The Nature of Balance

I am a painter who lives in Olympia, WA, working in oils on canvas and linen panels. Four years ago I shifted from working indoor to working outdoor (plein air) painting in my local Northwest forests. Moving from the studio to outdoors has helped me grow as an artist; changing how I work, how I see, and helping me to engage a larger context and a passionate narrative: Wealth and beauty; how does this affect my relationship to nature?


My struggle to strengthen my relationship with nature has yielded many rewards. The intense observational study in the woods has brought me to the next fork in the road: the tree as a natural resource. I used to call the logs stacked on the trucks filled with a load of trimmed, topped and sectioned trees “Yesterday’s Forest”. In my mind, they were still my trees. As I drove past the Port of Olympia on my way to some of my wooded sites, my mind made another shift; I was witnessing their journey from the interior of my forest to the water’s edge where the logs embark on the next leg of their journey.


The artist in her studio with her trusted assistant, Tag.

The artist in her studio with her trusted assistant, Tag.

Starting in January of 2015, I created my own Artist-in-Residence with the cooperation of The Port of Olympia working with Port officials, longshoremen, shipping agents, and crews of the ships that transport the logs. Four months into the residency with my time spent painting either dockside or on the bridge of the ship, my perceptions shifted again as I explored more deeply my relationship to the “Industrial Forest”. The Port is one of our oldest connections to other parts of the world, and the trees of this region are among some of the oldest timber on the West Coast. Together these resources weave a rich history of the relationship between commerce and nature that holds a significant place in our state’s history. William Dietrich writes eloquently in his book, The Final Forest, “Wealth and beauty … those twin desires to the human heart, and our struggle to constantly remake our troubled relationship to the ancient earth.”


As I continue working on my Port paintings, I know this story needs telling over and over in as many motifs as possible. In response to heated debates for years, activists and legislators have drawn and re-drawn the lines that divide exploitation and preservation. I am hopeful that the time I devote to painting my home town port may spark larger discussions and activate ideas across the lines we have drawn, offering up some new perceptions about community, wealth and beauty.