I grew up off grid, in one of the most beautiful, wildest places on the planet, the Alaskan Wilderness. The Tongass National Forest to be precise, the largest remaining old growth temperate rainforest in the world. Tongass is home to not only my family, and myself when I visit every summer, but to so many species of beautiful creatures, from brown bears, wolves to bald eagles...and the glorious trees, sooooo many trees! I have a bit of an obsession with trees as you might be able to tell from all my art, haha :) One of my earliest memories was of sitting on my dads shop overlooking the bay where Humpbacks and Orcas frequented, and was struck by a lone black silhouette of a barren tree contrasted against all the lush greenery of the living trees around it. I sat and sketched that tree over and over again for hours, something about it captured my attention and I've been fascinated with trees in my art ever since.
When I heard the Trump administration opened up 9 million acres of the Tongass National Forest to development a few months ago, ie clear cutting, I was beyond upset. This forest is a national treasure and needs to be protected and preserved for future generations to enjoy, for the animals that inhabit it, and for the carbon cleaning resource it provides to not just the United States, but for the entire planet. I will personally be reaching out to President Biden to repeal this order and hope that the lawsuits that have been leveled against the order will also put an end to it and leave these old growth trees, some up to 800 years old, to continue to provide homes for wildlife, indigenous populations and help control climate change.
Only a few miles from where I grew up, and now have my own tiny Alaskan Island (MAD Island), they clear cut the mountains a few years back and it's just depressing to pass by it and see the total devastation. The photo below is just a glimpse of what it looks like, imagine this over 9 million acres...and it takes years and years for it to recover back to what it once was.
"The Tongass is the biggest national forest in the U.S. and arguably one of the biggest tools in our arsenal to confront climate change.
In keeping with my efforts to live a more eco friendly, sustainable lifestyle, I switched from using plastic plates as my paint palettes to a traditional artists palette. The old palettes would just get thrown away, a compilation of acrylic paint piled onto plastic, basically something that would never deteriorate and just add to the pile of plastics proliferating landfills. By using these new palettes I can avoid any kind of disposal issues at all by turning them into a two sided original work of art, that will basically last forever! A win-Win! One side is an abstract mosh up of the colors I used to paint with, this one even has some spots of glitter on it for a little extra sparkle :) The other side I paint an actual painting, so you have two options to display your art. It comes with a little easel to display, or you could hang the abstract side through the finger area, the other side would be kind of lop sided if hung up. It is also coated on both sides with art resin to add extra sheen, depth and make the colors just pop!!
15% of the sale of this painting "Home Sweet Home" will be donated to the Global Wildlife Conservation, an organization I have collaborated with, and contributed to in the past, to help “conserve the diversity of life on Earth".
I'm finally back in Florida after spending the last 3 out of 4 weeks in Alaska, the 2nd trip was to escape Irma's wrath! So thankful everything is fine here in Miami, feeling so blessed that both my apartment and studio came through unscathed and I can get back to my new life here :)
I had a lot of realizations and clarity come to me on this last trip to Alaska, in such a way that I can truly move forward and explore a new life full of adventures, new people and being the strong, empowered woman I am. Nothing is holding me back any longer and I feel I am in a position to now help other women realize their full potential and inspire and motivate us all to reach for the stars!!
Before I left to Alaska I had just finished up this 3'x3' painting "The Power of the Moon". This painting is part of my enlightenment series where I have created a new set of symbols that empower us to find enlightenment in everything around us. I used my "moon/gravity enlightenment" symbol for this painting, see the circular black and white drawing below and find it within the painting 😊😊I created this symbol to inspire us to find enlightenment through forces outside of ourself. We all now how much power the moon has on our planet, how it pulls the tides in and out and creates light for us during darkness. I personally notice changes in myself when there is a full moon, particularly that I have a more difficult time sleeping, without fail every month for several days.
This got me to thinking about how we allow so many outer forces to dictate how we live our lives, and give more control to certain things, and people, than others. We can't avoid things, thoughts and people having an effect on us, but what we CAN control is who and what we surround ourselves with and make sure we have positivity in every aspect of our lives. There are times however, like me with difficulty sleeping during a full moon, that we don't have control over, but we DO have control over how we respond and act to those situations. We can either fight it and create negative energy in our lives, or look for the positives in the situation and find ways to learn and grow from those experiences. I've come to recognize the issue with sleeping and the moon and know that it is only temporary; and if I feel the need to take a nap to make up for my sleeples nights, I do, and I don't let it stop me from carrying on in a normal way, I just take the extra time to rest if needed. I have learned that most negative things in life are temporary and we shouldn't give such things power over us, for they will soon be gone and nothing but a distant memory. There is no need to spend valuable time and energy dwelling on things that won't last, instead focus on the important things in life that create positive energy and happiness, make those things permanent aspects of your life.
