Ohio University at Athens, Athens, OH Master of Fine Arts Program, Printmaking University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM, Master of Arts, Printmaking State University of New York at Buffalo, Buffalo, NY Bachelor of Fine Arts cum laude, Printmaking
Since 1990, my animal advocacy work has taken precedence over my artistic career when I served as President of the Minnesota-based Animal Rights Coalition and founded other organizations including Minnesota Spay/Neuter Project, Legislative Efforts for Animal Protection and most recently, Chicken Run Rescue and Justice for Animals Arts Guild. It is a constant struggle to keep up with the rescue and rehab work so studio time is extremely rare and I long for it.
My art has always involved animal imagery but as my activist work matured, I started to combine drawing, painting, sculpture, photography and installation with authentic artifacts like eating utensils and cages, restraint devices or tools used to mutilate or control animals. In some pieces, my quests for public data such as court records on cruelty cases using Freedom of Information Act and Minnesota Data Practices Acts and correspondence play an active role in the creation of the work - always telling the stories of real individual animals.
The main body of my work includes portrait photographs, paintings and sculptures about real birds who my husband Albert and I have rescued and rehabilitated (nearly 1,000 since 2001), blurring the lines between portrait and self-portrait. As the rescued birds heal and express instinctive urges that have been denied, their unique individual personalities unfold. As long as animals are killed and eaten, they will define the violent and un-evolved nature of humanity. Human portraits have always held an esteemed place in the history of visual arts, but animal portraits, unless sanitized into metaphor or decoration, are marginalized as sentimental and not serious art. Marginalization is intellectual bias - new knowledge in biological and behavioral sciences expands evidence of animal sentience every day. That double standard says more about the anthropocentricity of the critic than the art.
I have intimate access to the birds because they need to be fed, cleaned, healed, sheltered and made happy. We are each other’s world for those intense moments. Ideas come to me unexpectedly - while mucking poop or looking into the eyes of a critically ill bird or witnessing as one surrenders into warm dirt and sunshine for the first time. My instinctive need for expression just sort of leaks out and my little pocket cameras have been my salvation where studio time is out of reach. My newest work will include video taken with camera glasses. The challenge will be to make those visions accessible to others in a disembodied and sustainable format.
The days of the self-involved artist marketing to wealthy patrons need to be history. The object has become crass currency available only to the privileged few. I have always been uncomfortable with generating volumes of material stuff but lacked the confidence as an elder to reject it. This is a world in desperate need of deep insights and compassion, critical thought and creativity and intellectual evolution. I used to think politics had no place in art, now I see them as inseparable.
The world will survive if I never make another piece of art, but the life or death of this bird before me at this moment demands my creative energy and makes a world of difference to that individual.