My creative journey has taken me to some incredible places around the world while inspiring my art and making lasting friendships and spiritual connections. This passion for combining art and travel has led me to artist residencies, international exhibitions and exchanges, and teaching my monoprint workshops in amazing places. I’ve also taken pilgrimages to sacred sites in Europe, Australia, and South America to search for answers and gain inspiration for my art. Moving to Mexico twenty years ago has also opened my eyes and my heart to a rich cultural life that has challenged me in many good ways.
I suppose I’ve always had the itch to travel, partly motivated by my wish to escape my small town. When I left Mississippi after my first year in college, New Orleans was my jump off point – and it was indeed an exotic world to land. That was the beginning of my love of travel, something that would become an important source of inspiration throughout my creative career. After hitchhiking around and landing in Florida, I developed what would be an enduring passion for printmaking at the University of Florida. The love of ink on paper gave me direction as an artist and really set me on my creative path.
I moved to California in my late 20’s thinking this would be the best place to pursue my art career. In my limited view of the world, it was either there or New York – and California seemed much friendlier. Because printmakers tend to work communally, I found it was a great way to meet fellow artists, to gather and share ideas. I started Citadel Print Center in an old converted warehouse and had guest artists from Spain, China, Singapore, etc. come and work. The Monotype Marathon, a fundraiser I organized for the SJ ICA, which hosted hundreds of Bay Area artists over the years, began in that space.
Printmaking also provided an opportunity to travel around the world and create art in interesting locales. My first artist residency was at the Frans Masereel Print Centrum in Belgium. Here, each artist was set up in their own little A-frame house with access to a common print studio. Artist residencies are considered “the gift of time” to an artist – time to pursue your art and shake up your daily practice in a new environment. Meeting artists from various disciplines, painters, writers, composers, and often having your meals prepared, were an extra bonus. Without a doubt, each time I ventured out of my studio in this way, I had a breakthrough in the creative process. In fact, at my last residency at Green Olive in Tetouan, Morocco, although I was inspired by the Islamic design work, I also focused on the figure after almost 30 years of working symbolically.
Throughout my years in the arts, I’ve been involved in organizing international exhibitions and artist exchanges that would take me around the globe. Although most were grass roots efforts on a shoestring budget, that didn’t damper my enthusiasm. I realized early on that as artists we can create opportunities for ourselves rather than depend on the gallery/museum system. On that first trip to Belgium, I secured an exhibition at the American Embassy in Brussels for The San Jose Print, a show I curated of California printmakers. The Artist’s Vision: A World Without War, a group show I organized for obvious political reasons, traveled to Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and New Zealand, thanks to my world-traveling friends, Helen and Rod MacKinlay who schlepped the work around in a suitcase. Helen & I met while she was director of a non-profit art gallery in Silicon Valley and we’ve worked together on many projects through the years including a group show at the Singapore Museum of Art. Travel + Art + Friendships were becoming my modus operandi.
In the 1990’s, I began taking pilgrimages to sacred sites, specifically those with a clear connection to Paleolithic and Neolithic Goddess cultures. Caves in South of France, Newgrange in Ireland and the temple of Knossos in Crete were among the first that I visited. I was learning more and more about early matrilineal societies from books such as The Chalice & The Blade by Riane Eisler and When God Was a Woman by Merlin Stone, both of which had a major impact on me. I was discovering that “once upon a time”, matriarchy existed before our current patriarchal system, a concept that changed the way I looked at the world.
The symbols catalogued by Marija Gimbutas in “The Language of the Goddess” had a huge influence on my art as well and led to a shift in my art to the symbol. For the next 30 years I took my inspiration from these archetypal symbols found on cave walls, sculpture and pottery shards. On these travels, I wanted to walk in the footsteps of these early cultures imbued with the spirit of our ancestors. Once there, I would seek out a quiet spot where I could connect with the spirit of place to reflect, do a meditation or yoga pose. On more than one occasion, synchronicity was at work, helping me to gain entrance where there was no possibility, or finding alone-space in a major tourist attraction. In times when I felt threatened as a woman traveling alone, I was given the image, “In Her Hands,” as a mantra and reassurance that I was on the right path. Seeing the artifacts in person, I would photograph them, and back in my studio, use them as a point of departure in my work. Images such as the spiral, the circle and the crescent, cyclical shapes of renewal and regeneration, became the focus of my visual vocabulary. For me, these symbols of hope and inspiration were worthy of putting out into the world. I documented my experiences and artwork in my books Art and Sacred Sites: Connecting with Spirit of Place, 2014 and Symbols of the Spirit: A Meditative Journey Through Art, 2019.
