Canterbury Art Show opening this weekend

I’m delighted to show five new paintings from the Flora series at the Canterbury Art Show, opening this Labor Day Weekend!

First Hibiscus of Summer, detail view

“Every flower is a soul blossoming in nature.” – Gerard De Nerval

“In nature nothing exists alone.” – Rachel Carson

Plants and flowers are a form of communication between humanity and the Earth, if we pay attention. The paintings in this series present portraits of individual plants as both unique messages from the Earth and examinations of natural order and growth. As a contemplative mirror for our relationships with ourselves and others, plant forms evoke harmony, elegance, and strategies for survival through cooperation. These paintings challenge us to explore the spiritual dimension of our time on Earth and invite consideration of the human impact on the natural world, as we recognize we are fundamentally one with the Earth.

I look at plants everywhere I go, keeping my eyes peeled for a refreshing spot of green or lush burst of color. When I imagine a person or place, plants and especially flowers flood my memory in association, embodying the emotional connections I feel. Using plant forms as a language in my imagination, these portraits of individual plants in situ further examine the natural order that created them, their patterns of growth and response to light, and my spiritual relationship with others, with myself, and with the Earth.

Pink Rose of Assisi, 2018, 12″x12″x1.5″, oil on canvas

Standing before the Basilica of Saint Francis in Assisi, Italy, I couldn’t take my eyes off the perfect sweet pink roses growing on the pathway outside. All of Assisi felt permeated with Saint Francis’s deep love and reverence for nature, and this rose felt like a direct communication of that vitality. Exploring the organic geometric arrangement of its tender petals into a coherent whole, I felt transported by its simple elegance and richly complex beauty.

Early Morning Jimson Weed, 2018, 16″x20″x1.5″, oil on canavs

Visting my family earlier this summer, my father woke me to come see the Jimson weed growing in his garden, which seemed to glow in the early morning sunlight. I was intensely grateful for this delicate white flower that greeted him with such magic each day and brought him such joy, and I too felt enchanted by its luminous purity and captivating forms.

West Park Iris, 2018, 16″x20″x1.5″, oil on canvas

During a walk around the neighborhood where I grew up, I was stopped in my tracks by the decadent petals of this purple iris, which seemed to unfurl with a secret wisdom about living unabashedly. The audacity of the iris, with its ornate, fanciful ruffles and vivid color, felt like a celebration of living freely, openly, and unapologetically as ourselves, just as we were made – and enjoying every moment of it.

First Hibiscus of Summer, 2018, 16″x20″x1.5″, oil on canvas

Some of my favorite memories from childhood are visiting my family in Hawaii, where I had experiences of deep emotional resonance in the nearly overwhelming natural landscape teeming with gorgeous new sights and perfumed air. I was always enthralled by the hibiscus blooms, each one seemingly more joyful and impossibly beautiful than the next. In New York, I am keenly aware of the first bloom I see each summer, as it transports me back to those cherished times and instantly reconnects me with my loved ones.

Remembrance Poppy, 2018, 16″x20″x1.5″, oil on canvas

When I was young, I begged my mother to let me plant a poppy in her garden. I spent weeks imagining its exotic shape and red-orange color, but I was not prepared for the extravagant, massive bloom that would burst open in the summer heat. I was stunned that anything in the world could be so bold, vibrant, and complex… just like my mother.

As a symbol of remembrance and respect, especially of those lost and injured in war, this poppy is also the newest addition to my Charitable Giving initiative, with 25% of the sale price of the original painting and prints donated to the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) Charitable Service Trust.

Canterbury Art Show
August 31-September 3, 2018
Meet-the-Artists Reception & Preview – Friday, August 31, 7-9pm
Open 10am-6pm Saturday and Monday (9/1 and 9/3) and 12-6pm Sunday (9/2)

Tickets $10 (valid for all days of the show) / Preview and Meet the Artists Reception $50 in advance, $60 at the door. (Purchasing information)

Proceeds from the Canterbury Art Show benefit St. George’s-by-the-River Episcopal Church and its community outreach programs in Monmouth and Ocean Counties.

