In the spring of 2009 I started to make plans to move from Brattleboro, Vermont to Madison, Wisconsin to go to graduate school and get my Masters of Fine Art degree at the UW-Madison. Five years later I find myself planning the same route, but this time in reverse. Over the last few years I have found that I was, in fact, able to find a spot and make a beautiful home for myself in the Midwest. Who knew this would be the place I would live the longest since I left my childhood home of Whidbey Island? Now, it’s time to head back to Vermont and continue the storyline that I began there.
Over the last month or so I have had the wonderful opportunity to work with the talented photographer and web designer, Nick Wilkes, to create a new website and blog for my work. As I was pulling the material together for my site, I found myself enjoying the exercise of gathering the information and viewing these last few years of my life, the little twists and turns, through my production of art. As I organized images and laid them out, one next to the other, I started to see my experience of Madison illustrated through my work. I have to wonder what kind of strange, wild narrative this lineup of images would make for another reader if read in this way. Writing this blog entry, hopefully the first of many entries, is also an interesting practice. I’m using this first entry as a way for me to put into words the feelings of sadness in saying goodbye to a place and its people as well as the excitement of starting in on a new chapter in my life.
When I moved to Wisconsin from Vermont I had only spent a year and a half in Vermont. I had moved there from Washington State in 2008 in order to set up a little printing press with my best friend, Helen O’Donnell. We had a crazy, hair-brained idea of setting up an intaglio press and somehow – with our combined love for the medium, a donated press, Helen’s grandfather’s workbenches and a lot of love and support from our friends and family – we did it. It was such a crazy thing to do, and yet it was so much fun and such a huge learning experience. It’s hard to imagine that we started our little press, Twin Vixen Press, over six years ago. My decision to move to Wisconsin in 2009 was exciting but it also came with a dose of guilt about leaving Helen behind with the responsibility of our press. Helen was supportive of my move and gracious enough to pick up the slack and keep the press going this whole time. What an amazing woman.
It’s hard to really remember the entirety of what has happened while I’ve been in Madison. Amidst the frenetic pace of grad school I managed to move through several large life lessons including learning to drive on the highway, move a two-bedroom apartment in less than 24 hours and break up with a fiancé. I’ve illustrated two books, made the cover to another and made enough work to show in four solo shows. And, when the lovely Frances Meyers decided to retire from teaching etching at the UW-Art Department in the spring of 2012, I was pleased to apply and accept the position of lecturing professor in printmaking for two years. Although taking the position meant a continued and unexpected separation from Vermont and Twin Vixen Press I found I really could not pass up the experience. Over the next two years I located in myself a love for teaching. Granted, I’ve had the luck of having some of the best students an instructor could ask for: they have been patient and supportive of me as I learn to be a better teacher and they surprised me again and again with their creativity and dedication. Teaching art is something that I now know I would love to continue to do throughout my life. I owe so much to my students and hope that they know how much I love and respect them. And of course I can’t say I did the job alone. Without the support of the rest of the print faculty – Jack Damer, John Hitchcock, Jim Escalanté and Michael Conners – I would have been totally lost.
During my time at the UW I managed to work with some incredible instructors such as Fred Stonehouse, Chris Gargan and Lynda Barry and meet a large collection of amazing artists and friends that I know I’ll continue to have for the rest of my life. Who would I be if I had never met Sylvie Rosenthal, Leah Stargarter, Jason Gray, Nic Wynia, Anders Zanichkowsky or Helen Hawley? How would I have gotten through this last year without my sweet neighbors, Ari Brice and Jeannine Shinoda, who never failed to lift my mood with generous quantities of food and love? Would I be the same person without having met the awesome Chinn Wang or having the experience of sharing a studio with the incredibly talented, Jeffrey Clancy? There are so many people that will be hard to say goodbye to, so many sweet people that I met here that will change my life forever. (All I really want to do is continue this list but I’ll try to respect my readers’ patience and not play out an over-zealous, unending Oscar-thank-you speech.) Saying goodbye to a place and its people is something most of us have to do several times throughout a lifetime and yet, it’s always so hard to know how to go about it, and let people know what a huge impact they have had on your life. If I somehow figure out a good approach to the goodbye predicament I’ll let you all know…
So, here I am at the end of this chapter of my life. I created some art, had some shows, made some incredible friends and found that I really enjoy teaching art. I guess I’ve come full circle. Ahead of me is the beautiful picture of Vermont and the incredible people I know I’ll meet there as well. This summer I will help at Helen O’Donnell’s farm, The Bunker Farm, where she now lives with her husband and sister and her brother-in-law. I’ll muck around in gardens and get dirt under my fingernails. I’ll start my time in Vermont with a project illustrating a book of furniture for Lost Art Press and a teaching a drawing class at Smith College in the Spring. I’m thinking there will likely be a dog and a pickup truck in my future as well.
Thank you to all who have made my time in Madison a beautiful one. I will be leaving for Vermont on June 7th. Hope to see you before then!