Michaela has been my art buddy since she was a baby. I would sit at the kitchen table painting, she would sit in her high chair making marks with her crayons, and we would have conversations. (I’m not sure what we discussed, since I was not able to understand her language at the time!) When she was 4, Fred and I took her with us to the Smithsonian Craft Show in DC, an exhibit and sale of museum-quality original textiles, ceramics, woodworking, metalsmithing, jewelry and more. While there, I instructed her to keep her hands to herself and not touch anything. She obeyed until an accomplished basketmaker I admired, Kari Lonning, handed her a double-walled basket with marbles inside! I protested, but Kari was so kind and seemed to take joy in seeing a little girl light up with delight at the sounds and textures in her hands. (I really wish I had purchased the piece!)
Sometimes life operates in a circular fashion, and now Michaela has returned to DC for a year as a Smithsonian fellow! She’s a Ph.D. candidate in Art History at the University of Toronto and is at the Smithsonian American Art Museum working specifically on the chapter in her dissertation that addresses depictions of land use in New Deal-era U.S. Post Office murals. (There are several in Wyoming and Northern Colorado that she has visited.) And she’s writing, writing, writing…
As a parent, it is very exciting to see your offspring thriving in their chosen field, especially when they’ve been headed that way from an early age. I remember having a conversation with her when she was 7 or 8 after she asked, “What is college?” In my response I told her what professors do, and she told me she wanted to be a professor when she grew up. She’s on her way!
Michaela has introduced me to the work of artists I didn’t know about, like Keith Arnatt and Simone Jones, took our family on our first pilgrimage to the Spiral Jetty, and suggested we go to art exhibits and lectures that have had profound influences on my work. Once we went to see an exhibit on the grounds of the Denver Botanic Gardens, but were most moved by the exhibit at the indoor gallery we didn’t know was there. Will Wilson’s work grabbed both of us. Never before had I been so stunned by photography, and Michaela has curated his work in a show and written about it.
Now when we sit at the kitchen table together she recommends reading materials to me, and I share directions I’m going artistically. We discuss ideas, art, history, books, and issues of the day. (But it’s not all serious — we also discuss the cultural significance of TV comedies and how much we enjoy watching them. That leads to binge-watching Parks and Recreation, our favorite, and lots of laughing.) We’ve come a long way from our early days at the kitchen table.
Snapshot above is in front of my work on exhibit at the Nicolaysen Art Museum in Casper, WY.