Selections from the 2002-2006 Portraits

Working Artist
Prof. of Art Emerita, Hardin-Simmons University


My best works of art begin with subjects I feel passionately about or that affect me on a deeply personal level, with the end result transcending beyond the ultra-personal. In the late spring, 2002, Alzheimers was a deeply personal issue because my elderly mother was entering the disease’s latter stages. I had to make art about it. For primary images, I chose the brain because it was recognized as the root of the disease, and the eyes because it seemed to me that my Mother’s eyes revealed the most about her gradual withdrawal from awareness and cognition. After two paintings that combined these images (Alzheimers 1 and 2), I decided all I needed to paint were her eyes; they were the most interesting, they were the connectors, the portals between what goes on within and what is communicated to the rest of us.


My mother died suddenly of a massive stroke at mid-summer, seen in retrospect as a poignant blessing since she was able to leave still owning her dignity, always very important to her. Thereafter, finishing the eye portraits (Floreine 1 and 2) became both therapeutic and a revelation. With Floreine 2 in particular, I recognized how tired [of life] my mother had become, which I perceived as the appropriate ready-state for her transition to spirit.
Having now experienced the death of a parent, I think I turned a corner, perhaps entering a new archetype or life-stage. For one thing, both family experiences and the changes in my own body have made me more empathetic and appreciative of the elderly. For another, I felt a greater need to approach my art on a more individually humanistic level than ever before.


I continued to focus on portraits with the goal being a perceptive translation of the body’s most revealing aqueduct, the eyes—the eyes only. I also knew these people and chose those who seemed to have something different that “touched me,” whether it be the spark of a storyteller (John; Virginia), a special warmth and generosity (Nina), a resigned self-isolation (John Thomas), or a delightful oddball quality (Gene; Jody). Other works in the series focused on various parts of the human body I found interesting to paint. For example, one assortment of canvases added up to a fragmented self-portrait (Interrupted Self-Portrai).


Also demonstrated in this series is a continuing lifelong interest in Nature’s patterns, perhaps most obvious with Jody because of the inclusion of a wasp’s nest image, but overall satisfied through exploration of the beautiful intricacies of skin wrinkles. And another goal with each painting was to explore subtleties of color revealed by the translucency of both skin and oil painting.
For all the paintings I built fairly thick canvases and painted the image to wrap around the edges for the purpose of maintaining an interesting tension between realistic painting style (a picture as traditional illusionistic window) and modern self-referential object (stretched canvas as object that happened to have paint attached to it). One version could be viewed as more humanistic than the other, or another way to look at it could be the ideal versus actual. Similarly, I view life as full of tensions and contradictions, some negative, most insightful, with the pursuit of dialectic a continuous link within my career oeuvre.


In Memories of Warmth, I attempted to deal with the dialectics of abstract versus realistic, flat versus illusionistic, warm (emotional) versus cold and the important role that memory plays in our lives.

I hope this series communicates on a variety of levels. The preceding descriptions of individual paintings are exclusively my personal interpretations, my take-off points, but I want viewers to feel free to find their own. I believe that viewers bringing their own stories into their viewing to be a vitally important role for art, enhancing its ability to connect people with each other or perhaps to help individuals reconnect with something inside themselves.

Alzheimers 1

Alzheimers 1, © 2002, 46"x46", oil on canvas

Alzheimers 2

Alzheimers 2, © 2002, 46"x46", oil on canvas

Floreine 1

Floreine 1, © 2002, 14"x46", oil on canvas

Floreine 2

Floreine 2, © 2002, 14"x46", oil on canvas


John, © 2003, 14"x46", oil on canvas


Virginia, © 2004, 14"x46", oil on canvas


Jody, © 2004, 14"x46", oil on canvas


Gene, © 2004, 14"x46", oil on canvas


Nina, © 2004, 14"x46", oil on canvas


Riley, © 2006, 14"x46", oil on canvas

Memories of Warmth

Memories of Warmth, © 2004, 46"x46", oil on canvas

John Thomas

John Thomas, © 2003, 46"x14", oil on canvas

KenzieKenzie, © 2006, 46"x14", oil on canvas

Mother's Hand

Mother's Hand, © 2003, 12"x20", oil on paper