St. George’s-by-the-River
7 Lincoln Avenue
Rumson, NJ 07760 (map)

For more information, please visit Canterbury Art Show

Follow @canterburyartshow | #canterburyartshow

Sea Change series process and inspiration, part 1


This spring I returned to the Sea Change series of sculpture and assemblage pieces using recycled and reclaimed marine plastics, monofilament, fishing tackle, and textiles made from plastic bags. Though at first glance these pieces may seem a bit unrelated to my painting and drawing, I am finding they address many of the same concepts and incorporate similar themes as I have been approaching in more abstract images.


In this series of posts, I will make some notes on the overall process and discuss some of the in-progress, planned, and completed pieces in terms of inspiration, concept, and materials.


I Heard the Ocean from My Bed – detail view


When I start planning a painting or drawing, I often begin with a color sense and an overall feeling that I’d like to explore, either drawn from a specific source like the way leaves unfold from a plant or from a conceptual place, like what it feels like to want to protect someone you love. At some point as I work through preliminary sketches or initial layers, the whole image coalesces in my mind as a more or less completely-formed being, and I see the rest of the painting process as an attempt to capture its likeness. It’s a bit like portraiture in that sense, only chasing a face seen in passing glances, always changing the way it looks back.


Making textiles from plastic bags


By contrast, in the Sea Change pieces I start almost entirely with the materials, thinking about what they can do and how that might look. I’m having a great time exploring their tactile qualities and physical behaviors. I have enjoyed various forms of needlecraft since I was a child, so it was a natural fit to use these pieces of plastic as textiles and incorporate sewing, knitting, needlepoint, weaving, and embroidery in making images. Sewing pieces together and to their supports has also given me a structurally sound means of connection that doesn’t use adhesives or rely on melting the plastics to fuse them, which pleases me both environmentally and in terms of art conservation methodology. I also enjoy the connection to tradition and the “women’s work” aspect of these techniques, as women are disproportionately affected by climate change and damage to the environment. Communicating through works of art using techniques previously reserved for frivolity or decoration – which kept women occupied, but not engaged – feels like reclaiming these techniques in a symbolic form of ecofeminism.


Gyre – detail view


Visually, I’ve been strongly drawn to Sacred Geometry and spiritual symbols lately. These shapes, patterns, and images feel meaningfully connected to the Earth, as they were literally discovered in our attempts to understand our place in the universe, communicated through geometry. I am attracted to the universality of these symbols, which are not tied to language or conscious thought, and that has led me to further explore modern symbology through ISO warning and safety signs. These ideas and symbols are all swirling together into a language to talk about nature and our relationship to the natural world, using these recycled plastic materials and traditional needlecraft techniques.


Palette of plastics used in Blue-Green Fibonacci (in progress)


Blue-Green Fibonacci is an in-progress piece that began when I received a shipment cushioned with bags of sealed air. These bags are presented as an environmentally-friendly alternative to styrofoam, bubblewrap, or packing peanuts. Some are branded under cute names with “Eco,” “Recycle,” and “Defender” included, and they are all printed with symbols either indicating they are recyclable or in very rare cases, made from partially recycled plastic themselves. Some are clear plastic with a bit of ink, while others are opaque dyed plastic in shades of blue or blue-green presumably meant to evoke eco-friendliness. If a shipping recipient has access to Plastic #2 (HDPE) or plastic film recycling, they could theoretically recycle these bags. New York City residential pick-up does not accept anything besides rigid plastics (symbols 4 & 5) and including soft plastics could cause a whole load to be rejected. So realistically, most people do what I was instructed to do at my last job – pierce the bags to deflate them and squish them into the trash.


Once they enter the waste stream, plastic bags and films are much more likely than other forms of trash to escape from landfills to rivers and oceans because they can be blown by the air, carried by streams of rain water, and they tend to cling to anything they touch. They are swallowed by turtles, fish, and marine birds, and they attract and aggregate other petroleum-based pollutants in the sea. They are a non-biodegradable nightmare for the environment, and they are contributing to the rapidly-growing garbage patches in the sea.