Although I was originally drawn to sacred sites for their feminine energy, years later I found myself living in Mexico and surrounded by a rich landscape of pyramids and archeological sites. Many of these ancient cultures, such as the Aztecs, Mixtas and Mayans, seemed to have been male-dominated societies, yet Madre Tierra was also revered in various goddess forms like Coatlicue and Ix Chel. After visiting many pyramid sites in Mexico, Monte Alban in Oaxaca was the one that truly spoke to me. I found out later that the Zapotecas were a matriarchal culture and I was drawn to the Sacred Feminine energy of that place. Using the glyphs found on rocks and walls, I created a whole series of prints and paintings inspired by Monte Alban.
Visiting ancient sacred sites continues to be a personal and spiritual journey for me. In 2019, after participating in Crossing Borders, a Global Art Project exhibition in Ghent, I traveled to Austria with a friend to visit her family. At some point I casually asked our hosts if there were any Neolithic goddess sites in the area. To my complete surprise, they told me that the Venus of Willendorf was housed in the nearby Natural History Museum in Vienna. Seeing one of the oldest and most celebrated Paleolithic goddess figures in person, all 4 ½” of her, was incredible. With her characteristic voluptuous shape, she is an archetype for fertility and Mother Earth – and for me and many women around the world – she is a symbol of female empowerment. In a synchronistic way, that whole trip and chance encounter with the Willendorf figure led to my getting a sculpture commission in Austria.
After leaving Vienna, our host took us to the new St. Ruprecht/Raab sculpture park in Styria and introduced us to the developer. Newly inspired, I made a proposal for a sculptural seating, Throne for a Goddess, an invitation to sit and be embraced by the Great Mother. When it was accepted, Jitka Derler, an artist who also had a piece in the park, worked with me remotely from my computer generated drawings to do the fabrication – all during the 2020 Covid pandemic. My friend and I have plans to return to Austria and see the newly installed Throne as soon as travel restrictions are lifted.
I have lived in Mexico full time since 2002, but Mexico was never on my radar before coming down for a short weekend vacation. My dream was to have a studio in Italy or France, but arriving at the beautiful city of Mazatlán on the Sea of Cortez, I knew that I had found my spot. Because the cost of living was so much lower and the lifestyle less hectic than the San Francisco Bay Area, I was able to dedicate my time to painting and printmaking. As an additional source of income, I began offering monoprint workshops in Mazatlán, Oaxaca and Guanajuato and Art Vacations to Peru, something I still enjoy doing today.
Despite my meager Spanish at the time, I got to know the local Mexican artists and became involved in my new community right away. As much as I loved Mazatlán, what was missing were art galleries and a focus on the visual arts. That led me to organize the successful First Friday Artwalks now going on 15 years, and later, Galería Luna. With Presence in Nature, a show I helped put together featuring Mexican, U.S. and Australia artists, I traveled to Adelaide and worked in the studio there with fellow printmakers, Sandra Starkey Simon and Fanny Retsek whom I knew from my San Jose days. When I was asked by Mazatlán’s tourist department to organize a visual arts component for International Week, I invited Global Art Project because of my connection with California friend, Carl Heyward, one of its founders. For this event, we hosted an exhibition at the Mazatlán Museum of Art and guest artists Heyward and Japanese artist Akiko Suzuki taught workshops to local artists.
Another great artist exchange was with BluSeed Studios in Saranac Lake, New York. Again, through friend connections, Katherine Levin-Lau and Carol Marie Vossler, we had a number of exhibitions in both cities, taught workshops, residencies, even bringing down hand-made paper equipment to share with the municipal art school and students. These were such enriching experiences for me as well as all the participating artists. My latest curatorial project is Plastic Madness, a traveling exhibition of artworks by Mexican, U.S. and Columbian artists created from discarded plastic to raise awareness of the world plastic problem. With the help of Dory Perdomo of Mazatlán’s Baupres Gallery, the exhibition was scheduled to travel to Cartagena, Columbia in 2020, but was unfortunately canceled due to Covid. We are hoping to travel there with the show in 2022.
In 2017, ready for a new adventure and new inspiration, I once again moved my studio, this time to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, an established artist colony and cultural mecca for visitors from around the world. Here I set up a new painting/printmaking studio where I work and teach occasional monoprint workshops. The beauty of this colonial city located in the Central Highlands is so different from the beach town of Mazatlán providing the change I needed. I’m enjoying meeting new friends and excellent artists and showing my work in a new environment. I embrace change in my art as in my life and I’m always open to the magic of travel and synchronicity.
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