Might I Have a Bit of Earth?

"Might I have a bit of earth" is actually a chapter title from Frances Hodgson Burnett's book, The Secret Garden, but it has come to mean a great deal more to me. It has become my mantra. Not only do we need a space of our own to create art, we need to develop a uniquely creative vision, a personal aesthetic.

In early 1999 I organized an art doll / journal collaborative consisting of nine paper artisans, and we embarked on a journey that would span several years. Group art making can be a wonderful experience. As artists we need to connect with one another. But the really unfortunate thing about group art making is that you can lose your individuality. How do you create a "tapestry" with nine sets of hands and distinguish yourself as an individual? As unlikely as that seems, I emerged from our adventure with my personal vision intact. Looking back over the project with a bird's eye view I was able to clearly see that my contributions were earthly in origin. That my stories and my materials were of the earth, the sea, and the sun.

As a child, dolls were my constant companions, the cast of characters in the imaginery scenarios I spent hours constructing. Perhaps that is why what began as a creative exercise has remained an integral part of my life and heART. My first collection of paper dolls, INNER CHILD, was conceived as an homage to the project that, as organizer, I breathed life into for so many many months but it is also a tribute to that child in all of us and the art of play!

I am self taught through study and life experience, and my vision has evolved out of my love of my family and nature. My artwork isn't something else, it is who I am. Mother Bird, Zen Nest, Keeper of the Nest, Nestle, the Nest at 224, are narratives on my life as a wife and mother. I created a visual language, drawing upon imagery of birds, nests and eggs because they have been an integral part of my life and home. I grew up in a little farmhouse in South Florida where the family business was game hens and eggs, and hatching baby quail, pheasant and guinea hens were part of the daily routine, and swans and peacocks were among our family pets. My husband Dale and I first put down roots in Audubon Village, a small community in Homestead, Florida, on land that had once belonged to the Everglades. We raised our two sons where exotic birds such as Great Blue Herons, Ibis, and Egrets were as common as wrens and jays in our backyard. The footprint of our Georgia home rests under a song-filled canopy of tall oaks; birds and nest- building have become metaphors about my life.

Inside, our home is a study in art and artifact. Sprinkled throughout are our many collections. Back in our Audubon Village days we began to collect hand-carved shorebird decoys. Our home was on Curlew Lane and Curlews are shorebirds. This collection is still the centerpiece of our kitchen, and can be found perched atop the hard white maple cabinetry. The newest addition is a carved angel from the Folk Art Museum in Santa Fe. Among our Santa Fe finds are meteorites, fossils, semi-precious stones and beads. While living in Florida, we began a life-long love of shell collecting and you can find them in abundance throughout the house, but also on the china pattern we selected in 1979, Fitz & Floyd Coquille.

I have been sharing my personal history to make a point, and that point is that your art work should be a reflection of who you are. Your vision quest need not take you further than your front door, because the answers we all seek are right there.

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