Blue-Green Fibonacci – detail view


I thought about how to transform them from something harmful to something that celebrates the beauty and cleverness of nature. I cut the bags into loops, which I then linked together to create balls of “plarn” or plastic yarn. When converted to a textile and measured in yards, I was stunned to see just how much plastic each strip of air pillows contained. I saved the air pillows from the handful of shipments I’ve received in the past few months, and I created a palette of blues and greens, which I then knit into stripes based on the Fibonacci sequence, a system of order seen again and again in the natural world. I’ve made several strips of stripes exploring various color and width juxtapositions. Once the striped sections are sewn together and connected to a support, the overall piece should measure 24″x30″, which happens to be one of my most frequently-used canvas sizes in painting.


I am fascinated by the materials and process in this series, and I very much look forward to discussing more pieces in future posts!


Art for Syria

I’ve been considering the relationship between politics and art quite a bit lately, as seems inevitable in such tumultuous times. I’ll have more to say about it once I’ve better organized my thoughts, but one of my key concerns is how to make art that is responsive without necessarily being reactionary. That is to say, how do I make work that addresses and engages with global political turmoil, yet stays authentic to my practice and comes from a sincere place?


My heart aches watching the ongoing suffering in the Syrian refugee crisis and imagining how dehumanizing it must be to be torn from one’s homeland and treated with such brutal conditions in camps or hostility in unwelcoming foreign countries. I thought about how deeply rooted I am to the area in New Jersey where I grew up, looking across the bay at New York City where I’ve lived almost my entire adult life. I am haunted by imagining that all of this place that I know as my home could just be gone. Every building and landmark in Manhattan reduced to rubble, once familiar neighborhoods now occupied by warring factions bent on destruction, fearing my own government may gas my family for being ethnic or religious minorities. It is an absolute nightmare, with no end in sight for the millions of displaced Syrians except to start over somewhere new and try to make the best life possible in the worst situation.


I envisioned Syrian refugees building new communities, finding friends in foreign lands who empathized with what they’d been through and did everything they could to make life a little easier. I wondered what might happen if people started treating each other as fellow humans instead of isolating each other with mistrust, and the image of a tree rising from the tumult of history started to coalesce in my mind.



Sanctity, 2017, 11″x14″, permanent marker on paper


An olive tree of peace growing out of the historical colors of Syria’s flags, this image adapts the tree of life motif in response to the Syrian refugee crisis. I thought about how plants and trees are a form of healing for the planet, cycling soil, air, and water and transforming patches of uncertain and even hostile land into lush forests of stability and growth. I was filled with hope at the thought of eventual peace and restoration of humanity that will allow displaced Syrians to heal, grow, turn their history into new roots, and thrive with time and better conditions.



Nurturing Hope, 2017, 11″x14″, permanent marker on paper


The second vision I had was full of hope and optimism, that if we welcome others with community-mindedness and nurture compassion, we can all grow together like a blooming garden. Instead of being disturbed or afraid of the chaos and violence in every culture’s past, we could use history as a wellspring of wisdom to guide us toward a kinder, more peaceful and harmonious future. I thought about the beautiful tapestry of backgrounds and traditions woven together in sanctuaries like New York or Los Angeles, and I pictured each person’s roots twining together to form the alchemical magic of a city that celebrates diversity and learns from each other. I know it is an idealistic vision of egalitarianism and compassion, but if we don’t have the audacity to imagine it, how can we ever make it real?


Inspired by the #WomenForSyria day of action, I’ve added prints of both of these drawings to my Charitable Giving initiative, where 50% of their sales price will be donated to the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) and/or the International Rescue Committee to support humanitarian aid and refugee resettlement.


Individual prints are $40 each, or they can be purchased as a pair for $60. I hope with all my heart that these images can provide support to the people whose indomitable strength and courage in the face of such inhumanity teaches us all how to turn to our better natures, persevere, and resist.


What if I do this all the time?



In the last few hours before I officially open my shop for business, I wanted to take a deep breath and remember a moment almost a year ago in a village in India. I’ve written a bit on my personal blog about what a life-changing experience my trip was, but this sweltering afternoon in Alipura was really the moment it happened.


