Can you tell me a little bit about you?
My timing in life has been a bit all over the place. I graduated from the College of Creative Studies at the University of California Santa Barbara in 2001—a year early—then took 14 years off before I started graduate school in the Low Residency MFA program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, from which I graduated in 2019. In the time in between undergrad and graduate school I got married and had three children. I’m currently the interim Chair of Gallery 114, an artist collective in Portland, Oregon, and a member of WAVE Collective which is also in Portland, Oregon.
When did you first discover art, or realize you wanted to make it yourself?
My father, who was a ceramicist, passed away when I was four months old. As a child I would place my hands in the finger indentations on his ceramics as a way to be close to his touch. My mother was a graphic designer and was always drawing. She was always looking for opportunities to go to museums to look at art. I’m not sure what age it was that I discovered art, it was just something that was always around me. Even though I was always drawing and building things growing up, I was hesitant to commit myself to art, though that changed after a back injury in high school that bared me from running cross country. All the sudden I had a lot of time and energy on my hands. I started painting a lot.
What do you like most about working where you do?
When I moved to Oregon almost four years ago, I thought that when I could afford to I would like to have a studio somewhere on the east side in Portland. The city has such a welcoming community of artists, and I really wanted to accelerate the process of getting to know people. Over time, I’ve come to see that working out of my garage is really perfect for where I’m at in life right now. Before school closures, it gave me the ability to work on a piece right up until I needed to pick up my son from school. Now with the COVID-19 pandemic, I’m especially thankful that my studio is at home. My three kids are home from school for the rest of the school year and I’m needing to balance their needs with my studio practice, which is only possible by being at home. Working from home gives me the opportunity to pop into the studio while my kids are working on remote school work or after they have gone to bed. I have a 1970’s floral patterned chair in my studio that I think I might use for an art piece, though for the time being my son sits on it and makes his own drawings when he’s spending time with me the studio.
What ideas are you exploring in your practice?
I like to believe that there is a residue of lives lived embedded in the rooms that we move through, and in the objects that artists make. This residue is certainly something that I experience with my father’s ceramics– the art objects are really good at telling me about him. For my own work, I’m interested in depicting furniture in domestic spaces that belonged to people whom I have loved and lost.
My current body of work began as an exploration of my paternal grandparents’ living room. In the 18 years that I visited that space, the harvest gold, floral-pattern sofa was always positioned in the same place. Next to the sofa was a table with a lamp and a picture of my deceased father, roughly 18 years of age in the photograph. Each year, as the room grew more outdated, my father’s image remained youthful. I began making paintings of this paradoxical time capsule, believing I was constructing a portrait of my grandmother and her grief for my father. Now I see that it’s not grief that I am interested in conveying in my work, but the residue of the affection that is left behind.
I’m also very interested in materiality. I am frequently taking what I have learned from making installations and sculptures and applying that to painting, borrowing from different disciplines; at times this has made me feel as though I am a stepchild to painting. I’m interested in making hybrid works that function as paintings, or turning that around and making paintings that have a sculptural physical presence.
What is the last thing you read?
I’m reading Annie Dillard’s An American Childhood right now. She does a fantastic job of describing places and buildings from a child’s perspective. In one of the chapters, she describes a terrifying beam of light that moves across her bedroom wall at night, and she is certain that it will harm her. As she describes it, what becomes evident is that this light is from a passing car. As a parent myself, it’s hard not to chuckle when reading this, thinking of all the times I’ve been called to check on my kids in the middle of the night. I’m also really interested in how Dillard is so successful in capturing this childhood innocence while writing as an adult.
What are you passionate about?
My grandparents instilled in me to value love over everything else, so I’m very passionate about my family. The vast majority of my time goes to making art and raising my kids. Also, in spite of the back injury I received in high school I was able to resume running again in my 20’s. I’m not fast anymore, but I do love the time alone running and just hearing the sound of my feet on the road. I also enjoy making ceramics with my husband and kids. Before the pandemic my family and I would go to ceramics studio with open studio hours on the weekends. I love spending an afternoon with them throwing pots on the wheel, then stopping for Mexican food on the way home. Ha—so I guess I’m mostly passionate about: art, my family, running, and Mexican food!
What is your studio like?
Last summer my family moved to a different house in the same town. I moved from one garage studio to another. The garage studio I have now is so much better! I was able to put in good lighting and there is more wall space to use. I have a lot of room to work.
Do you have any routines or rituals in the studio that get you into the mode or mindset to make your work?
I get into my studio almost daily. I make my best work if I start earlier in the morning, though I’m happy to get into the studio all hours that I can. Most of the time I listen to techno music while I’m working. Often enough I get stuck on a piece, but I’m fortunate enough to have a treadmill in my studio and I will walk or run on the treadmill when I’m stuck. Usually after about 10-15 minutes of walking or running my mindset is different and I’m willing to be more aggressive with the work that I’m making—which works to my benefit most of the time.
How significant has attending art school been on your practice?
Pursuing an MFA really became about facing a lot of my fears. I was worried about how I would handle the writing component with my dyslexia, only to find out that I enjoy writing poetry. I was terrified that taking the time away from my kids would make me a bad mom, but after becoming the first woman on my dad’s side of the family to earn an MFA, one of my daughters says that’s she wants to be first woman on my dad’s side of the family to earn a PhD. I began to recognize how vital my practice is to who I am, and I also began to see the need in being fearless and aggressive with the work that I make.