The Hidden Pearl
Having grown up in a state park and having 562 acres as a gift of a backyard, I walked a lot. I was a lonely, first generation American child and young adult among Dutch-speaking parents. I needed something to talk with and so I took great comfort in the park and in painting.
My eyes were to the ground, mostly, as I was always looking for treasure. It came in the form of a vine or scroll, rocks suggesting texture and pattern, animated roots of trees forming hands; and limbs reaching out for something. I fell in love with the burl, the hidden pearl of a particular tree; ferns awakening, cicada leftovers, and a wing of a butterfly.
My father was a Dutch forester who came from a job that reclaimed the sea and he married my beautiful Dutch mother who excelled in aesthetics and thrift shops. My father had many gardens and my first sights of asparagus and straw flowers bewildered me. How could flowers be so hard?
At night my father sat and read and smoked his pipe (I still respond when I smell that particular brand in the air.) and thought about serious subjects. He wrote papers on recycling and composting and sent them all over the United States in the late 60s.
The rejection was overwhelming and I believe it was because his papers were typed on a second-hand italic typewriter with a jumping “j”. I’m sad that he never saw the slow but sure transitioning of mankind.
My mother could spot silk and cashmere in the wind. In thrift shops, she would run her hand through clothing to arrive at a cashmere sweater for a dollar ninety-five. She weaned me on flea markets and saw the dent in a copper pot as an asset. She knew it contained a story and set it on our Persian rug-covered table along with fresh flowers (as if there were any other kind) and her collection of beautiful stuff, not too much, just enough.
We also lived amongst antiques shipped from the Netherlands after the Second World War at great expense. They had sentimental and aesthetic value. “Farmer’s antiques,” my mother would say, beautifully carved or just old and worn and used. “Too good to leave behind.”
My obsession with ravens and raptors began when, as a child, I found an injured crow in the park. It allowed me to carry it to the nature center so that someone could drive me to the veterinarian to set its wing. When you look into a crow or raptor’s eyes, they look back at you as this one did at me. I was allowed to watch the veterinarian manipulate and set the crow’s wing, and fainted. There went all thoughts of becoming a vet.
From these and other early experiences I formed my personality as an artist. Growing up immersed in nature gave me the gift of being able to live with little, which helps when you are an artist. A sensitivity that is a cursing and a blessing at the same time. An appreciation for the natural beyond what is apparent. One of my favorite sayings is:
If you draw an outline of a fish, you can put anything inside it and it will still read as a fish.
When I am working, I trust my subconscious and let the paint speak to me. But, I am first and foremost informed by nature, not ruled by the photographic image or the pretty picture.