“I consider my birth my first attempt at creating art.”
[Cedaredge, Colorado, 2012] I FEEL NO STORK, but some alien spacecraft, dropped me, an infant clutching a box of crayons, onto my mother’s gurney that Sunday in 1939. The nurses rushed to the golf course and drug Doc Woodward from his game, and there I was—pink and flushed from my space flight. My mother cried. I cried (my musical debut). My father cried (he wanted a boy.) My grandmother cried, “See? I told you that woman wouldn’t have pretty babies.” The doctor cried. He almost had a birdie.
I consider my birth my first attempt at creating art. Not only drama, but music, and I must have drawn all over the hospital walls. My second artistic attempt was at two, when, like Marcel Duchamp I leaned over the everyday commode (brand new I might add…and in the house), and created a sculpture of baby blankets and diapers, then added the flusher music. Claes Oldenburg must have gotten his sandwich ideas from me. At five, I became a muralist. It was the beginning of a long career of painting on walls. I understand how Michelangelo’s mom must have felt. The kitchen wall was green, so it was highly susceptible to the fields of Indian camps, teepees, horses, travois, children and families that raced around the wall. It took tears and muscle before I learned the skill of the Bab-O stroke.
My entire childhood consisted of farm animals, horses especially, and, of course, the belief that all walls should be decorated. Being on a farm, I had models—and walls. I drew flying horses, horses on roller skates, horses in cars and trains. At school I drew horses on all my papers. Mrs. Mayer thought she had me fooled and let me draw with colored chalk on the blackboard. I cried when she erased it for math. I went back to drawing in the books, on my spelling papers, and in between addition problems. I quit when my sixth grade teacher gave me an F because I’d messed up my spelling paper. I didn’t cry, but I got even. I didn’t give up drawing.
Weldon Valley High School had no art program. Like Van Gogh and Monet I wandered in the fields and painted what I saw. I had been painting with oils since my fourth grade Christmas of fourth grade when I received my first oil painting set, a wooden box. I still have it. My champion in high school was Frosty (Coach Foster). He had suffered shell shock in the war and had art therapy. Frost’s trauma qualified him to teach me art. I painted. He snuck out and continued his liquid recovery program. There were twelve of us in the graduating class. I did murals for dances and proms, and I illustrated the yearbook. Small schools are pretty adaptive for my kind.
I graduated form Colorado State College in Greeley, now UNC, with a degree in art and education. Four years of luxuriating in academia was a delight. I felt like Paul Gauguin, and like him I was in a foreign county. I often wondered where my mother-ship was.
Motherhood, yes. Mother-ship, no. After college, I taught school. We had four kids. Picasso always wanted to paint like a child. I painted a child. That is, they had alizarin crimson diapers, viridian streaks in their hair, and a little yellow ochre on their coveralls. We all painted on the walls.
My master’s degree was at the encouragement of my husband. They were asking for continuing education in California. One of my assignments was to make marionettes. One marionette took sixty hours, and was one of eight projects. I was in heaven. All four kids were chewing on the wooden arms and legs. Meals are not an issue when an etching plate is due.Teaching for thirty years, all levels, all subjects—including art, made for an odd painting schedule. I did a wonderful woodland scene, with deer, on the stairway landing of our townhouse. I traded a mural on a shed for a couch. I went to Lodo on Sunday morning, and tripping over drunks, painted murals in a warehouse for an interior design and resin casting business. The owner was the best critic I ever met. He taught me a lot about composition, design, and message. Doug was my own Da Vinci. I was learning from the master. I painted abstracts, filled sketchbooks, and of course had my kids up to their elbows in crafts all the time. At times, we needed to wash the glue off the macaroni so we’d have something to eat, but we did okay.
I didn’t retire from teaching: I took a career realignment. That is to say, they bought me out for a computer program. Yes, I felt guilty. But then, I needed to paint. I wanted to paint. I had done my art on walls, and sketchbooks, and shirt-fronts. I’d sold a few, done some commissions, and some commercial art. I’d taught junior college, recreation, and gym. It was time for me to come out of the closet. Yes, I had become a closet painter.
My friend, Cheryl, had left Denver, moved to Minnesota, then Montrose, and then settled in Ouray. I had spent some time in New Mexico and had dreams of being Georgia O’Keefe. I should have known I wasn’t married to a photographer. I stayed in Ouray, painted in New Mexico, and house hunted. Not to say I didn’t paint. Every breathing moment I was at my art—even if not behind the brush. I wouldn’t recommend sketching on the interstate, but hey.
Eventually, I bought a house in Delta. I figured it was a hub. I painted with friends in Grand Junction. I had the Grand Mesa, Escalante Canyon, Dallas Divide, the monument, the Uncompahgre Plateau, and a mess of rivers and creeks spread out before me like a colorful palette. And clouds. How I love this sky. Taking my Rodeo, my dog, and my paints, I drove all over the area around my hub.
In Cedaredge, I found the Apple Shed, and Main Street Gallery. I had heard the art community was in Cedaredge, and on the Scenic Byway, here it was. Connie Williams hired me to work in the gallery. I was immersed in art. My association with all the other artists was as an inspiration and led to the forming of a co-operative group, Cedars Edge Gallery. The evolution of the gallery was a natural, healthy product of all our energies. Artists want to do art; they don’t want to sell other people’s art, especially. To me, it became an art work in itself. Connie was a trainer extraordinaire. We hung shows, and I learned another level of art….still full of walls.
Caole Lowry of Planet Earth provided more walls. I did a retrospective show there in 2001. What a trip down Memory Lane. I have a lot of art. I dread what my heirs have to deal with, but it’s been fun. With the help of Dale Roble, and great students, Cedars Edge Gallery and the classes I teach are another canvas, another wall.I still miss Taos and New Mexico dirt.
I also love words. Mr. Akins, my seventh grade teacher, wisely saw my potential (we won’t say for what). He bribed the students with Snickers and Big Hunk bars to write stories. Page after page kept me happy, and quiet. I thought I liked Snickers at the time. Now I know writing made recess come more quickly.
Writing was a catharsis for many years. Stories let me make new worlds. Now poems intersperse my work. The sketches, stories, songs, music, drawings, paintings, and any art I make, take me back to my mother-ship….wherever it is parked. I’ll never stop emerging from that darkness, waving my box of crayons, and searching for walls.
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