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.💜

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…

When We Were One

Art, Art For Sale, creativity, family, inspiration, Narrative, Origin story, Story

Everything I create is about exploring the stories I’ve inherited and the stories I’m passing down. I make art to better understand my place in this flow of cultural inheritance and legacy.

When I was pregnant, I had a book that gave weekly updates about the fetus development. I remember reading one week that if I was having a girl, my body was creating all the eggs she will ever carry.

Having worked for 12 years as a crisis counselor, and knowing what I know about inter-generational trauma, I didn’t take this news lightly. So I took that week off, and reflected on what it means to be creating descendants whom I may never meet.

When We Were One” deals specifically with this week, being pregnant with my daughter ~ and more expansively, considers the bloodlines that connect us all. 

Here is a short video where I reflect on what this piece means to me…

 

Origin Story ~ Slow Time (and the Joy Within)

#NoPanelLeftBehind, Art, Origin story, Works In Progress
Sept. 17, 2019: Hitting the reset button by scribbling on and laying down tons of color on old encaustic paintings that were going nowhere.  #NoPanelLeftBehind

September 18: Not my plan at all. But hunting through my doodle scaps, I found my elephant silhouette and couldn’t resist. This will likely get painted over on Friday,..but I’m leaving it today, because it’s bringing me joy.

December 1: Dreaming of going home to Tanzania so much lately.  It’s been 4+ years since our last family trip to Mt Kilimanjaro to see my parents.  Counting down the days…

The Paths We Travel

Art, Exhibition, family, Gallery, Narrative, Origin story, Story

Artist Statement

As a kid, I found it comforting to think about how wildly the universe had to conspire just so I could be here. I would lie in bed and think about all the serendipitous moments that had to happen just so my Tanzanian father and South Korean mother could meet, halfway around the world, and have me. I would think about the epic stories of love, betrayal, sacrifice, migration, survival ~ all the random encounters and deliberate life choices extending back generations that had to happen just so my parents could meet and have me.

And as I got older, made friends and met their families, I realized that everyone has stories that are epic in scope ~ even if their families have lived in the same town for generations.

Every one of us is the embodiment of the life stories of our parents, our grandparents, our ancestors. We carry their stories forward with us, whether we’re conscious of them or not. But make no mistake ~ we are all here because of these stories.

Making art is how I make sense of these stories I’ve inherited about who I am and where I come from…and the stories I’m now passing down. As a mother, I feel compelled to think about where I stand in this flow of cultural inheritance and legacy. These paintings reflect the internal and external landscapes that have been traversed just to reach this point where our paths could cross in this gallery, in this city, at this moment in time…

Currently on exhibit at
Columbia City Gallery (Seattle)
through Jan. 5, 2020.

The many faces of “Broadstairs” (Origin story)

#NoPanelLeftBehind, Art, Exhibition, Narrative, Origin story, Story, Works In Progress

One painting, from start to finish, in 768 days…

This 24″x 24″ painting has undergone a surprising number of transformations before finally settling on the Broadstairs piece currently exhibiting at Northwest Encaustics. As one of the more epic #NoPanelLeftBehind pieces, I decided to trace Broadstairs back to its origins, and offer snapshots of its evolution over the past 2 years…

March 13, 2017

Most of my pieces begin with writing…whether it be part of a journal entry, passage from a book, lyric, poem. The base layers here also includes wood glue burn, yellow india ink, and several clear coats of encaustic medium.

March 13, 2017

School’s out, which means my studio assistant is on hand to scrape back the layers. Always happy to let the kid loose on my paintings. I consider this a good return on my investment.😉

The Stories We Inherit

Art, Film, Installation, Origin story, Story, Works In Progress

Backstory:  Couple months ago, a friend invited me to create a piece for a project she’s working on about dimensional wax pieces. While most of my encaustic paintings are textured and could be considered “dimensional,” I really wanted to push myself to get off the wood panel and see what I could create in 3D space. She asked for a piece that reflected the themes of cultural inheritance and legacy I explored in my film, A Lot Like You.

