My preferred origin story is that I was dropped through the sky from outer space. My true origin story is that I was born to a couple of unwed teenagers in a small town in the Sierra Nevada foothills. I was born May 27, 1973. I was adopted two weeks later.
By the time my mother and father picked me up from the Children’s Home Society, I was already an easy baby — sleeping through the night immediately, malleable from the start. My brother had been adopted three years earlier. My sister, a surprise baby, was born to my parents four years later.
I spent kindergarten through 12th grade in Catholic schools, blending in and getting along with the nuns until the moodiness of my tween years made that impossible. I was quiet and creative, always absorbing too much of the world around me. I loved literature, gardening, and ballet.
I had no formal art classes until midway through high school. I had two art teachers at my all-girls’ Catholic school — one who appreciated the search for a “true” drawing, and one who expected us to follow a pre-designed curriculum and paint “happy little trees”. I was a favorite of the former and not the latter. Growing up in Northern California, my visual education — the art that surrounded me at my parents’ friends’ houses or at the local museum — was pure California Figurative.
I attended college at UC Santa Cruz. I entered as a literature major, but left that major soon after meeting my husband, Toto, in the Fall of my second year. Toto and I met on the first day of Beginning Drawing — we had to pair up and draw each other, and Toto asked me because he thought I was cute.
After college, Toto and I moved to San Francisco and eventually got married. I had an unhappy succession of jobs which I quit or was fired from. All I wanted to be was an artist, but my practical parents had drilled into me that being an artist was a completely impractical endeavor, so although I painted in my dining room or laundry room at night, I did not allow myself to call myself an artist.
In 2004, our first daughter was born. I escaped the working world with the excuse of being a stay-at-home mom. I loved our smart and beautiful daughter dearly, but I suffered a long three-year postpartum depression. Although my previous jobs were unsatisfying, they did keep me out in the world. Now, at home with my baby, my world seemingly collapsed into the space within the walls of our flat. My emotions accumulated in the corners and were contained by the ceilings. And this is what I painted — interiors.
As my postpartum depression eased, my husband and I contemplated a second child. I tried to prepare myself in every way possible. We moved out of San Francisco to Oakland so we could afford a house with a yard. We moved to a good neighborhood with a good public school. The house had an art studio attached.
Our second daughter was born in 2008. Instead of having the postpartum depression I expected, I developed postpartum OCD. The OCD was, unfortunately, misdiagnosed as psychosis and bipolar disorder — a diagnosis that was not corrected for seven years. The treatments I received and the drugs I was put on for those seven years damaged my brain to the extent that I could only concentrate on one thing at a time. This is how I came to paint still-lifes. Ironically, this was also the time that my art career began to grow with shows and gallery representation.
Within a month of being re-diagnosed, I had moved my family out of Oakland and away from the mental health system that had so failed me. We moved back to San Francisco. As I learned more about OCD with harm ideation, the more I realized that so much of what I had been told to believe was wrong. My thoughts and my emotions were not those of a crazy person. I began to have a great need for quiet and for listening. I needed to know what was true and what was real. I know my art, my art is real. Creating paintings is more necessary than ever. I now maintain a studio across the Golden Gate Bridge in Sausalito. I sit at my table, and I paint, I listen, and I try to figure out the rest.