Comfort, comfort, O my people, Speak of peace, now says our God. Comfort those who sit in shadows, Mourning ’neath their sorrows’ load. Speak unto Jerusalem of the peace that waits for them. Tell of all the sins I cover, and that warfare now is over. Hark, the voice of one who’s crying in the desert far and near, bidding all to full repentance, since the kingdom now is here. Oh, that warning cry obey! Now prepare for God a way! Valleys, rise in exaltation; hills, bow down in adoration. O make straight what long was crooked, make the rougher places plain. Let your hearts be true and humble, as befits a holy reign. For the glory of our God now o’er earth is shed abroad. And all flesh shall see the token that God’s word is never broken.
–Comfort, Comfort O My People (Hymn by Johann Olearius in 1671)
Faith has been at the center of what I do for as long as I can remember. It started at a little stone church in Windsor, Colorado, called St. Albans. The exterior was old, made of rough hewn stones, but the inside held the most incredible warmth, comfort, and loving people that helped me first learn about faith and God.
The little church in this painting similar to that first little church of my faith, but it is more wooden or rustic. The windows cast out the same warmth and welcome to those approaching. The warm colors in the windows are repeated in the swirling yellow, orange and red sky. This is depicting the glory of God as shown all around us in nature. The little church in this image is dwarfed by the massive mountains and sky- which is in itself another place of worship.
The shadow cast by the church points outward, urging those to who seek comfort inside the church walls to go back out and share the comfort with the world.
This piece, for me, is about the comfort that we are welcomed into by our faith. And it is also about the call to offer the same comfort to those around us.
I challenged myself with painting my sons’ favorite stuffed animals as gifts– it didn’t stop there!
Few things are as deeply treasured, passionately cared for, and fervently sought after as a child’s favorite lovey or stuffed animal. I say lovey because it’s not always an animal. Kids latch on to many different types of things that become their “special one”. Blankies, dolls, an action figure, or stuffed creature of some type. They all have two features in common: bringing comfort and sparking something that seems endless in the child’s imagination.
I had the idea to paint my two son’s favorite stuffed animals because they have become so deeply attached to them in the last year. Especailly during the shut-down of their school. They became another family member in our house. It was more than just comfort- the kids were having adventures with their animals, telling them secrets, playing hide and seek, and taking them everywhere with them. They weren’t going many places, so the “everywhere” included the back yard, up trees, on the swings, on scooter rides and so much more. It was like I was watching Calvin and Hobbes in real life. I began with wanting to paint just the two animals as gifts, but soon I was inspired to do mine and my husband’s childhood favorites too. I hope you enjoy reading a little about each animal’s personality that is contained in these lovable little bodies.
Tiggie a.k.a. Hobbes
It is no surprise that I would make a connection to Calvin and Hobbes when oldest son really latched on to this tiger. He was a gift to him at birth, but didn’t become a prominent figure in our house until the last year or two. Originally named Tiggie, he was renamed after my son fell in love with Calvin and Hobbes comic books. Over the shut-down, my son who had struggled with reading spent hours upon hours reading Calvin and Hobbes- and came out at the end at the top of his class for reading skills. (Thank you Bill Watterson!!!)
Tiggie is a reading buddy, gets carried around and tossed in the air by his tail, hides regularly right at bed time, climbs trees, and rides swings in the back of his boy’s t-shirt. He is rugged, sassy, adventurous, and a very loyal confidant.
Ruff Ruff is a puppet basset hound that is deeply loved by my youngest son. A gift at birth, he has his own homemade cardboard dog house and dog dishes. My son who loves and cherishes all of his many stuffed animals, always makes sure Ruff Ruff is a main feature in whatever he’s doing.
Ruff Ruff gets treats, does intricate tricks, and has birthday parties. He rides to school with us everyday so he can wave bye to his boy. There have been many earnest prayers sent up at bedtime along the lines of “Please God, let Ruff Ruff become a REAL DOG!”