This prompt reminded me that in April 2018, I pulled out the transcripts of family stories I collected for my film — and, with no clear end goal in mind, I started cutting up and inking the shredded transcripts…trusting that they would some day find their way into a piece…

4/17/18 – These interviews I transcribed with my family elders on Kilimanjaro were the heart of my film. Even on the page, my Aunts’ stories are arresting. Now these transcripts will form the foundation of my next piece…

 

4/20/18 – As an encaustic artist, it’s rare that I can work on an art piece outside my studio. so I’m relishing being able to ink the shredded paper wherever I please. Especially on a day like today when I’m feeling pretty lousy, I can binge watch Theaster Gates & Andy Goldsworthy docs while reclining on our sofa, wrapped in a cozy blanket and sipping coffee.

 

4/20/18 – End of Day 3…inking each piece by hand is a slow and meditative process. 7 hours straight today. Time to switch gears and walk the dog!

 

FAST FORWARD TO 2019…

2/14/19 – …and now, for something completely different!! Spent the past 2hrs cleaning the studio, getting ready to work with encaustic, paper, wire and fabric. Won’t have anything finished to show for the next few weeks…but i’ll be posting detail shots of this piece in progress. (just for the record, i have Absolutely No Idea where this is going. i’m just committing to experimenting with 3D play.) 🙂

 

 

2/14/19 – The motif of yesterday’s painting of chain links takes root as I finally find a use for the shredded transcripts of family interviews that I inked last year.  While I don’t have much experience constructing dimensional pieces–I do remember making paper chains in grade school…

 

2/15/19 – Spending all day making encaustic paper chains out of shredded family transcripts. 5hrs down, 4hrs to go…

 

2/21/19 – I started the day making strands of orange & red, but then decided to limit my palette to colors of the Tanzanian flag — fitting since these paper chains are made from shredded transcripts of interviews with the Tanzanian side of my family. So now I’m focusing my efforts on blues, greens, yellows. Onward!

 

2/25/19 – All day, today & tomorrow, I’ll be 1) coating transcript strips with encaustic medium on the hot plate to 2) make links, then 3) gluing them into chains. Podcast playlist is packed, headphones are fully charged. Here we go…♡

3/1/19 – Much gratitude and love to my friend Connie for coming over this morning to help me create an alginate mold of my face.

 

3/1/19 – Been obsessively scraping and cleaning up this piece with my pottery & dental tools for 4 hours straight. SO satisfying! But it’s time to step away, and return with fresh eyes tomorrow to check out my handiwork in the light of day…

 

3/4/19 – As I experiment with making an encaustic cast of my face, I’m struck by how much the wax-filled mold looks like an oyster shell…🌊

 

3/5/19 – Turned out, and cleaned up, the encaustic cast of my face. The verdict is still out re: how I feel about it. It’s getting a bit weird (and eerie), having disembodied faces on my work table. Here’s hoping I can turn them into something beautiful!

 

I made this short video about the “source material” for these paper chains – shredded transcripts of the family stories I gathered while filming on Mt. Kilimanjaro in 2003.

 

3/19/19 – Working on the bottom half of my dimensional encaustic piece today — arranging the wax/paper chain in (what I hope will be) an ascending spiral!🤞🏽

 

3/26/19 – Spending the day weaving twigs to form the interior walls of the Chagga hut that will surround the wax mask…♡ Wood up top, paper below.

 

3/28/19 – Yesterday was a “2steps forward/1step back” kind of day. This is the challenge and the thrill of #LearningByDoing . Even tho I had to undo a lot of my work, no effort was lost. Each go-around leaves a trace of story that will be seen and felt in the final piece. Every turn is worth the effort.

 

3/28/2019 – #TBT2004 to filming in my father’s Chagga hut on Mt. Kilimanjaro. Fast forward 15 years, different medium, same story (exploring my cultural inheritance and legacy). Spent today finishing the woodwork that, for me, is reminiscent of the interior of our hut.♡

 

3/29/19 – The Stories We Inherit (72″x 12″x 11″) – Wax, wood, wire, and paper. Calling this piece done…for now…at least in its current iteration. You know how it goes.