Even before I could walk my parents took me out on the ocean, walking in the woods and skiing out the back door on snow covered muskeg. My first summer in Alaska my parents placed me in a baby carrier as they were fishing on a beach. When they looked over to check on me I was adrift on the outgoing tide in my plastic “boat” slapping at the water. I have always felt a connection to water.
As our family grew my parents trundled me and my sister and brothers outside. Being with the natural elements helped me develop a sense of myself as a part of the world. Most of my life I have had access to forests and wild lands by walking out my back door. I currently live with my family on a forested hillside next to tribal forest land on the Flathead Reservation in northwest Montana.
My early years shaped me. My mother loves water and anytime we were travelling past a lake or a stream in the summer she would stop so we could jump in. My father was a forest ranger and growing up I lived in National Forests, the Tongass in Alaska and the Kootenai in Montana. On hikes my siblings and I would scramble behind my dad’s fast paced long-legged march through the trees. When I was about ten years old, I started to go on walks in the woods on my own. I feel a sense of being home when I am with water and trees.
The next forty years included receiving a BFA in Acting and Directing (University of Montana) and a MA in Psychology and Drama Therapy (California Institute of Integral Studies, S.F., CA). I taught, performed, directed and explored sculpture and writing. I was a member of the Montana Arts Council from 2005-2015. In 1993 I co-founded the non-profit organization Living Art of Montana and for the next twenty-three years I served Living Art’s mission to use the arts and nature to support healing through many different roles.
I started making masks in 1990. In 2009, equipped with nineteen years of mask making experience, I attempted to use long rust colored dried Ponderosa Pine needles to create a mask. They broke and slipped around in my fingers as I tried to make them do what they didn’t want to do. After twenty hours, I abandoned the needles. Out on a walk, I picked up a piece of bark. It had just rained. The light catching the worn bronze shimmer was so deeply satisfying to me.
I started to amass a collection of fallen bark and began to create from what I could recycle or what I found in the forest near my home. After reading an article, about how many plastic by-products end up in our bodies and throughout ecosystems, I began experimenting using natural and man-made materials in my mask work as a reflection of this intermingling.
Around 2010, the design elements that excited me in bark shaped how I saw things. My camera became a way to capture what was compelling to me in natural forms. In my daily walks, I love finding the intimate often abstract details in my environment that deepen my connection to a place. I continue to be drawn to water and forests.
I believe the arts are an essential human resource to awaken learning about and caring for ourselves, our communities and our planet. In June 2016, I transitioned from my position as Program Director at Living Art of Montana to pursue making art full-time. My mission now is to create work expressing uncommon views of natural forms to illuminate and revitalize our connection to the earth.