Writer • Photographer • Traveler
I describe myself as a late blooming artist… A natural-born gypsy who took the scenic route to finding her muse.
Born in southern California, I was abruptly moved to Wisconsin at age three. Most of my childhood was spent in the woods, swimming at the lake, perched in a tornado-tilted oak. Mine was a quiet landscape… exploding with wish-filled dandelion clocks in the spring and duck tail milkweed pods in the fall. Everything seemed to want to be something else, to be somewhere else… Like me.
Art was always in my life. In my senior year of high school, an Andy Warhol-inspired silk screen print landed me in the 1985 Student Art Show at the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum in Wausau, Wisconsin.
I wanted to study art and graphic design. My father flatly refused. “No. Get a marketable degree.”
I blended my interests in a way my dad would accept. In 1989, I graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire with a degree in Journalism/Advertising.
Yet nine months prior, an encounter with fellow student Tony Duran (now a renowned celebrity/art photographer), introduced me to photography. Already working as a test model photographer, Tony offered inexpensive portrait sittings. I booked one and observed his natural talent for styling, studied his approach to the camera as an artist. I left inspired.
For graduation I asked for a film camera.
In 1992, reeling from a broken heart, I grabbed my camera and hit the road. Leaving Zenda, Wisconsin, 13 hours later, I found myself in the Badlands of South Dakota. My three days of healing there offered a glimpse into a future I still wasn’t ready to pursue.
I worked seven jobs in seven years. Every one of them taught me about business. My last one, as a production manager for an ad agency, proved invaluable and timely. Within 14 months, my position was eliminated, signaling the time to strike out on my own.
In 1996, Apollo Graphic Design was born. I was self-employed and creatively on fire. But after my son’s birth in 1999, my husband refused to contribute to childcare to enable me to work. I had to abandon the company I’d built from scratch. Two years later, my son was diagnosed with autism.
By 2005, I was a single mother. My son’s autism made the dynamic environment of the road challenging. I managed two trips with him, but at the end of one, “the great dinosaur tour of Utah,” my camera fell out of a rented jeep and was destroyed. I took it as a sign and gave up on travel and taking pictures.
Six years passed. I resumed short road trips while my son visited his dad. With limited time, I began driving on intuition. Since my plans always seemed to get derailed, I decided to let the universe decide where I should go. As it turned out, it never let me down.
Using an uncomplicated Nikon Coolpix camera I went back to the basics. After a road trip across Sicily, in 2016 I joined Instagram. The following summer, my son moved in with his dad as he prepared for college.
Facing 50, I bought a jeep and criss-crossed North America.
I had no obligations for the first time in decades. It was just me. I just wandered… No plan… Like I did as kid growing up in rural Wisconsin… Free and curious and escaping a painful, lonely childhood. Only, this time, I was escaping the anger and resentment of having put my life on hold while my ex’s life carried on without skipping a beat.
I pursued every opportunity, including an unexpected invitation to Cuba in early 2019. I bought a “good camera” and embarked on a year full of creative and technical milestones, capped off by the road trip of a lifetime: Chicago to Anchorage, to the Arctic Circle, south to Borrego Springs, California, east to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and back to Chicago.
In 59 days, I drove over 12,000 miles.
I returned intending to sell my house, put everything in storage, fly to Paris, and write. The house sold, but days before closing, in March of 2020, the world went into lockdown.
Three months later, I returned to the road. Every pain and frustration in my life emerged in my photos. The muse I’d chased all those years arrived, ready to exorcise a lifetime of trauma and disappointment. And I didn’t shy away from it.
In August 2021, I rented a cottage by the sea in Morro Bay, California. The five-year, unencumbered creative blitz had wound down. Hundreds of stories… over 130,000 images—most of them digital—lay before me. But I couldn’t see my next move. I was exhausted, facing an inexplicable decline in my relationship with my son. Now 23, the child I’d sacrificed everything for had become disaffected, cold and silent towards me.
On January 1, 2022, I went to bed broken. Everything I’d attempted—marriage, family, career, motherhood—felt like a failure. In the early morning hours of January 2, unable to sleep, I scrolled through social media and saw a message from a familiar name.
I’d met Kay Levie in 2019, staying at her casita in Borrego Springs, California. We found a kinship and stayed connected via social media. Now—as the newly-appointed curator of Borrego Art Institute—she invited me to do a solo show.
Nearly 30 years to the day from running away to the Badlands of South Dakota, my premier solo exhibition, “Postcards From the Land of Yod,” is on display at the Borrego Art Institute.
As an artist I’ve had a life riddled with jumpstarts and aborted missions. I’ve ascended. I’ve flown. I’ve crashed and burned so many times—often, never even leaving the practical atmosphere. I’m a bit wearier today than I was when I was at 23, when I first wandered off into the unknown…with just my camera. But I have learned that sometimes the hand of fate delays you in order to make you into the person you were meant to be.