My mind is constantly busy and my husband often tells me I over think everything, which I know to be true. Thank goodness for art as it seems to be the only thing that allows me to focus, to be present. No judgement, no negativity, no wanting, just peace.
When I'm not painting I tend to analyze every conversation, every move, questioning myself, my motives, and always whether what I do or say is necessary. I do believe that I'm not the only person out there that feels this way but it is in those times of deep thought that I experience some of my greatest hardships and also some of my greatest creative ideas.
Lately I've been giving a lot of thought to who I am, where I come from, why I do what I do, and why certain things draw my attention, especially in my painting life. My parents are immigrants from Paraguay, South America and though I am deeply connected to those roots with the joys and challenges that came with them, I never really felt a part of that experience. I appreciate things made by hand, as where my family comes from that was a necessity, though they made a point of creating things that were both functional and beautiful. I was taught to crochet, knit, embroider, sew, and create patterns from scratch. In our home we were raised listening to Spanish music and eating Spanish, German and Ukranian foods. I love history and handmade.
My extended family is made up of the most wonderful people from so many different cultures - Italian, Portugese, Guayanese, Spanish, French, Indigenous Guarani, Scottish and German - so we were treated to a huge variety of food, art, celebrations, and religious beliefs. There are a total of 29 people in both families plus spouses and children and grandchildren, plus several families live in other countries, and because I grew up so far away from them, we only saw them once a year or less and very briefly.
In my northern community of Leaf Rapids, Manitoba I was exposed to canoeing, snowshoeing, dogsledding, tenting and cooking over a fire (bannock is still a favorite treat). Learning what was safe and healthy to eat and what wasn't. We were taught to care for the land and animals within it. Most of my friends were first generation Canadians, Newfoundlanders and Metis or Cree. I spent many hours in the dense boreal forest, in and on the clear, frigid waters of the Churchill River, and lying in the snow watching the Aurorea Borealis dance in every colour imaginable. Occasionally wild animals such as bears and wolves would wander through town, which meant it was okay to be late for school once in awhile. I was taught stone carving by First Nations' artist Michael ManyEagles, and beading and weaving from our neighbor Mrs. Merasty. The first artwork I saw in my life was that of the Woodland Artists, which is where I first dreamt of being an artist.
I was born in Winnipeg but was very young when we moved up north and have now lived near the Rocky Mountains for twenty-four years and the awe-inspiring ruggedness of them and the creeks, rivers and lakes that run through them fills my spirit. I am inspired by the animals, plants and trees as well as the vivd colours of the ever-changing skies. And the way the clouds settle into the mountain tops, which is that ghost-like feeling I try to capture in my work.
Last year I had the opportunity to work with a group of young graffiti artists and because I love every single art form, that experience was also finding its way into my work in incorporating spray paint and stencils. I have visited and been inspired by the Group of Seven exhibits many times in my life, at the Winnipeg Art Gallery and Glenbow Museum in Calgary, feeling especially drawn to Tom Thomson's small vibrant painted sketches on wood panel. I was fortunate to visit the Carr, O'Keeffe, Kahlo exhibit in Vancouver as those women all inspired my desire for simpler themes and a spiritual glow to the work, much like the Group of Seven's Lawren Harris, whose beautiful work brought me to tears many years ago. Much like the Group of Seven, my husband and I like to hike and have seen the most beautiful patterns on the rocks which also find their way into my paintings. Nature and history are probably the biggest influences for me.
And now, as I put these thoughts to words, I feel like my work really reflects who I am...incorporating my youth in the canoes and the patterns of the Woodland Artists, my family history in many of the stencil patterns, exposure to both folk and graffiti art in slight abstraction and vibrant colour and even the northern lights and sun dappled clear water in incorporating the shine of mixed media such as copper or silver leaf. I feel like what I do embodies how I feel about the Canadian Spirit and how grateful I am to be Canadian.
AIRdirondack Art Project
Alberta (above) +