Stay Puft is my husband’s favorite childhood lovey. Stored lovingly in pristine condition, if you’ve met my husband, you’re not surprised his favorite is from Ghostbusters. Nils had a written schedule for rotating time with his toys evenly. Stay Puft is just as lovable as my awesomely nerdy husband. Thanks to him, my kids are experts at Ghostbusters, He-man, G.I. Joe and Star Wars of course. He loves everything 80s, VHS, and sci-fi. And he takes excellent care if his toys, which is why we are not surprised that his lovey looks better than any of the rest, even though it is over 30 years old.
Stay Puft enjoys terrorizing the Ghostbusters in New York City, aka my husband’s childhood bedroom floor. Other than that, he’s a pretty lovable and snuggly guy. Look at him, he just wants to hug you- when it’s his turn on the schedule of course.
This is my Rosie. She was made by and named after my Grammy, Rosemary. She was a woman who loved God deeply, and an expert knitter and crocheter. As a child I loved the 80s cartoon/character Strawberry Shortcake. So my creative Grammy made me a Strawberry Shortcake from her yarn stash. She’s mainly knitted, but her hat and shoes are crocheted. Made with lots of love and care, Rosie has with stood the test a child’s love can give: lots of snuggles, traveling, and of course trips in the washing machine.
She went everywhere with me, even to college. I couldn’t bear for her to get lonely or worried about me. Even now, she rests in my pajama drawer in my dresser, and every once in a while she gets a real hug from me. She’s extra special because I also love to crochet, just like my Grammy.
Rosie is a constant and loyal friend, good listener, and great hugger. A caring face, gentle hands, a bold red dress and striped socks make her the perfect best friend for a creative and sassy little girl.
In a way, this is like looking at family portraits. I can’t help but think about Toy Story- those movies really nailed how toys capture children’s imaginations. I loved making these, and maybe these paintings will make it easier for my sons to carry their childhood with them into adulthood. Personally, I can’t wait to hang mine up!
The Red House- a series of work exploring the jagged side of our lives and the hope that is always underlying.
These are the sort of pieces that boil up. It’s not during the happy or easy times, it is during the times where art is a true refuge and escape for me. When everything- every…single… thing… about everything- is bugging me. Or when the current state of the world is just too much to take in peacefully. For when you feel like you need to let IT out- whatever it is.
This series is about the inner emotional darkness we all face. I don’t want this darkness to be mixed in and confused with the darkness of evil. Think of this more like the darkness of your own room at night. Familiar, sometimes a little scary, but in the end necessary and comforting as a balancing point of your life. Another way to think of it would be night vs. day. Just because it gets dark at night it doesn’t mean it’s bad. (If this is making you a little uncomfortable, that’s the whole point of the pieces. Also, read to the end of this post where I will share some very personal ways that I deal with my own dark times.)
La Maison Rouge
This piece is the first of The Red House pieces I created. For a long time it was the only one of it’s kind. I haven’t done too much with it because my husband loved it so much, it has by default become a part of our “permanent collection” of my art that is in our home.
My original thoughts were:
It’s not really snow, but my mind knows what it is, even though it doesn’t really have a name…
This piece is about the storms in the mind that seem to blow around and over us as a blizzard. Completely blocking out the rest of life for a while, giving you a bit of tunnel vision or isolation. Suddenly, it’s quiet, and you see the blizzard is over and the storm has created such intricate beauty you almost cannot take it in.
My original thoughts:
It’s ok if you’re feeling this now. I am too. Don’t be afraid to look down into the crack. Just remember that you are going to climb up out of there when you’re done.
This piece is about the those sudden jagged crevasses that can appear: in our lives, relationships, work, church, or anywhere we thought we were on solid ground– but it turns out we weren’t. This is the main part of looking into what you are avoiding. By confronting it and staring into it, you will see the bottom and be able to climb up and out.
After The Rift
Now this piece is about the permanent rift that has occurred. We’ve all done it. Built our house on shifting sands in one way or another. Damaging or unhealthy habits, relationships, patterns, jobs, friends, people… every once and a while (hopefully) you come to understand you are at the point of no repair. Built on a fault line, this was destructive and doomed from the start.
The Bridges We Build
That ground seemed so firm and sound. Yet the crack grew and grew. We are more similar than we are different, yet we are suddenly so far apart. The bridge must be made, rickety at first, but the fact that it’s there will mean everything.
