photo © jacques-jean
photo © arthur
I was born in 1958 in Great Falls, Montana, an agricultural trade center at the confluence of the Missouri and Sun Rivers on the high plains of the Rocky Mountains. Also the site of a major Cold War strategic missile wing, the countryside was incongruously dotted with nuclear missile silos for the duration of my youth. As the grandchild of homesteaders, I grew up surrounded by the practical and folk arts: crafts, storytelling, gardening, canning, construction & mechanics, quilting & sewing. I won Montana State Fair prize ribbons for sewing before I graduated high school, following in the footsteps of my mother, grandmothers, and several of my aunts.
In 1983 I received a bachelor’s in Theatre Arts from Montana State University, followed by a degree in English Education in 1985 after study at the University of Washington. I worked for three years in Seattle theatre as an actress, stage manager and costume designer and explored playwrighting in Seattle’s fringe theatre community until 1987, when I fulfilled an internal obligation to take my experience home. I returned to Great Falls to run my former high school drama department for two years, where I continued to write and direct.
In 1989 I moved to San Francisco to study acting at the American Conservatory Theatre, and worked for eight years as an actress, casting director and on production teams for a number of theaters. I was nicknamed “Montana” by a string of directors, actors and stagehands who knew few Montanans, and fewer women in cowboy boots. I disliked the name at first; in fact, a friend who was there for some of the more old-world Montana moments recently, upon hearing the name, raised an electronic eyebrow. I could only reply that I guess that which doesn’t kill you becomes your nickname! After it came up again and again from independent parties, I started to recognize and embrace what they were saying. The more I’m away from Montana, the more I realize how surely my character is shaped by that world. Contrary to the saying, the experience of “seeing Pareé,“ in the literal and metaphorical senses, has truly deepened my understanding of “the farm” and my appreciation of the self-sufficient spirit in which I was raised.
Highlights of my years in theatre include directing a staged reading of Mac Wellman’s biting comic satire on artistic censorship, 7 Blowjobs, for the Eureka Theatre Discovery Series; writing plays under the guidance of David Barth at Z-Space; and acting in the Denis Bigelow-directed production of Spring Awakening at Idaho Shakespeare Festival. That production was cancelled in an act of self-censorship in the wake of conservative attacks on the National Endowment for the Arts, and introduced me to the complexities of making art in America.
In 1996 I took the position of Program Manager for the University of California San Francisco Center for AIDS Research. During a five-year tenure that included a complete program overhaul and the significant advancement of the collaborative research Center, I began teaching myself to paint. I was fortunate to be mentored by impressionistic realist painter Rip Matteson, who has become a beloved friend and colleague in arms. During that time I continued to produce crafts—clothing, jewelry, painted furniture—as well as rough narrative works in charcoal and oil stick that I used for years to tell the stories of my life.
I was first invited to exhibit my paintings in 2001 with the artists of Coalesce in a show entitled Catalyst at the Balazo Gallery in San Francisco. The same year I traveled to Oaxaca, Oaxaca, Mexico to see the folk and fine art that had first inspired me to paint. I turned what was supposed to be a two-month visit—my first outside the US—into a year-long period of independent study resulting in twenty-four paintings. I also wrote a popular book-length email journal about the experience, one part anthropological black comedy, one part Alice-down-the-rabbit-hole.
On my return to the United States, I participated in Dreams of Resistance at the Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts in San Francisco. In October and November of 2003, I had an individual exhibit of the Images of Faith, Power & Life: Myth and the Divine Feminine series at Oaxaca’s Café Borgo. That same year I became an affiliated artist of San Francisco’s Institute for Unpopular Culture, an association that lasted three years.
In April 2004 I was one of five artists selected to show works at one of the inaugural San Francisco ArtSFest CONNECT events at Mezzanine. In Spring of 2005 I exhibited my Firescape series with the Women’s Arts & Crafts Fair at Under Glass Gallery, and works from the Character Portraits at the Xanh Shortfilm/Art Exhibit at Turkshop in San Francisco.
I had a second individual exhibit—the Montana Firescapes—at Café Borgo in Oaxaca’s centro historico in Fall of 2005, while I was again living in Oaxaca to paint. Concurrently I showed pieces from the Amor Mexicano series with Amaru Gallery of Fine Latin American Art in San Francisco. That year I also created the cover art for a CD by the magical folkloric musical ensemble, Cascada de Flores.
At the invitation of the Oaxacan artists’ collective, Yohoneza, I exhibited the Coatilicue paintings from the Myth & History series at the Ex-Convento Camino Real during the 2005 Days of the Dead observances.
In May 2006, my work was selected to be shown at the ArtSFest 2006 Spectra Ball and at the premier exhibition of the Finch Mob Gallery in San Francisco. I showed La Loteria Mia cards at the 2006 Xanh Shortfilm/Art Exhibit. In April & May of 2006, An American Woman Triptych from my Character Portrait series was shown at Amaru Gallery as part of their Made in the Mission exhibit. I also contributed a piece to Terror?, an exhibit at Intersection for the Arts exploring the notion of terror and terrorism five years after September 11.
In late 2006, I was given the extraordinary opportunity to travel to Paris and Bologna, Italy to study the classic pietà sculptures which are the foundation for new works in the Myth & History series which I call the Pietà Project.
In 2007, I showed finished works from the Myth & History series along with working drafts for the Confessional: 9/11 Pietà and Baghdad Morgue: Iraqi Pietà installations at the 2007 Xanh Shortfilm/Art Exhibit (which has become my favorite Bay Area art event). I showed work from a new series, Meditations on Trees, at the ArtSFest Visual Art Exhibition at Gallery One in San Francisco, and again at a solo exhibit at the At the Top Salon/Gallery in Mill Valley. As part of an installation workshop, I showed work in development on the Pietà Project at Intersection for the Arts, and rounded out the year by contributing a piece to the Berkeley Art Center Members’ Showcase.
This year, I showed a bit of art and craft with Will Chase Arts at Alchemy, an art, fashion and music event at CELLspace in San Francisco. Along with artists of the Hayes Valley Art Coalition, I am showing rotating works the third Saturday of each “summer” month along the chain link fence bordering Patricia’s Green, the Octavia Street boulevard park in Hayes Valley.
I was also accepted to study art at Parsons Paris in…that’s right…Paris, France! So much of my effort is currently focused on finding a way to fund this incomparable opportunity.
For sanity and inspiration, I return to Montana for some cross-generational perspective whenever I can. In lieu of home, I can semi-regularly be found at Bay Area salsa clubs—especially the ones with outdoor dance floors—where I’m making a serious run at becoming the first ever Salsa Goddess in Cowboy Boots.
NOTE: Images of artwork completed 2006 to present will be added by the first of 2009, including new works in the Myth & History, Character Portrait and La Loteria Mia series, as well as a new body of work with the Nature series entitled Meditations on Trees. To see these pieces before the above date, please feel free to contact me: email@example.com