Nature is integral to your inspiration. Tell us about how that came to be. Did you want to work to honor the nature around you, or did you have a fairly specific idea of your medium, then feel that nature guided your work?
The great outdoors is where I feel most myself and most at peace. Having grown up often in the outdoors—from long walks beachcombing at our cabin in the Pacific Northwest to family camping trips across the Southwest to backpacking trips in the Redwoods—I feel very comforted by and inspired by nature. I am constantly observing the natural cycles around me—sunrises and sunsets, the moon and tide cycles, and death and rebirth of plants as seasons change, even how birds and other animals grow and transform from juveniles to adults (my father is an avid birder). I’m inspired by the ripples from wind across a lake, wavy patterns left in sand from receding ocean waves, animal footprints in the mud, and shadows cast on a bright sunny day. I am constantly collecting natural items and bringing them back to my studio. Many of the patterns I paint are evocative of the shapes and cycles I witness in nature. While I’m predominantly a painter, at times I have worked directly with nature. Last winter in Oregon, I attended an artist residency where I made cyanotypes with found natural items such as pine cones, rocks, bark, dried flowers, and twigs. Taking photographic prints using the sun and an item’s shadows was a profound way to tell the story of the place. While technology and digital tools are within my repertoire of tools for my work, as much as possible I engage in analog activities that use my hands and challenge me to see the world around me from a multitude of perspectives and senses.
How did your studies of cultural anthropology contribute to your life?
I am the daughter of an artist mother and anthropologist father, and grew up with a paintbrush in one hand and a field book in the other. Entering college, I chose to study Cultural Anthropology, a discipline which brought me all over the world, from India to Uganda to Egypt and all over the US, to learn about diverse cultures and ways of life. I studied languages, textiles, familial patterns, rituals, and cuisine across not only the globe but across time. I am fascinated by how we as a species have both been inspired by and transformed (for better and for worse) the environment around us, building tools along the way that assist us—from ancient rudimentary stone tools to modern day wind turbines. As an anthropologist now artist, I am ever curious about the people, places, and stories around me. I approach many of my projects as an ethnographer, diving deep into the culture of a place to create dynamic, story-driven artwork, and weave research into my inspiration for motif and color palette development. Whenever possible, I collaborate closely with locals of the place where I will be creating art.
What’s your process for preparing for a day of work?
My best days start with an early workout, creative work like sketching or painting in the quiet of my studio, and no checking of email until 12pm (later, if I can manage!). I find that I am most creatively generative and productive in the mornings, and try my best to protect uninterrupted time for my mind to wander and for new ideas to percolate. I feel protected from the digital noise that is pervasive in our culture these days. If I’m ever feeling stumped, I’ll start cutting up my many collected paint chips into new shapes and compositions. As much as possible, I try to spend some time creating without preconceived notions of what something should be, and instead follow my creative instincts.