The Guardian series is one that is particularly difficult to attach an explanation. Everything, even from the name, to the images, inspiration, and effects evades concise description. When people first see these images they often think of the winged figures before them angels, but this conclusion is not the intent of the work. This work, like all my work comes from deep within me, inspired by my own experiences and manifesting itself within my work. When I set forth to make a new piece I give myself over to the process. I must let go completely, or the work will never go beyond the limitations of a conscious mind. It is imperative that I allow my work to flow forth from me quickly, overpowering the psyche. I trust this process. I have been doing it for years. When my whole body enters into the work and I am open to whatever is about to come forth that is when my work is able to be successful.
This series in particular goes beyond any political concept or belief. It is much nearer to the realm of spirituality than I am usually comfortable with. I do not consider myself a religious person, but the experience of faith, of believing in the process of life, is one that I have closely identified with since my childhood. As a young girl with a difficult upbringing, I often found myself taking long bus rides, after school, no destination in mind, completely fearless, yet infinitely vulnerable to the adventure before me. Likewise, I would wander through deeps woods around my home, always off the path, trusting that no real harm would come to me despite having no knowledge of where the day and the woods would take me. This experience of blind, bold faith is undeniably parallel to the process in which I make art. Just as I had no sense of direction or control on a bus or in the woods, so too am I completely lost as I open myself and let me work take me wherever it requires that I go. The world, the work, always surprises me, as it should, yet simultaneously is protective of me.
It has always seemed to me, since my wandering childhood days, that there is far too much emphasis for us to stay on the path. As human beings we are often prescribed a direction, and given the impression that following it is our only hope. I know from experience that this is not the case. These paths are not our salvation. We need to be able to forage our own paths, sometimes emerging from the forest with scratched and bloody knees, but knowing all the while that the choices we are making are our own.
This ability to fearlessly have faith and trust in one’s safety is one that I hope to give to others through my work. I cannot protect people from the pain that is inevitable in life, but I can do my best to give people hope. So often I am approached by someone who has been moved by my work, and has found that it gave them a sense of empowerment, or of peace or safety, in a particularly trying time. This effect was never my meaning - when I began making art, but after years of this pattern repeating itself I have come to acknowledge this surprising quality that my work has. It can act as a touchstone, not all the time but occasionally, for someone in need of hope or purpose. It is my story, the fearless quality of my childhood manifesting in my work, reminding people that it is possible to stray far from the path and simultaneously hold faith that one will encounter adventure and arrive through an experience safely.
While I was always this protective figure for my younger siblings, I do not see these paintings in any way to be portraits of myself as the guardian or even a statement saying that I have the answers for anyone who is struggling. As always, I see my work not as answers but as as explorations of questions, attempting to stem my own infinite curiosity about people, the world, and myself.
There are so many people in this world who are in need of hope, and the people attempting to help them are not the ones who you hear about. I am not someone who has the tools to help everyone in need, but if it is even possible for me to help direct someone to a place from which they can achieve real help that is an accomplishment all on its own. The difficulty arises when people relate to this experience of finding insight in a painting as some miracle that I am working. I am no shaman or magician. I paint my truth, and when someone finds a message that inspires them within that truth that is simply a wondrous coincidence. However coincidental, these experiences often reaffirm my belief that this is the work I was meant to be doing. I am no savior of the people. It is an artist’s compulsion to transform their experiences into images, and all one can do is hope that the effect these images have is a positive one.
When I first began this series I felt embarrassed, afraid that someone might read them as self-righteous or preaching. I even left off the wings of the figures, not wanting to reach into the realm of religious iconography. As I paint more, however, I know that they are far from these things and my confidence in presenting them grows. These images are not of stereotypical, beautiful archangels of the heavens looking down upon earth in all their disconnected guardianship. The figures I am producing have elements of the mundane, a kind of nonchalance that grounds them in the world of humanity and humility. They are growing, both in strength and authority. They are not of the distant sky, but rather are terrestrial spirits exhibiting the natural human ability to rise forth out of darkness into the light, with fearlessness, and, above all, with faith in the ability to stray from “the path” and still arrive safely at a destination.