It was the summer of 1978. I was five months pregnant. As a final jaunt without encumbering children, my husband and I mapped out a four-week trip to Scandinavia. Then Dan, a first-year professor in Political Science at Indiana University, was offered a position for the summer working with President Carter’s science advisor. Part of his recruitment was lunch in the white house dining room.
Dan called me later that evening. “Imagine all the people who want to have lunch there. And I ate there. Maybe the next time I go I can have lunch with someone like Schlessinger, the Secretary of Energy. How can I say ‘no’ to an opportunity like this? What can I do to make a summer in Washington D.C. work for you?”
We had summered in D.C. two years before. I’d landed a volunteer position with the House Republican Research Committee. Walking around the halls of Congress had been heady. But it was hot there! I’d suffered then. Now I was pregnant. And I was being asked to give up a trip to see Norway’s fjords and Andersen’s statue of the Little Mermaid. I had to come up with a proposal to demonstrate my sacrifices.
Remembering the total satisfaction I had found taking sculpture several years before in an adult school class, I proposed a six-week daily course in the Corcoran Gallery sculpture program and a week-long trip to England, complete with an overnight in Stratford-on-Avon.
A month later, I entered the Corcoran Gallery, a magnificent Beaux Art building right off the National Mall. The summer, marked by a week-long bus strike was hot, and I was uncomfortable. But my exposure to art that summer made up for my discomfort.
During that summer I completed six different sculptures, including a welded five-foot diameter mobile, a 100 pound two-piece soap stone carving and a shoebox composition based on the art of Louise Nevelson. I took my class for three hours in the mornings, then strolled to the national art museums. A block away the Hirshhorn was completing installation of its outdoor red steel three-story piece. Three blocks away the west wing of the National Gallery had just opened its doors. A Calder mobile, a room of David Smith pieces, and another room of Matisse cut-outs awaited my perusal. But day after day I was drawn to the top floor of the Hirshhorn with its permanent sculpture collection, featuring Picasso, Matisse, Modigliano, and Rodin among others. Tucked away in one corner was an unprepossessing brown box. The box contained an intricate design of strips of monochromatic brown wood. I was fascinated by that, my introduction to Louise Nevelson. I loved the seeming simplicity of her materials, its quiet presence beside the bright colors of Klee and the contortions of Picasso. The summer class ended. I packed up several of my pieces, which I still prize, and flew off to London and an outdoor exhibit of the graceful curves of Henry Moore.
Motherhood and career took over. Other than occasional visits to museums, art has not been a part of my life. But inside I have aways known I could create pieces inspired by my love of Moore, Calder and Nevelson, if I could find the right space, and a bit o time.
Almost 40 years later I walked into my studio in Jerome. I was fascinated by the lines and texture of the sticks I picked up in the nearby desert, and by the possibilities of preserving them. Then the wood shop in the building next door put out a trailer loaded with old barn wood several days before Christmas. I picked through the planks of rough-grains and faded paint. Over a few days I loaded up the trunk of my car with the treasure.
I remembered my love of Louise Nevelson, turned to a sackful of wood chips and a box of gracefully curved PaloVerde. I arranged this on the planks of wood. A friend, looking at one of my first pieces, remarked, this looks like flotsam and jetsam, you know like the wood is drifting down the Verde River.
Drifters was born.
"With all the beauty surrounding me here above the Verde Valley, how could I not create more beauty?"