelhouse. Having an abstract piece was going to be a departure, so I wanted to keep it simple, organic and elegant. I wanted the painting to feel like a weathered, textured rock face you might encounter on a hike. Against the dark walls, this statement piece would be mostly white and monochromatic. We decided on a diptych with a circle connecting the two halves, but wanted to make sure the two halves could also stand on their own. And mimicking the restaurant’s palette, I limited my paint palette to natural, earth-based pigments ~ ochres, umbers, saffron, indigo… 

 

The following process photos show the evolution of this painting. The captions are pulled from Chris’s initial email…but you can find a beautiful rendition of The Herbfarm’s history on their website.

The original owners, Carrie Van Dyck and Ron Zimmerman, started this restaurant in a plant nursery; Memorial Day 1986. 

 

 
It was built from the ground up…

 

The restaurant flourished…

 
…receiving national recognition and a dedicated cult following within a decade. 

 

 

 

 

 In January 1997, an electrical fire burned the restaurant and offices to the ground. 

Origin Story – “Where Justice Meets Joy”

Art, creativity, Origin story, process, Story, Works In Progress

This piece taught me about the role of art in my life, which I wrote about here. But I wanted to assemble the origin story of this painting. So here’s a look back at the rather challenging evolution of this painting.

. . . . . . . .

2/14/2020: New day, new words, new piece. The words inscribed on this piece is the following quote from John O’Donohue: “Your soul knows the geography of your destiny. Your soul alone has the map of your future, therefore you can trust this indirect, oblique side of yourself. If you do, it will take you where you need to go, but more important it will teach you a kindness of rhythm in your journey.”

2/14/2020 End of Day: This metro map of my hometown will be coursing thru the painting like veins just below the surface. #Rockville #RedLine

2/20/20: I seem to have painted myself into a corner. By the end of the day, the painting was feeling too tight and controlled.

3/2/20: …and now for something Completely Different. The metro piece has taken a turn as I play with perspective and purples for a change.💜

Point of Process

#NoPanelLeftBehind, Art, creativity, inspiration, Narrative, process, Story, Works In Progress

I’ve recently become aware that I need to refine how I talk about my creative process. My process is largely iterative ~ far from linear. I love repurposing old paintings, building upon the history that is already there. I’m happy to abandon ideas of where I was trying to steer my painting, and open myself up to where it wants to go.

But in the midst of these bold 180s, one can miss the fact that there is a method to the madness. Every layer is deliberate and serves a purpose. Every layer is infused with intention. And this intention, whether it can be seen in the final piece or just felt, can be sensed by the viewer when they stand in front of the finished painting.


For example, here are four starts to four separate pieces:

• A meditation on contemplative imagination (and the ways that our art can amplify our activism).

• 2 collaged panels of transcribed interviews with my family/Chagga tribal elders.

• And images of notable milestones in my life.

Even though my approach might seem intuitive and loose, rest assured, it is not random or mindless. Every layer serves a purpose and informs the final piece, even if they lie deeply embedded beneath the surface…🤓

10 years ago today…

creativity, family, Film, inspiration, Narrative, process, Story

#TBT2011 10 years ago today, I had the thrill of seeing myself, my family, my film through a stranger’s eyes. Lindy West (who later authored Shrill, The Witches Are Coming, and most recently Shit, Actually) wrote the first ever review of my film. By the end of it, I was crying. Up until that moment, I had no idea whether my film would resonate or connect with anyone outside my circle of friends and family. Mostly because I had been told by funders and distributors for 8 years that no one would care. I was an unknown. There was no one famous in my film. It took place in “Africa. Who could relate to this? Why should anyone care about the stories of these people? What makes you think your story matters to anyone but you?” It was a relentless torrent of unequivocal No’s.

So after hearing (but not believing) that my personal story was unrelatable, the power of seeing my film reflected back at me in Lindy’s words knocked the wind out of me.  She got it.  She got all of it. She offered insights into my family and my story that I hadn’t even made. I felt seen and validated.

I cannot overstate the power of this moment.  Reading Lindy’s words erased the years of rejection, and set me on a new course.  I stood taller. I breathed deeper. I stopped seeking the permission or approval of traditional gatekeepers, hoping they could pave the way for my film. I carved out my own path instead, and my film’s life span has exceeded all expectations.

My take away, from both my film and experiencing Lindy’s review ~
Never underestimate the power of bearing witness to another person’s story.🖤

Quieting the Mind – Origin Story

Art, creativity, Narrative, Origin story, process, Works In Progress

🔴 1/5/2021: “Quieting the Mind” (40″x30″) is a painting I never thought would leave my house. It’s a subtle piece that’s impossible to photograph ~ so it was never going to sell online. And being mostly white, it didn’t show well on white gallery walls. So I stopped showing it/sharing it, and hung it in the espresso colored living room where I write every morning. Then a dear friend/neighbor/fellow artist asked if she could come by this weekend to see my paintings. And this is the piece that caught her eye. It’s amazing how each painting finds its way to the person who’s meant to have it. This one is easily overlooked by some, mesmerizing to others. And it’s a piece that could only ever have been bought by someone who saw it in person. Thank you for taking the time to notice this piece, S.G. I’m honored that it will be living on in your love-filled home at the end of the lane.🌸

Here is a look back at the relatively swift evolution of this piece.

. . . . . . . . .

May 19, 2019: Starting a new 30″x40″ piece with India ink calligraphy that says “Natural Woman.” I used my favorite jumbo brush (on the right) from Elizabeth Schowachert.

