I was born in Monroe, LA in 1975. I earned my B.F.A. from the Savannah College of Art and Design in 1998, and my M.F.A. from Parsons School of Design in 2003. I now live and work in Austin, TX. That is all I was really going to say about myself. But there is so much more that has shaped me, my work, my artistic vision, and my perception of things in general, that I decided to use this biography as an opportunity to reflect upon and share some of the experiences and people that have influenced who I am.
Though I have been painting as far back as I can remember, the environment of my childhood and home was not exactly a breeding ground for creativity, so I am convinced that making art was somehow my destiny. My mother was a math teacher, and my father is a banker. While they certainly encouraged me to explore my creative side, my parents were less than enthused about my decision to study art academically and agreed to send me to art school only under the condition that I study graphic design. I had no idea that I would eventually have a career as a fine artist and do not remember even being aware that this was a possibility. However, even at the age of eighteen I was certain that graphic design and working behind a desk was not the path for me. Nevertheless, I knew I needed to get myself to art school, so I told my parents that I would study graphics and immediately began my fine art studies in painting.
In 1995 I moved to Savannah, GA to study fine art at the Savannah College of Art and Design. I was nineteen years old and had never lived away from home. I was nervous and homesick for months. As I became accustomed to my new life, I began to thrive on my newfound independence and in my education. The education I received at SCAD was invaluable to my artistic development, as it focused intensely on the formal and academic elements of art and design, which I believe to be invaluable and necessary tools to a true understanding of abstraction. After all, how can one understand how to take something apart and put it back together in a different way without a comprehensive understanding of how it was put together in the first place. I graduated in March of 1998 with a B.F.A. in Painting and a minor in Art History.
During a trip home to Louisiana in 1996, I met a vivacious woman named Pam Baker. She owned a small art gallery in Monroe called the Levee Gallery and offered to show a few of my pieces. Pam soon became a mentor to me, and eventually a dear friend. For six years she encouraged me in my own creative work, but as a former professor of English Literature and Film Studies, she also encouraged me to delve into the creative work of other artists working in various artistic mediums. She gave me reading lists, film lists, and academic articles. Her confidence in my artistic potential and her strong belief in the value of education helped me find the courage to further my academic studies, as well as to pursue a career as a fine artist. I came to regard Pam as my art mother.
I stayed in Savannah for several months after graduating from college in 1998. I desperately wanted to experience life working as an artist, and spent most of my waking hours working obsessively in my studio, nurturing my love affair with paint. I vividly recall working through many nights and watching the sun rise as I finished up for the moment. I loved being outside, so I put together an outdoor studio in the courtyard of my old downtown apartment. There was a banana plant out there so huge it would keep me dry during the rain if I sat beneath it. I worked in my outdoor studio constantly, which was a major influence on the style and palette of my work, particularly the natural forms that are so prevalent in my paintings.
In May 1998 I had my first solo exhibition in Savannah, Journey, at a place called Café Metropole. The place was an auto garage before it was a restaurant, so it had three huge sliding doors that were usually open, letting in natural light during the day and the starry sky at night. It was a seductive place with a timelessness to it that I have not experienced anywhere else. It always smelled of coffee, wine, cigarettes, baking bread, and fresh herbs in there. A sweet couple named Tom and Clara owned the place, and they were usually there hanging out with whoever happened to be there that day. And there were always people there, groups of artists huddled around tables talking and those sitting alone drawing and filling up pages in their sketchbooks. I realize my description of this place is nostalgic and sentimental, but it was truly a magical place. Café Metropole was the backdrop for a very meaningful and fertile time in my life and in the lives of my friends. I think of it often.
It was during my Journey show at Café Metropole that I signed on with my first commercial gallery, Galerie Lumiere of Savannah. Some months later the gallery offered me a solo exhibition, and then another the following summer at a temporary space in Rhode Island. I stayed in Savannah for a few months after the show at Metropole, and then hit the road for what turned out to be a very long journey of a different kind.
I moved first to New York City, where I continued to work frantically, which carried me through an otherwise pretty miserable year. Although I worked in my studio almost constantly, the work itself was not nearly as good or interesting as what I had been doing in Savannah. It consisted largely of rectilinear, architectural forms with bright, overbearing colors, a direct reflection of my environment. I have always been very literal.
A year or so later I moved to Portland, OR where I continued to paint and show my work, but I was also stimulated and excited by all the city and the area had to offer. There was a newly flourishing art community that was energizing and welcoming. But more than that, I was deeply impressed with the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest--a marked and welcome contrast from my life in New York. I spent a great deal of time outdoors painting, hiking, skiing, walking along the beach, walking my dog Libby, or working in the yard. My work changed dramatically. I had several small shows in Portland during that year--one at a coffee shop, one at a salon, and one at a friend’s loft that was a live-work space downtown. But I could not stop thinking about the south and wishing I were there, so I continued my vagabond life, returning to Louisiana for a few months before moving on to Austin, TX. I started working through the nights again, just as I had several years before in Savannah. I remember working at a furious pace, with a sense of urgency, or maybe it was panic. In any case, at the time my sole responsibility was myself and my work, so I gave it my all. After an irresponsible, but very fun year in Austin, I had spent my all of my savings and then some. After a contemplative conversation with Pam, I decided to continue my painting studies at Parsons. I spent a few weeks with my friends and family in Louisiana before making the move back to New York. Though I did not know it at the time, this was the last time I would see Pam.
I returned to New York in 2001, just a few weeks before September 11. It was a difficult year for so many people. There is nothing I can say about New York during the year following the attacks that will accurately describe how horribly strange things were in the city. Pam passed away suddenly in 2002. I was devastated and felt surrounded by loss. As usual I coped with things by throwing myself into my work.
I curated a group show from the work of my fellow graduate students at Parsons called Laboratorium, which was held at a non-profit space in Savannah called Starland Dairy. I also had a solo exhibition at a small gallery in Hilton Head Island, SC, co-curated a group show at Parsons, helped teach an undergraduate painting course at Parsons, taught several drawing and painting workshops, had my thesis exhibition, applied for teaching jobs, and got married. I got hired teaching art at the University of Louisiana in 2003, and with great reluctance, returned to my native state of Louisiana.
In 2003 I signed on with Ann Connelly Fine Art in Baton Rouge. Eventually, I began to sell paintings on a somewhat regular basis. I badly wanted to leave the university, but I had just had my first child and was scared to make a decision that involved such risk of failure. Eventually, I realized that for me a life without possibility was no life at all. I knew that not chasing my dream and not taking the chance at all was the real risk--a dead end road that I did not want to travel. The success I experienced at Ann Connelly Fine Art after the first year, combined with some powerful encouragement from my father, inspired me enough to resign from the university in 2006 to work full time as an artist. This was one of the two most empowering and positive decisions I have made in my life. For me there is nothing more invigorating than being free, and nothing more freeing than invigoration.
But still I knew I needed a plan. I decided to strive first to establish myself as a Louisiana artist, then after my second child was born in 2007, I felt ready to seek gallery representation in other areas of the United States. I dedicated the next several years to establishing and nurturing these new professional relationships and loved every minute of it.
In 2010 I returned to Austin, this time as a single mother with my two young sons, who have opened up my life in ways only a parent knows. It is a busy life these days, no doubt. But it is free, it is wide open, and it is mine. I feel like I am once again where I belong--driving down those open roads in a car filled with paintings and possibilities just like Libby and I so often did. Only now she has moved on, and I have my children by my side. So, as the journey that began so many years ago on the walls and tables of Café Metropole continues to unfold, I am deeply grateful. I still paint almost every day and will continue to do so as long as I am able. It is in my bones.