Artist Statement

“The Essence of Art is Simplicity, Grandeur and Sensitivity.”
~ Unknown

Photo of Sandra in the mountainsI have loved making art for as long as I can remember, and have always felt the need to express my experience of the world as I see it.

I grew up in a small town in Southwestern Idaho. My parents were avid rockhounds and many of my early childhood memories are of traveling dusty two-wheel Jeep tracks to places so remote only the coyotes knew we were there. As my parents spent the day digging to uncover the latest rock treasure, I would entertain myself getting down close to the Earth to inspect and investigate the plants, rocks, or animals inhabiting my tiny world. I learned to tell Time’s passage by watching the changing colors and textures of light on distant buttes and hillsides. I am still an avid observer of Light, and I am still drawn to the little things, little details that might be ignored because they are so much part of the fabric of everything we see and experience throughout the day.

My Artistic Inspiration

Come Wade The River coverTwo Great Uncles on my Mother’s side of the family were active artists in the Pacific Northwest and I think their art had a major impact on my love of and desire to make art. First was Ralph Wahl, known for his photography of the great fly fishermen and rivers of the Pacific Northwest. He published a book of photos, “Come Wade the River,” co-edited with a wonderful writer of angling stories, Roderick Haig-Brown. I loved the combination of words and images in that book and it inspired me to want to tell my own stories in images. He would send an annual Christmas card with one of his photos and I was always excited to see what image would grace his card each year.

visiting Uncle Harold's studio

In Harold Wahl’s studio and “Birth of an Iceberg”

My other Great Uncle, Harold Wahl, was an abstract painter whose paintings were about nature and the places he loved. One of my most exciting memories from childhood was a day we stopped to visit him and he took us into his studio to see his latest works in progress. I was so thrilled and excited to see where he made his art and I fell in love with the smell of paint and turpentine. That day I began my dream of one day being able to paint what I saw around me.

At home, there was this “special” closet where my parents stored their various cameras, including a stereo camera with dual lenses that fascinated me. I don’t know where that stereo camera came from or why my parents had one, nor do I know whether my mother or my father was the camera buff, but I do remember that when the cameras came out of hiding it was usually for something important.

When I was very young, my parents would go on hiking/rafting trips into the Escalante River Canyon country in southern Utah… canyons and places that were being flooded by the building of the Glen Canyon Dam that created Lake Powell. Movies and photos of those trips delighted me as they chronicled my parents adventures in mystical places no longer to be seen and created mythical stories that I will never forget.

I think those people and those stories all contributed to my love of imagery and storytelling and a powerful desire to record the times and places I wanted to remember. I dreamed of someday expressing what I saw in paint, but I was an impatient child and turned to the camera as a way to record what I saw to use for future paintings. When I was eleven years old I got my very own first camera, a Kodak Instamatic 100. I still dream of someday painting, but the camera is still my go-to medium for capturing what I want to remember and the story attached to each image.

I took Art classes whenever possible through my school years, but I ended up studying History in college because I was fortunate to have a professor who made History into… a story… of people, their beliefs and needs, their philosophy, and the art and architecture they made, and how it all fit together.

Everywhere I look are stories, which I love to remember and retell, and Art making gives me a way to share them.

How I Work

My photographic style developed into an in-the-moment meditation of a place. Sometimes I know what I’m looking for, but most of the time I don’t. I just go to experience what appears as I explore where I am. I walk about and notice whatever attracts my attention. I love color and texture and pattern and the magical effects of Light – daytime and nighttime.

I am attracted to small things, tiny details that might be missed if I were looking for a larger landscape. I welcome the animals and plants and rocks that make themselves known to me. I talk to plants and I love to touch flowers and thank them for sharing their beauty with me. There are times when I zoom into something and what I see through the lens is so beautiful it makes me draw my breath in awe. It is a thrilling connection with the place I am at that moment that I cherish.

Twenty years ago I discovered the world of the digital darkroom and my ability to create the Art I dreamed of making finally became a reality. I manipulate my photos in the computer to highlight things I think I noticed instinctively, but couldn’t explain when I captured the image.

I love to make seemingly invisible things visible and to celebrate them in vibrant color. I create highly saturated, almost graphical images, highlighting unexpected colors that bring out the unseen beauty hidden within. These are photographs, but they’re not, and that is incredibly exciting to the artist-in-me who has dreamed so long of being able to paint what I see. The way I “play” with my photos, to me, changes them into something looking more like paintings.

More recently, I felt compelled to do more with my images than simply manipulating them in a computer. There is magic to be made with a computer, but I am a tactile person and I needed to touch the images and add my personal marks to make them truly my own. One evening, taking a cautious deep breath, I took one of my computer-manipulated images that I had printed on fine art paper and started hand coloring selected parts with pastels. The pastel-on-photo mixed media technique was thrilling, because it finally gave me the tactile experience I had been craving yet still allowed me the fun of playing with photos digitally to bring out their hidden surprises.

I now make prints of my computer-manipulated images using archival digital inks, and I also create mixed media paintings from computer-manipulated images and pastel on paper.

My Vision

I want to share with you the World as I see it, and to tell you my stories, to express the emotion of the moment and to celebrate discovery of things we sometimes forget to notice. I hope my art will lead you to draw your breath in awe, and to experience the joy that can come from loving Life in all its forms, in all its simplicity, and in all its complexity.