I hope this painting, and my moon/gravity enlightenment symbolism, will help you rethink what positive and negative influences and forces you allow into your life. Create positive energy within yourself, which will radiate unto others, and respond to all outside influences with positivity.
In addition to the moon/gravity symbol there are other symbols throughout the painting that I use frequently, such as the floral "true love" symbol. Be positive, stay true to yourself and embrace life and love.
I will be doing a blog post soon with more in depth details on my Enlightenment series, the symbols and their meanings. Created on a 36"x36" Genie Canvas.
Recently hung my two degrees in my studio, two of my greatest accomplishments. Don't be afraid to go after your dreams, no matter what obstacles or difficulties you may face, it IS worth it in the end, I'm proof positive!! Read my story below of achieving a lifelong dream in spite of life having other plans for me 😊😊
I was bound and determined to go to college, even coming from the Bush of Alaska, in a remote village with a school that never boasted more than 15 kids at a time, all grade levels. I did whatever it took to make my dream a reality, and at 17 I booked a flight to Hawaii to go to my chosen school that I had been accepted too.
A few years later I moved to Florida and continued going to college, when I unexpectedly became pregnant at 20, I dropped out of school and went back to Alaska to be surrounded by all my loving, supportive family, who have always been there unconditionally, whenever I need them, no matter what. But, I NEVER gave up on knowing I would be returning to finish my education. So, while I was in Alaska I got a full-time job, applied and was accepted to attend The University of Central Florida (my Alma Mater), and within a month of my daughter being born I was on a plane back to Florida to go to school the following semester. I had a lot of people tell me, even to my face, that because I was so young, and a single mom I would never go back to school. That simply made me even more determined to prove them wrong, and I did!
It wasn't easy by any means, being 21, a single mom to a newborn and going to college full-time, but I had saved a lot of money while being pregnant and working, took out student loans and busted my butt!
When my daughter was about a year old her father and I got back together and I was then faced with an entirely new set of difficulties to deal with. My (eventual) husband had a 4.5 year old son who lived with him (who was an extreme, and I do mean extreme, handful), so all of a sudden my family of two just grew to 4 and I had to adapt to all of this while still going to school. And I would not only be taking care of both kids, mostly on my own, a full time cook, housekeeper and help my husband with his business, but I also held down 2 jobs, while eventually going to school at night for my Masters degree.
I look back and seriously wonder how I was able to manage this and STILL get my Bachelors and Masters degrees in Political Science. But, you know what? It just goes to show that if you want something badly enough and set your mind to it, no matter what, you CAN achieve your dreams and goals. Don't ever, ever give up on what's important to you, if you have the will, desire and passion inside you for something, you have everything you need to make it happen. Go out and follow your dreams and make them a reality!!
(Oh, and I got these degrees in the late 90's but still feel proud to display them as they represent dreams that came true and fierce determination to fight through the difficulties and never give up).
In honor of Susan Butcher day in Alaska, the first Saturday of March, I wanted to share my painting "The Pioneer" featuring Susan and her infamous musher dog Granite. "The day coincides with the traditional start of the Iditarod each year. Observing the special day, the bill noted, provides opportunity for people to “remember the life of Susan Butcher, an inspiration to Alaskans and to millions around the world.” (Wikipedia)
As a fellow Alaskan, having grown up in one of the most remote places on the planet, totally living off the grid with my four siblings and parents, and 30+ dogs, I can relate to the challenges and lifestyle of Susan and wanted her to be one of the first paintings in my "Women Warriors" series from my EMPOWERED collection. My sister Tara, who still lives in this same remote part of Alaska, has an Alaskan blog called "Alaska for Real" and writes columns for Capital City Weekly. Her most recent blog post, and column, were all about my childhood and my new "Women Warriors" series of art and of course Susan Butcher.
