I love the immediacy of making things. Whether my mediums have been cookie dough, clay, fabric for a dress, wool to knit a sweater, paper, charcoal or paint, I approach the act of transforming my vision into a work with substance as if my life depends on it. By making art, I transform life and in some essential way, it does.
In my life, I fell in love, got married, waitressed, worked as foreman and colorist at a printing factory, raised three sons and taught art to 500 students a week as an art teacher. I brought my art making into everything thing I did.
I scribbled notes and drew in my journals during my sons’ soccer and baseball games and while waiting in the car to pick them up after school. Many times I felt challenged by my need to write and draw. Yet through it all, something inside me kept tugging. My inner voice was consistent over the years:
Over time, I was stunned to discover, I had filled 130 journals. I finally realized that yes, in my inner life, my impulse travels from my eyes to my head, through my heart to my hands to the paper. I must paint and draw. I’m compelled to return to my practice day after day. Without the opportunity to paint, I would feel bereft. I need a place to shout with joy, to feel empathy with others, to recognize beauty, pain and evidence of meaning in this life. I cannot hide this or pretend it is not there. It is my work, and I need to share it.
Now, I paint as visual contemplation, revealing awareness of the spiritual housed within my physical being. Sometimes when I step back to critique my work, I realize that I have made analogies between the physical and the invisible, opening doors that allow me to explore my yearnings. Wispy lines gather together and coalesce loosely, embracing the physical. The process of art making is a powerful reminder of the vast presence I feel but cannot see.
My project “Hours” is ongoing and has become a contemplative study of transformation created in the atmospheric light and reflected color of each day.
For this project, I’ve studied Monet’s paintings of cathedral and haystacks, reflecting changes observed over one day in time. In my own world, I notice the light and shadow at different hours of the day progressively transform my bedroom, and change me, too.
Bonnard and van Gogh painted everyday moments of their lives as well. Holding a cup of steaming tea, I’m stirred by warmth and aroma. A cup, a spoon, a bowl are simple objects that contain the history of the souls who molded them and sipped from them. A walk allows me space to observe the cadence of life with openness. The insistent patter of raindrops creates a recurrent rhythm inviting a meditative state.
When I read about the ancient monastic practice of “liturgy of the hours,” defining a structure to carry spiritual awareness throughout a day, this project “Hours” was born and has deepened my daily art-making as meditation.
Lately, I’ve been deeply moved by the growing numbers of refugees who are looking for physical, spiritual and emotional safety. I’m working with the idea of finding refuge, exploring ways to find a safe place, both inside and outside.
This resonates in me from hearing my father’s stories of memories from his childhood in Kingston Jamaica. His family moved there 4 generations before, from France, when Napoleon needed to send soldiers to Haiti. After the Haitian revolution the Vendryes immigrated to the safety of Jamaica. My mother’s parents were also immigrants from Sicily when they were teenagers.
My heritage, gives me a global view of the difficulty and necessity of leaving an untenable place for hope of finding a safer one.
It’s easier to say they were “turned away by a country” rather than" I turned them away."
I need to make art. It’s a journey during which I both seek and share my own personal refuge.
As I deepen my exploration of the concept, my work will expand and explore the connections between us and others who need safety or shelter.