My grandfather, who gave me his box of sketching materials, had been a night watchman at the Nelson-Atkins Gallery of Art. Its paintings and sculptures fascinated me as much as the bugs and chickens at home. My grandmother had framed prints of masterpieces in their home (I loved the Goya.) She showed my sister and me how to make hats from the big leaves of the catalpa tree. Both parents encouraged my natural desire to draw, and my mother often played in the paint with me.
In 1954, our family headed west on Route 66, through the most exciting landscapes I’d ever seen. Settled in the forest near Prescott, AZ, I found yet more wonders to engage me – wild animals, weird insects, reptiles, unusual plants and fantastic rocks. I continued to wear out pencils and crayons, and dug clay from the road for sculptures.
Our tiny local library had two huge books of Art that I looked at over and over, discovering styles and points of view. (Why are so many people naked? Why is her face blue and green?) I was crazy for MAD magazine. At school, I was known for my irreverent caricatures of teachers and fellow students.
Art was apparently my destiny; at 18 I returned to Missouri for foundation classes at the Kansas City Art Institute. Everything in art thrilled me, from ancient to modern, sacred to profane. I was in heaven!
From Arizona State University I chose a BFA in graphic design, because I liked the freedom of form and color. Meanwhile, I fell in love with the desert for all of ITS forms and colors, and remained in Phoenix as a freelance artist for 30 years. (The 9 to 5 grind was intolerable!) I painted motorcycles, sewed wild fringey clothes and purses from old Levis, drew ads and architectural renderings all sorts of things. I soon settled into mural and furniture painting. A focus on trompe l’ oeil gave me discipline and technical skill.
Eventually, I longed to get off the ladder, to work in a studio on whatever I wanted. In 2000 I returned to our forest home in Prescott, working in paint, assemblage, and sculpture. The connecting theme in my artwork is the fluid and permeable boundary between humans and animals and plants.
Over time, I developed my series called Desert Dada, showing animals as dignitaries dressed in their native flora and fauna, a whimsical way of celebrating the unique beauty of the deserts and mountains of the Southwest.