 

Process shots of the piece as it evolves, starting with blanket layers of colors.  First the warm layers…

 

…followed by the cool. I really like the feel at this stage. I love the fresh marks, the reds poking through, the shades of Spring green, the hints of dark and light. I have to actively resist falling in love with parts of the painting at this early stage. Because I know this is just getting started.

 

Swinging back to add more warms. The green/red is such an unusual combination for me. I think all the poppies on my morning walks are working their way into my paintings.

 

[Following the opening reception for my first solo show the previous night]: This introvert’s need to retreat after the high octane output of the past couple weeks is showing up in today’s painting, as I turn the volume down on the already quiet conversations in this piece. Spent most of the day scraping back and dissolving the surface layers to reveal the understory ~ then coating the piece with shades of warm white. Time for my painting (and me) to rest! So I’m putting it up on the kitchen wall, and will see how it feels in the light of day.

 

June 9, 2019: After a month of hanging on the wall, this piece is back on my easel for some fine tuning. The white was feeling a bit heavy handed in areas. So I scraped it back with a razor to let some more of the under layers poke through. Then I smoothed it over lightly with some cooler whites. This is one of my quietest pieces to date. And I love the submerged thoughts, ideas, memories poking through. Finding the sweet spot between hidden & revealed feels like the balancing act of quieting the monkey mind during meditation…

Art as Resistance

Activism, Art, Art For Sale, creativity, Narrative, process

Where Justice Meets Joy (2020)

I’ve been reflecting on the role of art in my life this past year. As a queer, mixed race, black-skinned daughter of immigrants ~ and as a mom with a daughter starting high school ~ carving out time to get into the studio each day is saving me and keeping me sane.

I started this painting on Valentine’s Day ~ in the Time Before. This piece saw me through the shutting down of life as we know it due to the global COVID pandemic. I learned that fire tornados and murder hornets are real things. I weathered cancelled openings and events, and missed graduations and family gatherings. As the world stood still, I bore witness to the brutal slayings of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Rayshard Brooks, Michael Ramos, Dreasjon Reed, Tony McDade, David McAtee, Carlos Carson. And I found inspiration in the youth-led uprising that fueled the protests and demands for justice in the months that followed.

Out in the world, I was confronted with, and witnessed, oppressive hatred aimed at eradicating all that I embody and love. In my 20s, the energy of these encounters would have ignited the righteous anger that fueled my activism. Now that I’m just shy of 50, I find that anger, even when it’s righteous, is no longer a generative power source for me. Instead, it drains me, shuts me down and closes me off.

My focus this past year has been refusing to allow this groundswell of hatred, willful ignorance, and fear-mongering to diminish my humanity. Choosing to come from a place of beauty, compassion, accountability, generosity, resilience and joy is an act of radical love. I believe this gritty, robust, eyes-wide-open love is the root of liberation. My resistance meant daring to believe that the world through my eyes, as a queer Black woman, is relevant and beautiful and worthy of consideration.

Instead of absorbing the caustic energy, I poured my rage, fear and grief into this painting. After 8 months, the energy gave way to something new and surprising. And out of many layers of pain emerged a vision of a world where justice and joy coincide. The painting was offering me a vision of liberation that was deeply seeded in this radical kind of love.

So this year ~ and this painting ~ have taught me three things about the role of art in my life.

  • Art is my portal to Liberation.
  • Making art is how I convert energy into matter.
  • Art is no longer an ‘if I have time’ matter. It has become as integral to my well-being as my daily writing practice. It is a must. It helps me repair and restore the parts of my soul that are beyond the reach of words.

Collaboration with Spektral Quartet

Art, collaboration, creativity

photo by Daniel Kullman

Shortly after Thanksgiving, I was contacted by a member of the Chicago-based Spektral Quartet.  As part of their upcoming virtual Seattle Town Hall performance, “Something to Write Home About,” this Multi Grammy-nominated quartet is inspiring audiences to move beyond passive listening by sharing the stories, letters and interviews that expose the inner workings of composers’ creative processes. And for this performance, Spektral Quartet will be using writing prompts and postcards to invite audience members to reflect on their own life stories.

Wanting to partner with a Seattle artist to provide the artwork for these postcards, they came across my website and felt the mood of my photography was the perfect complement for their writing prompts. So they reached out with an invitation to collaborate! The process couldn’t have been easier, and the conversations that followed have been profound and illuminating. (More on this soon…)

Everyone who buys tickets before 1/21 will receive their stamped postcard six-pack in the mail the week of the show. Performance is on Fri. 2/12 at 7:30pm PT. Tickets can be purchased HERE.

SHOP PRINTS & PRODUCTS

Art, Art For Sale, creativity, Print

I am so excited to announce the launch of my SHOP where you can now purchase my art as fine art prints, cards, face masks, notebooks, throw pillows, and more!  I’ve been selling through FineArtAmerica for the past 4 years, and am delighted that I can finally integrate my shop into this site.

I’m especially excited about the masks, which is a new addition to their product line, and strikes me as a Win-Win-Win-Win!  You get to:

  1. Wear original art that makes your soul sing.
  2. Support a living, Black artist.
  3. Protect yourself.
  4. Protect others.

I will always have 25 pieces on my site.  But I will periodically update the available artwork to keep the selection fresh and current.  As I rotate in new pieces, I will be retiring older works.

Here is a small sampling of the masks currently available for purchase:

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To check out the full range of available prints and products, please head over to my SHOP page.

And if you’re interested in purchasing (or inquiring about) original paintings, please visit my PAINTINGS page.

Thank you kindly!