I’m the third generation of my family to grow up in a rural seaside town on the west coast of Canada; to say that the forest and the ocean are influential in my work would be an understatement. However, I’m not content to replicate nature. I’m an unconventional oil painter using stencils and spray paint like a street artist and markers like an illustrator. I create a puzzle to solve by using crisp lines, colours, textures and shapes that do not exist in the natural environment. The challenge then is to create unity that is aesthetically pleasing but not entirely comfortable. For me, a successful painting shows evidence of a struggle. If a painting is working well too quickly, I’ll purposely make erratic brushstrokes, scribbles and drips to “mess” it up and create tension. I push past the boundaries of outdated conditioning that equate femininity with neatness and prettiness. I look to nature to create work that rebels against order and perfection; I seek a raw kind of beauty.
When I was younger, I never understood why I felt so compelled to create art. I’ve been fascinated by the history and work of the women artists of the Abstract Expressionist movement. Their pushback in a male-dominated art scene and their resilience to carve their own way fuels me. I am following their path. I had good-paying jobs and a clear pathway to a successful career in television. However, after becoming a mother to two girls, I made a series of choices to fulfill a dream that I believe is not only mine but that of a woman whom I’ve never met.
My father’s mother died when he was 17. His stories of her bring tears to my eyes. She acted in our small town plays and weaved bedtime stories about pirates and knights to her little boy in lieu of books. My grandmother was born in 1903 in a rural town by the sea and over a half of a century later I was raised on that same piece of land. She grew up during WWI and struggled to bring up her own children during the Great Depression and WWII, while her husband was away serving in both wars. Grace Hartigan, Lee Krasner and Elaine de Kooning would have been my grandmother’s contemporaries, what would she have created if she had the opportunity to do so?
Two decades into slowly building this life for myself it is now clear that the struggle I create in my work is a metaphor for an old story, perhaps even a healing one. I make large, sensual and expressive oil paintings to use my voice and speak loudly for those who couldn’t. By sharing my work and teaching, I also give those alongside me now and into the future, permission to speak up. For this polite, small town, Canadian girl, painting is a political act; it is an act of liberation.