2019 brought with it an award for best landscape design from Maine Homes by Downeast Magazine. They awarded first place for reader landscaping for my third year garden at the SEED Barn. They say that it takes three years to establish a garden from seed in Maine, so I was happy to have initiated this process with this bit of recognition. Every year, we grow out an assortment of new native varieties to plant as pollinator pathways and native foodways. As the plants grow into maturity, I look into what particular wildlife the plants support and gather open source photographs, from which I create drawings as studies. Observational drawing is one of the best ways to gain understanding of form, and through exploring the relationships of forms, to become familiar with the functions that are the basis of systems. While these open source images are quickly becoming essential to my own work, I have also begun gathering collections of the images to distribute to educational programs so that students may begin forming their own knowledge of the systems at work.
Inle Lake, Burma
These watermedia works on paper were created in Taos in the first year or so of Thatcher Gray’s life. They depict a meandering through the Intha market on Inle lake in Burma I took a decade earlier, when the country was considered to be on the cusp of genocide. Dominating the atmosphere is the official verbiage of Myanmar’s Military government, oppressing the space with the dingy palette of the newspaper. By 2010, I was hearing news of flat out genocidal acts being performed around the perimeter of the country by friends who were volunteering there as health workers. Their stories inspired me to reflect on the tensions felt by those who come from communities targeted; how it must feel to navigate this brutal society while maintaining an identity interwoven with traditional tribal practices. The expressions portrayed in the Intha Market series often seem tense, but as is the nature of markets, cultures may thrive in the face of oppression through the exchange and practice of culinary traditions. The ‘ghost’ paintings invoke a certain amount of freedom for me, and I consider them to be as important to the work as a whole, together with the sides I actively produced. The lack of newspaper and colors that drift unconfined by additional lines through the handmade paper acquired in the market. Some drawings contain the first scribblings of Thatcher Gray, who was just starting to learn how to hold markers in ways that he could imitate mom.
Before I knew I was pregnant, I went on an adventure with a group of sound artists into an abandoned slaughterhouse in Commerce City just north of Denver. My colleagues were inspired to create work in the space after hearing about out creative sessions in the blast tunnels of the Titan missile silo. They wanted to make music while channeling the charged energy that filled the space. While they produced music through practicing a style of Tuvan throat singing alongside drums and a didgeridoo, I wandered the haunted spaces convening with the ghosts of the animals who met their demise to meet the insatiable demands of a national diet centered on industrial meat. I photographed a series of interiors that I later used as source material for this set of mixed media paintings created in the first years of Thatcher Gray’s life, when I was exploring the industrial food machine. Integrating paper that I had shot with a shotgun and run over with my truck to print tire patterns with fresh tar, I painted the equipment with with watercolor and colored pencils to pay homage to the life lost here.
In the last weeks of my pregnancy with Thatcher Gray, I created this series of ink drawings from photographs taken by photographer friend, Rhy Jouett during a photoshoot with digital photographer, Trevor Alyn in Denver. I was 8 months pregnant and feeling big. One drawing traveled to Korea for a woman and body exhibition with the International Woman’s Caucus. Each image averages 5″ square and are drawn on Strathmore paper stained with tea.
As my pregnant belly swelled through the second trimester, I resided at the Ragdale Foundation on an awarded residency to work on a series of mixed media works depicting the confined shrines I photographed in Myanmar 3 years prior. I was struck by how many Buddhist shrines were kept in cages under lock and key and felt the images were a poignant reflection of the political climate. Some of the works contain Burmese newspaper collaged in. They were created with a xerograph process which involves transferring xerox copies, in this case of high contrast photographs of the cages that surrounded the shrines. Atop the transfers, Embedded within the cages are the golden shrines, well tended aside from being caged.