I am a visual artist, creative writer, and veteran arts educator with over twenty years of teaching experience in higher education, and the associated array of skills and accomplishments. Please see my resume link for specifics. As a non-traditional, first generation college student I earned BFA and MFA degrees in traditional studio art at Northern Illinois University, but my professional and creative work has always touched upon and explored anything that illustrates my interest in dissolving boundaries and celebrating connections between art and other disciplines. I am also on a mission to serve the under-served by currently holding an AmeriCorps Program Director position at Eastern Kentucky University’s College of Justice and Safety (2018 to present) and continuing to bring art as an empowerment tool to marginalized individuals via innovative, collaborative, economic empowerment and public art projects that build awareness as well as connections between these underserved by art groups and their communities.
Current projects include ArtVention, a unique visual art based experience for survivors of suicide and suicide bereaved, visual arts programming for The Living Art and Science Center in Lexington, William Wells Brown School in conjunction with the LEXengaged program at the University of Kentucky, and Eastern Kentucky University’s Summer Upward Bound program, in which I serve as a special interest instructor in art.
Other notable professional experience is my capacity building and sustainability work with nonprofits via an AmeriCorps and AmeriCorps VISTA Leader at Berea College (2014-2015 and 2016-2017); the design and implementation of art empowerment/healing activities for veterans, the elderly, at-risk youth and the homeless at social service agencies in Evansville, Indiana and Henderson, Kentucky (2013-2016); the ongoing production of mixed media artworks (1988 to present) as well as the completion and publication of memoirs about my experiences working with the underserved (The Art Bag Lady), and connections between my academic career and surviving an abusive childhood (Semesterland). I am a published author with several autobiographical essays in print, including Spruce Hill Press, Botticelli Magazine, Still Point Arts Quarterly and Line Zero. Many of my mixed media artworks are also making their way into literary journals, including Vine Leaves, Gambling the Aisle, Kestrel‘s Fall 2013 issue, which was showcased at the 2014 Associated Writing Programs Conference in Seattle, and Columbia College South Loop Review‘s final issue in 2015.
For over twenty years I have been creating and exhibiting traditional mixed media and digital artworks that have appeared in numerous juried, invitational, and one-person exhibits. Many of those years were also spent teaching art at the college level. In the fall of 2013, however, my professional life changed profoundly when I walked into a homeless shelter and became a teaching artist to the underserved. Since that time I have facilitated and helped create a variety of empowering, healing and collaborative art projects, many directed by the homeless, the elderly and at-risk youth themselves.
I am interested in dissolving boundaries and celebrating connections between many things, including visual art and writing. Text is always a major element in my artworks, and it often overwhelms any imagery. I am fascinated by the form of letters, lettering styles evocative of eras, and the multiple meanings of words. I also love creating contrasting, conflicting visual and contextual relationships between images and words, and using color, image and text to address opposites like love and hate, ugliness and beauty. Themes explored include family history, memory and truth, and the work of women in my family and in our culture, both past and present. But more recent artworks memorialize people, places and events, sometimes all three in a single piece.
My process begins with selecting primary fragmentary elements that I rearrange, layer and piece together to create a new cohesive whole. Then I add more, repeatedly obscuring and revealing, creating complex and constantly shifting visuals. There is also a strong narrative quality to my artwork, expressive of my impressions and experiences of life as well as those I have loved and lost.
Yet while I am memorializing and documenting my own story, which is intensely personal, I am also engaging in processes similar to scrapbooking, journaling, photographically and/or digitally recording and archiving — activities that are universally used by non-artists to document and give meaning and substance to their lives. In fact my work has often been compared to scrapbooking, until the viewer looks harder and closer and realizes the stories my artworks tell are often unpleasant. But they are always illustrative and illuminating of life.