B.F.A., 1993, San Francisco Art Institute
Due to recent concerns about the loss of honey bees and other species, I have been taking a break from my other painting interests to work on the "Garden Variety" series of creatures found in urban gardens.
While in England several years ago, my eye was caught by some photographs of birds and tree houses in a newspaper. I tore out the pages and brought them back home, compelled to paint them all. There was one picture in particular, of a tiny robin fledgling, with which I fell in love. After I had painted it, I went on to portray a woodpecker, then a thrush, and cardinals; ghostly images of tree branches, nests, thickets, holes, honeycombed hives, or bird houses, all hint at potential or actual loss of abode or habitat.
I began to search online, requesting - and getting - permission from photographers to use their images of hummingbirds, a tufted titmouse, a caterpillar, butterflies and bees.
Oh, bees! A honeybee on a flower was next, and then bees doing what bees
do on honeycomb - this last, in particular, a natural outcome of my love
for beeswax encaustic with mixed media. I paint all these various
creatures in oil on top of encaustic wax layers which incorporate
wallpaper, origami paper, and/or decorative papers, feathers and gold leaf
on panels. This is my ongoing Garden Variety series.
from website statement archive:
I find myself researching and contemplating the roles that nature played in ancient mythologies, and how we yearn for connections to nature in our own lives. Later on, my creative interpretations will gradually, or suddenly, evolve.
My encaustic mixed media is made with pigmented beeswax, oil paint, colored pencils (occassional found objects, such as bones, leaves, insect wings), and/or pastels, usually on birch panels. Although I often make a sketch or study--particularly for figurative and portrait work--it all comes into being through process. Often an element of chance leads me in a direction different than what I had originally intended. This is both terrifying and exciting.
I discovered the nature muse by reading The White Goddess, by Robert Graves. (When I was twenty, I had given it to my father, John Howard, a Hollywood actor who later became a Waldorf high school English/drama teacher. Our family would gather, filled with anticipation, to watch every single episode of the British production of Graves' "I, Claudius" when it first aired on public television in Los Angeles. I'd had little interest in reading The White Goddess at the time I gave it to him, but when he died in 1995, I pulled it off his bookshelf, suddenly curious. He had bookmarked many pages with paper-clips (as many as fifty!). As I began to explore these pages, I got hooked; the next thing I knew, I was spellbound.*)
The Sacred Grove series, using photographs I took while in Ireland, Wales, Scotland, and England, of certain trees and Celtic ruins, like the Celtic Knots, is on hold for now. All are centered upon the symbolism of ancient Celtic tree-worship, invoking the spirit of Taliesin, the Sacred Grove, or Goddess worship. For example, Urania, Brizo of Delos, got its title from The White Goddess.
*With all due respect, I am not interested in the practices or results of nature-magick, aka "Wicca" (I am satisfied a certain amount of mystery in life)! But recognition of my Celtic ancestry began for me at age ten, when I first switched on FM radio, surfing stations until I was captured by the voice of Tommy Makem singing live with the Clancy Brothers, playing "The Wind That Shakes The Barley" and "The Connemara Lullaby," both songs wistful and melancholic. (Also read S Page's music comments.)
Robert McNamara writes, "Suantrai is the Gaelic word for lullaby...[such a] beautiful melody can be heard in a recording by the Irish a capella group, "Anuna." Their name derives from the Gaelic "An Uaithne", which is the collective name of the three ancient types of Irish music: Suantrai (lullaby), Geantrai (happy song), and Goltrai (lament)."