It was so hot outside that our group leader suggested we postpone our scheduled walk so everyone could hydrate and cool off in their air conditioned rooms until the temperature came below 100°. I couldn’t stand to be indoors, so I walked very slowly, liter of water, sketchbook, and camera in my bag, up the main road of the village, just seeing and being. I stood beside a cream-colored cow, letting my gaze wander across the alley to the two-level house in the photo above. It was painted an unusual green-tinged blue, unlike the indigo-based paints used to repel insects, and I saw Hindi writing that had faded, probably from the last wedding celebration. The slightest breeze stirred a tree branch overhead, moving its shadow away from a startling patch of emerald green that simultaneously made no sense and perfect sense, color-wise.


I took my time pondering how this building came to be colored in the way it was. Was this patch of green typically in shadow and fading unevenly from the adjacent area? Was it a newly-painted repair? Would it fade too, or would the rest of the house turn the palest cool white while this spot remained richly green?


I wanted to keep the light and colors of that green next to that blue, as it suddenly had become the most precious and important passage of color in my life. I stood with my camera ready, waiting for another gentle breeze and the few seconds I would have to make sure I’d captured the color the way I saw it.


I sighed and thought the typical office-worker’s lament to myself, “Oh, I wish I could do this all the time…”


In that instant, simultaneously the breeze nudged the tree, the sun came out brilliantly from behind a lazy cloud, the green seemed to radiate from within, I released my shutter, and something like a jolt of electricity went through my entire body, a booming voice saying, “You can. And you must.”


I’ve read about religious and spiritual callings that take a similar form, where a disembodied thought feels for all the world like the earth splitting open and reverberating with the voice of God giving explicitly clear instructions to guide one’s life. It was like the instant of falling in love or jumping off a cliff, equally terrifying and exhilarating, trembling and my whole body breaking out in chills. Everything in my mind switched instantaneously to a certainty of purpose I’ve never felt before in my life. The wind was knocked out of me, and as all the sound and colors came rushing back at once, I felt like I was going to faint, or possibly explode. I wondered for a second if I was having a heat stroke or if a bull had decided to exact revenge at precisely that moment for my history of cheeseburger-eating and had just gored my chest. But everything was coming back more clearly and vividly even than I’d known it before, including the understanding that this was something real, coming from something much bigger than myself.


A line was drawn in my life from that moment forward, where I knew, really in the depths of my heart knew, what I was put on earth to do. I am an artist, I have been all my life, and I have literally been commanded by the universe to be an artist all the time now.


As my life started completely transforming after India, a lot of things came together just so to give me the opportunity to spend the past few months rediscovering who I am as a person and an artist, and to change my days to doing that – being an artist – all the time. I am so profoundly grateful for the encouragement, problem-solving, and inspiration of the people in my life who have helped me get to what now feels like the precipice of actually doing what I’ve been meaning to do my whole life. It is no exaggeration to say I feel like there was a moment of divine intervention or personal epiphany or whatever you’d like to call it that saved my life in the instant my camera recorded this silly little multi-colored house.


I’ve faced more than a few setbacks and frustrations along the way (I’m going a little nuts about how many things I want to change already in my shop and on my site) but I want to remind myself that this isn’t something I chose. It chose me before I could speak or walk properly, when I dragged my fingers through sand at the beach and realized I could take what I experienced inside my mind and soul and share it with other people. I’ve remembered how a back-lit leaf or sunlight shimmering through new blades of grass reveal all the mysteries and wonders of the universe in an effortless instant. Art has been the greatest gift of my life, and turning back to it after neglecting it for so long feels utterly and completely like coming home.


I am incredibly excited for the challenges ahead, for giving this business my truly best effort, and for doing whatever it takes in my life to be able to keep making art and being an artist, all the time.


The green commanded me. I can, and I must.



The Sky Where I Am

Lately I’ve noticed that a significant portion of the photos I take are of clouds, sunlight, weather, or in some way related to the status of the sky where I am. My Gmail address even alludes to how much time I spend looking up.

I decided to make it its own art-adjacent photo Tumblr:

The Sky Where I Am

The Sky Where I Am

I have all kinds of thoughts on social media’s influence on photography – and about photography in general – which I will try to organize into something more cohesive without just breathlessly saying, “Read Susan Sontag On Photography, it’s all happening, OMG!!!” sometime this spring.