Contrasts would describe my life thus far. Born and raised on Long Island, New York, we took advantage of the bay on the north shore and the ocean on the south shore. Swimming, waterskiing, boating, surfing were our summer activities. We had a suburban life, a rural life on the south shore beaches, and a “city” life when we wanted to commute into New York City. Life seemed so innocent and friends grew up together from kindergarten through high school.
In my high school art classes, field trips took us to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. On my own, I explored many of the other art museum offerings. In college, just north of Chicago, it was no surprise that I became an art history major. These painters and paintings have become “real” to me through these years of study and travel. I went weekly by train to Chicago to do my research at the Art Institute of Chicago and for a semester, life painting classes as well.
Not sure how I would make my living in art history, I chose to volunteer my first summer after graduation, doing a 10-week stint at the Montana State School in Boulder, choosing my volunteer time in art therapy. Always wanting mountains growing up, Montana appealed to me because of the contrast it provided me: I was fascinated with the climate, dry as opposed to humid, high elevation as opposed to sea level, and low population as opposed to dense. I loved the earthy colors I was seeing, the rock formations and infinite variety of mountain shapes. Of course, the culture was altogether different. When I first saw a poster for a Rock Show – I was thinking back to going to rock concerts in high school and college, and was shocked to see a display of rocks!
Returning to Long Island after this summer, only to briefly live in Tucson, Arizona later, where I took another course in life painting. I thought my serendipitous life would be hopping back and forth from Arizona winter to Montana summers, as an “early snow bird”.
That fall, I returned to Montana and ended up staying – now just over 50 years. Studying with artist/teachers Ray Campeau and Larry Hayes in those early years, I began studying watercolor at UM-Billings under the tutelage of Ben Steele, Professor Emeritus. Not only a kind and generous teacher, I came to find out that later that he was a POW survivor of the Bataan Death March in the Philippines. I highly recommend reading Tears in the Darkness, a biography of this artist/teacher, written by Michael and Elizabeth Norman.
After earning my teaching credentials, I spent 20 years teaching special education, then 8 years teaching years in middle school, then high school in Butte, Mt. Concurrently, I was teaching art privately in my studio and in Adult Ed.
Pursuing watercolor in many summer workshop travels, the first ‘big” workshop was a two-month internship with Cheng Khee Chee in the People’s Republic of China. In 1985, our little group of westerners were looked at with amazement and curiosity. We began the day with Tai Chi in the courtyard, then breakfast, followed by Chinese calligraphy and Chinese landscape painting. When not in classes, there was travel from the Zhejiang Fine Art Academy in Hangzhou to Nanjing, Beijing, Gui Lin, and many other fascinating cities, towns and landscapes.
In subsequent summers, month-long workshops were spent in Italy, France, Greece, and Turkey. More casual trips have been to Japan, France, Israel and Jordan, England, Wales and Mexico.
Life is still affording contrasts. In retirement, I spend days and evenings in my studio. Travel is still a motivation. I am grateful for my health, for an understanding husband, a not-so understanding cat, and the time and space to pursue my art.