Where I’m Coming From

 |  August 23, 2013

There is an eternal landscape, a geography of the soul; we search for its outlines all our lives. ~Josephine Hart

I once listened to an interview of a writer on NPR who said something about how geography often shapes the personality of the people. He described, for example, pacific northwesterners, known for their reserve and desire for privacy to the lay of the surrounding land with its hills, mountains, curving rivers- nooks and crevices hidden in the folds of the earth. Then he compared that to the notion of midwesterners- direct, plain-spoken, open and social- to their flat, open, linear environment. Of course, these are generalizations, but that interview has stayed with me all these years even though the name of the writer has not.

I have now lived in several cities in different regions of the good ol’ U.S. of A. and I’ve been looking back at where I’ve been, where I’ve come from, and what I’ve brought with me. When I lived in Seattle, I developed my love of cooking and learned about really being aware of eating locally, knowing where you’re food comes from, knowing your environment and caring about the decisions we make that can impact our health and our land. Seattle is where I became a wife, mother, and artist. My art explored the watery and moody landscape around me and it was a place where I was constantly surrounded by the cawing of the crows.

within_the_seed_a_secret
Within the Seed, a Secret, encaustic, 12×9 inches
available for purchase

This painting includes an image of tall, tall, tall fir tree that inspired me in the early hours of dawn out in Washington. The landscape of the Pacific Northwest will always speak to my soul.

And then we moved back to the midwest, to the urban jungle of Chicago and it took me 2 years to adjust to the rush of the city and I kept wondering what on earth possessed me to move back to such a ginormous city that was flat and went on for miles. But then I fell back in love with Chicago and all that it has to offer in terms of the culture, the food, the art, and the people. Oh, yes, the people. I love Chicagoans. They are what make the city so great. My art grew in this city, not just in terms of how I painted, but participating in the shows and learning about being part of an art scene in a big city. Believe me, it was intimidating going from small coffee shop and independent retail shows in Seattle to actual galleries and art centers in Chicago. I am so grateful that I took those steps and for the amazing opportunities to learn and be part of such a vibrant scene! I also learned about what can happen when a small group of motivated people can do if they set about doing it. The artists that I met in Chicago were very active in their communities and neighborhoods. They cared and they took action. So very inspiring to me. I will always carry their example with me.

hidden-selves
Hidden Selves, encaustic mixed media, 7×5 inches
sold

My palette changed when I moved to Chicago. Instead of mossy greens and moody greys and blues, I turned to ochres and rust as well as more of concrete greys. Visually I was constantly surrounded by peeling patinas, rusted L platforms, torn up billboards, and graffiti’d walls while I was in the city. When we would leave the city to get some nature in, the land was linear, flat, brown and yellow, especially in the fall when the tall grasses would dry up. I found beauty in the open horizon. My paintings “opened up” in that sense. And while yes, there were still birds, my paintings became looser, imitating the urban patinas around me.Towards the end of living there, I really felt myself start to loosen up and I pushed myself to follow a path towards abstraction with the manta “less is more” running through my head while I painted.

And of course, there were my bowls.

more-of-less
More of Less encaustic mixed media, 8×8 inches
available for purchase

Now, here I am, in Maryland, where the hills are gentle and rolling. The landscape is so very green and wooded. The city has its own character which I have yet to know and explore. There’s a lot of old stone buildings here from way back when. To people in places like Europe or Asia, I imagine that a structure built in the early 1800s may not be a big deal, but here in our young country, it feels ancient. Well, at least to me. There is a strong sense of early American history here. I am still feeling it out and I wonder what gifts being back in Maryland will bestow upon me.

An old spring water house #farm #maryland
An old spring water house

Noah and his cousin running through hilly grassy fields
my son and his cousin running through hilly fields

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If you’re in Maryland or nearby or open to visiting beautiful western Maryland in the fall, I will be teaching a 2-day encaustic workshop at Lesley Riley’s The Red Thread Retreat. There are still spots available, so be sure to check it out and reserve your spot!

How hard it is to escape from places. However carefully one goes they hold you – you leave little bits of yourself fluttering on the fences – like rags and shreds of your very life. ~Katherine Mansfield

16 Comments

  1. by windrock studio on August 24, 2013  8:32 am Reply

    What a wonderful post and how interesting your thoughts about the different places you have lived!

    • by bridgette on August 27, 2013  10:27 am Reply

      thank you. I realized later that I left out a few places that I have lived...but I guess those places I never attached to and never thought of as "home". Interesting how brains can work sometimes.

  2. by Lisa Graham Art on August 24, 2013  8:34 am Reply

    Enjoyed this post very much...your work is beautiful. Lovely photo of your boy playing there!

    • by bridgette on August 27, 2013  10:26 am Reply

      Thank you Lisa! I love that photo too. it's one of those that brings me back to that moment when I snapped it.

  3. by Kathryn on August 24, 2013  9:36 am Reply

    I love looking back at the places I've lived too and what each of them have given me, personally and creatively. Our landscape, that which surrounds us can't help but have an impact on us.

    • by bridgette on August 27, 2013  10:25 am Reply

      I find it so very fascinating. How can it not impact us?

  4. by Seth on August 24, 2013  9:36 am Reply

    What a great post about the impact of place. I really do look forward to seeing the impact that your new home will have on your work in the coming months.

    • by bridgette on August 27, 2013  10:25 am Reply

      Thanks Seth. I just saw that you'll be teaching in MD next year- we have to meet up!!

  5. by Mary Jo on August 24, 2013  10:35 am Reply

    I enjoyed this post, too. I was sitting at my desk, kind of idly gazing around while I was thinking of how I wanted to reply, and I looked up at my bulletin board to a sheet of my favorite quotes from Stephen King's "On Writing". "People love to read about work. God knows why, but they do." It's so true. I do love to read artists talking about what goes through them--their minds and their lives-- to make what they make. What they make being both illustration and explanation of a life that observes and is moved by every experience. It really is so magical! I'm so glad you're settling in to your new place! You can't imagine how much I'm looking forward to taking part in the Red Thread Retreat!

    • by bridgette on August 27, 2013  10:24 am Reply

      I really like to read about other people's creative process as well. Not the how-to, but the whys and how did they get there. Really looking forward to meeting you at the Red Thread Retreat! Thanks Mary Jo!

  6. by tangled sky studio on August 25, 2013  12:00 am Reply

    looking forward to what you new environment gives to you and inspires you to create...it is beautiful country : )

    • by bridgette on August 26, 2013  3:22 pm Reply

      thanks beth. i'm looking forward to seeing what your new environment brings out in you too!

  7. by trish quilty on August 25, 2013  4:15 pm Reply

    thank you for sharing your thoughts and works with us. The quote you posted at end was so truthfully apropriate. . Thanks again...I will keep a watchful eye for your newest creations in this new setting.

    • by bridgette on August 26, 2013  2:51 pm Reply

      Thank you trish for visiting and for your comment. I love that quote too- the visuals are great.

  8. by Chris on August 28, 2013  5:16 pm Reply

    Hi Bridgette, Enjoyed reading post. I've lived in the same area all of my life and haven't really thought about how much of an impact that has...talk about deep roots! Lovely artwork, I look forward to your upcoming pieces, seeing the direction you new place has on them.

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