As part of the EMPOWERED Collection my "Women Warriors" series will feature strong women from history, whether the past or present, and also female characters that epitomize strength, grace and inspiration. Women who don't take no for an answer and offer society inspirational goals and a "can do" attitude, not letting anything hold them back. They are "warriors" who have fought the battle of feminism/misogyny and forged an easier path for all of us to continue to make headway towards equality. Whether that was their goal or not, they are still a part of our history towards gender equality and I want to celebrate their spirit through my art. The symbols you see throughout the painting have meanings of strength, power, true love, embracing life and so much more that epitomize these inspiring women and how they empower others.
Susan Butcher fits perfectly as a Woman Warrior, her indomitable spirit and "can do anything" attitude is an inspiration to many women. "...Butcher won the [Iditarod race] in 1986, and then proceeded to win again in 1987, 1988, and 1990. She held the Iditarod speed record from 1986 until 1992, breaking her own records in 1987 and 1990. Her other speed records included the Norton Sound 250, Kobuk 220, Kuskokwim 300, and the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon. She retired from competition in 1995. Her accomplishments gained her substantial media attention in the late 1980s and earned her many awards, including the "National Women's Sports Foundation Amateur Athlete of The Year Award" and the "Tanqueray Athlete of the Year." She also won the "U.S. Victor Award" for "Female Athlete of the Year" two years in a row. In 2007 Susan was inducted into the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame as one of the five charter members in the inaugural class." (Source: Wikipedia)
I was fortunate enough to have met Susan while attending Kayhi (Ketchikan High School) in Alaska in the 80's; she gave an after school greet and meet and I wasn't about to miss out! I remember thinking how amazing she was to dominate such a hard core sport that is considered the toughest race on earth, whether it's a man or a woman at the helm. I left her speech that day feeling inspired and empowered as a woman, something that is so important for young women to feel...to know that we can do and be anything we want, that gender shouldn't be a qualifier for any sport that men and women can equally do well. This was one of the first times I felt empowered to be a woman, and it has stuck with me to this day.
What I love about Susan is that she is also from Alaska and dominated a male sport, and really in such a way that it wasn’t even about her being a woman, she just loved mushing and wanted to race. She didn’t come across as someone who had something to prove, that she was better than any of the men, just that she WAS the best, and she had a passion for what she did. So many of the women warriors I’m painting are similar in this way.
What makes Susan really stand out, is that she never labeled herself as a feminist, but still inspired and empowered many women just by being herself, including me, to go after our dreams and fight for what we want...no matter what. Susan just loved what she did and was going to do it regardless, and continued to do it year after year, and win. You can tell just by looking at some of her pictures that she loved what she did and loved her life, always smiling and free-spirited, while being strong and independent, she was a total bad-ass without even trying!! As with all of my women warriors, Susan Butcher was unapologetic for being who she was. That’s what makes her and so many of these women strong and inspirational. They know who they are and aren’t afraid to stand up for themselves and do whatever it is they have a passion for. She always encouraged other women to be independent and strong, and I'm living proof that her strength and passion for what she did has inspired me to go after my dreams.
I named this painting "The Pioneer" because Susan truly was a pioneer in the sport of Iditarod racing for women, and men. She inspired the women who came after her to not let anything get in the way of excelling at a sport that has always traditionally been male dominated, and she set many speed records for other racers to strive for. She was also very influential in the training and treatment of dogs in the sport, evidenced by her love and kindness shown towards her infamous lead sled dog Granite, who was sick and injured on numerous times and she nursed him back to health and encouraged him to continue to be the most amazing sled dog race in history.
The first of my "Women Warriors" from the EMPOWERED Collection are finished! I think today is the perfect day to finally share them as March is National Women's History Month. I chose to do Frida, Princess Leia and Susan Butcher to start off the series. I will be doing more in depth blog posts on each of these women and the impact they have had on society and the furthering of women's rights and equality.
Susan Butcher is one of the most famous Alaskan women who was the dominant force in Iditarod Dog Sled Racing for many years. My talented author sister of the Alaskan blog "Alaska for Real" is doing a column and blog post on my Alaskan childhood and my most recent "Women Warriors" painting of famed Alaskan dog musher Susan Butcher. Read all about it on Tara's blog and in her column for the Capital City Weekly and The Juneau Empire Magazine in Alaska (coming soon).
(Wikipedia) - "The first Saturday of every March [is] Susan Butcher Day. The day coincides with the traditional start of the Iditarod each year. Observing the special day, the bill noted, provides opportunity for people to “remember the life of Susan Butcher, an inspiration to Alaskans and to millions around the world.” I will be posting a lengthier blog and work in progress photos of my painting this Saturday to honor the amazing and inspirational Ms Butcher.