This piece is showing the way to move forward. Start taking that action towards repair. Step by step, that rickety bridge will seem more and more sure. Reaching out a hand of peace is almost never returned by a slap. If so, recognize the fracture and leave the bridge to be used by future ones on the same journey.
Finally, the Hope that I have
For the betterment and growth of my art career, I am advised over and over again to not address politics of religion. But at the risk of bad opinions, I find that I cannot share and express this extremely personal part of my inner self without expressing it in it’s entirety. Since we have approached a very personal topic, I feel it is appropriate to share a bit more of my inner self to close the loop.
My paintings over and over again have an undertone of struggle plus hope. There is always hope at the end of the journey, a light at the end of the tunnel. This is usually expressed in the form of roads without end, or vanishing into a sky full of vibrant and expressive swirling paint.
These pieces are no different, though the swirling paint is depicted in grays, blacks and whites. That is because this world of the Red House is a little more grim, darker, more about the times that are not so easy. Even though the colors have been zapped for this series, the hope is still there, the message is the same. From time to time we need to peer into our own dark room, but we have the ability to flip the light back on.
For me, the main component of this hope and light is my personal faith in Jesus Christ and the resurrection from death, the forgiveness of sins, and the restorative healing and redemption that is offered through Jesus’ death on the cross. This is the ultimate light at the end of the tunnel. Though this life is full of constant struggle, trial, hardship, pain, suffering, confusion and a general lost feeling– through knowing Jesus and what He has done for me, I know that through it all I can continue to have hope. I hope and trust that God is guiding us, leading me personally through this journey called life, and calling me to heaven at the end of my time. God’s providence is evident to me every day, and the more I seek him, the more I am found every day. The swirling paint often depicts this overlying hope I have of a greater plan, a higher calling, someone who actually knows what is going on. Without God I would be lost. Just as I cannot envision myself as anything but a crazy oil painter, I cannot not physically, mentally, spiritually see how I exist without faith in God.
I will close with saying that I am not sorry if this offends you, after all, you read this far! I hope you can see this for what it is, a personal expression of my inner thoughts. This is not telling anyone what to think or believe, but simply sharing more into how the works came to be. If you’d like to hear more about either subject, please contact me directly and i’m here- real as ever- to build bridges and see that we are more alike than we are different.
I’ve been working out some thoughts on canvas over the past few weeks, that have turned out especially dreamlike and surreal. Here they are, with my brief thoughts and explanations:
Do you ever feel untethered yet secure at the same time? This image came to my mind after viewing pictures from the horrible land hurricane that came through Iowa this week just north of where I live. There is a picture of a little girl sitting on an uprooted tree in her yard, leaning against the roots, peacefully reading her book. To feel security in uncertainty is a wonderful paradox and I can relate.
Landmines. Pitfalls. Open wounds. Old scars.
This piece is about the road of some of our relationships and how we must navigate to sustain them and carry on with hope for a peaceful future.
Beneath the Pitfalls
A view of what it looks like underneath the street full of pitfalls. It’s actually not too bad under there.
Illusion of Control
The illusion of control. This year has called it to the forefront for pretty much everyone at once. At times I feel like time is just clipping on and we are along for the wild ride, despite the boxes we try to contain it in. We are a small part of the bigger picture, but that doesn’t diminish the magnitude of how things look from where we are.
Everyday for the month of June, I will share here an image and explanation for each of the 30 pieces in my show, Earthly Dreams and Tactile Skies that was shown at the Art Center of Burlington in May. I hope you enjoy it and come back each day to see the new piece! Pieces will be posted by 10am each day. I’d love to hear your comments below on which ones are your favorite. Enjoy!
Kismet is another word for destiny- which is depicted here by the warm sky, turning to a dark red swirling center. All of our lives have a certain destiny- ever evolving and changing. It is always before us in the distance- at times ominous, other times hopeful- but always inevitable. Our lives will happen and end and this is inescapable.
What we have is an infinity (profusion) of choices before us, which is depicted by the vast sands, full of paths and journeys. Victories, pitfalls, joys, pains, memories, dreams and nightmares are all laid out in the millions of choices we make.
Though there are many options, they all lead us to our eventual destiny in the distance- or maybe it is not as far away as we think.
Image inspired by this photo by my good friend who travels the world, Wayco Beckman: