You spent time in Italy during your education how did that influence your work?
Thanks to a world class study abroad art program offered at Flathead Valley Community College, I began my passionate, artistic, adventure right at the very top, right in Italy with the Renaissance masters. I was only seventeen when I started taking intensive educational tours to Italy to learn all I could about art, architecture and art history. Twenty plus years later, I still humbly hang tight to the rocket ship of artistic pursuit revealed to me by our great Western masters.
Tell us about your mentor Tonalist painter Russell Chatham. How did he help you your hone your style?
Even before his death, Russell Chatham has often been referred to as the Hemingway of Tonalist painters. He is a wild, brilliant, articulate, and almost supernatural force of artistic creativity. We met in his Livingston Montana studio where he warmly looked through my entire senior painting thesis show. Wow! What a thrill to have my giant, Caravaggio inspired canvases rolled out over all of the framing tables in Chatham's frame shop. We spoke right down to the bones regarding technical conversation that day and he told me, 'No matter what, we need to make sure you keep painting'. For the next couple of years, the great teacher of my life sent financial backup, poetry, art history books, philosophy books and oil paint.
More importantly, the man taught me how to think and see for myself. I was aching for an MFA when Russ casually convinced me to avoid more school so I could get to work painting what I loved and continue honing my skills. He encouraged more work ethic, more trips to the museums, and more courage embracing the great adventure of self discovery.
You were recently honored as one of the important painters of Glacier National Park. How did growing up near such raw beauty shape your outlook?
Four years ago I was featured in a documentary about women who have painted Glacier National Park over the entire last century. Only four living artists were included in the PBS story. I am thrilled to be recognized as the one person in this artistic canon who has a serious family history with Glacier and the Blackfeet people. I am the fifth generation to make a life near awe inspiring Glacier.
The mystery I aim to achieve in my Tonalist landscapes directly relates to my years of exposure to the mystery of this land and its people. I have spent some of the most profound moments of my life painting Two Medicine Valley in Glacier National Park. It is a place of intense, ancient spirituality.'Two Medicine' means 'Two Sun Dances'. I honor the land and the people by treading lightly in such places. Blackfeet families still hold ceremony in Two Medicine and the men still fast on Chief Mountain. Blackfeet sun dances are some of the most preserved ceremonies amongst the northern plains tribes today and my life has allowed me to witness the power of this kind of indigenous wisdom.