Before starting medical school in my 20s, I drew the human figure. I had scant formal art training, but I joined a collective of figure artists and realized the contours of our models as faithfully as my eye and hand would allow.
Those drawings were relegated to the basement of our family’s home in Wisconsin when I began my medical practice. I dug them out of the basement more than 30 years later when I moved back to Minnesota. Most were on newsprint and had acquired water damage and mold, yet they had just enough integrity to be saved.
Back in Minnesota and retired, I preserved the most compelling drawings by tracing them onto tracing paper. In early 2017, I traced several copies of the same figure, cut them out, and arranged them in a collage. That started my artistic exploration of using multiples of one figure in a frame. I began to realize that the space between the figures was sometimes as interesting in form and composition as the figures themselves.
In February 2017, I discovered translucent and transparent media, on the surface of which I could place a series of figures, as well as paint. Building on my work with multiple figures, I continued to experiment, now adding color to the mix. Three distinct bodies of work began to emerge.
The first I call “The Space Between Us.” When I began painting the shapes created by the space between the figures, often an interesting abstract painting would result. Sometimes the figures become secondary and even “hidden” in the larger kaleidoscope of shape and color. I see this as reflecting the way our interactions and relationships with each other create a more encompassing--and more complex--story than our own individual narrative can be.
The second collection is my “Reconciliation” series. In these works, multiples of the same figure are sometimes isolated, sometimes adjacent, sometimes overlapping. For me, this could illustrate the process of a person reconciling various dimensions of themselves, for example, reconciling youth with adulthood, dreams with reality, inner self with outer self, individual with family, personal values with cultural values. See your own metaphor, or simply respond to it visually.
The third body of work, “Transformation,” is composed of painted figures on transparent media over a photographic background. Many of the photos are symbolic of transformation and change. The beauty of pyrocumulus clouds arising from a devastating fire in the BWCA is a mighty symbol of rebirth, such as of spring after a harsh Minnesota winter, or of ebullient new growth after destruction. A cracking wall of handmade bricks signifies the inevitable passage of time, the precision of craft and artisanship evolving under the hand of nature. Overlaying a series of figures on these images connects personal transformation with natural transformation.