Painting faces is endlessly fascinating for me. This includes human portraits, wildlife portraits — and faces of flowers as well. I call all of these ‘portraits’, and each of these is to invite the viewer into the depths of these living beings: into their beauty, their unique presence, their struggles and joys.

Faces can be magnetic because of their beauty, whether it is a human face or that of an animal, and of course flowers are one of pinnacles of beauty. Human faces can draw us in because of the ambiguity of their inner world and the many subtle layers that hold tensions, complexities, contradictions, and yet they are all still integrated — it is a person’s unique world. I am especially interested in the subtle discord between the apparently contradictory elements of the human being, like strength and fragility, longing and contentment, openness and being self contained. These seeming opposites often move us to make and transform our human life into poetry and art, and infuse it with dynamic energy. For me, the subtlety, depth, and richness of oil is the best medium for expressing the nuances of these ‘portraits’.

We have experiences like this when we look into the eyes of someone we know and love, or perhaps we are simply able to really see another person — even for a moment in a grocery store — or perhaps when we are looking into the eyes of a pet who has been loyally giving us unconditional love.

The common thread in these moments is trust. The ‘other’ trusts us and is not afraid to be who they really are, but it also requires that we are open to see them. Trust and love are very close in this regard. Love lets us see and lets us be seen by another. These shared moments are a much needed form of communication, and it starts with the gaze between the mother and child, without which the child would not develop into a healthy individual. That intimacy is basic. I wish to bring this intimate world of seeing to the canvas, so that we can see the person as they truly are.

In my human portraits, I have been working on a series of paintings depicting women and girls. Perhaps one reason I am drawn to paint women is because the feminine in general is more in touch with the subconscious and emotions, and often these emotions can be quite subtle and not explicitly expressed.

Besides the emotional subtleness of the feminine, I also wish to paint the feminine in its more archetypal form to express her nurturing, care, introspection, gentleness, as well as her resilient and powerful form that has a certain fierceness. Of course no men or women can be put into the categories of masculine and feminine energies only — we are all a mix. Fierceness is often associated with the masculine, but mothers for example know this assertiveness well, as they have to take care of their offspring and be there for them fully. They are protectors just as much as the masculine is.

In a series of paintings I am working on now, I am exploring these archetypal forms of the feminine: her being surrounded with gentle elements of nature, to which she is deeply connected, and at the same time being a resilient and strong presence. My process in painting these is to ‘hear’ what message they are trying to convey. What would a puma say if I had a conversation with him or her on their own territory? Would it be a specific general message to the human from the animal world, such as, “We have the right to live.”? Or it may be something more personal and relaxed, such as, “Good morning.” And what would a young girl say who is utterly beautiful yet already in her relatively short years has seen and experienced things that brought her sorrow and conflict? What is each person’s message to the world?

Santa Fe, New Mexico


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