Tell me about your evolution. Have you always been drawn to images that have a playfulness?
Definitely. My paintings have always been very quirky, I guess
I would say. In the early part of my career, I mainly did self-portraits, using myself as a model. Using different props and
things to play different characters inspired by history, literature, and my everyday life.
I did a series of myself as different saints early in my career.
For example, Saint Casilda is often depicted with a bouquet of
roses and a baguette. I had a bag of Wonderbread and a single rose. Just sort of playful, but also rooted
in art history or literature.
I’m not doing self-portraits anymore,
but my current work is still very playful
and personal—memories of my child-
hood and the people closest to me. The
historical element is still there as well.
The backgrounds of my current paint-
ings are direct references to French
Rococo paintings of the 18th century.
Actors say comedy is harder than
drama. Are happy images harder to
create than serious images?
I don’t set out to try to make a happy
painting. I just have these ideas that
pop into my head. ... I don’t know how
to answer that. I have a hard time with
the state of the world, so I think of this
work as sort of an escape for me, a way
to focus on positive things. What are
things that are really pleasing to me,
that bring me joy, that make me happy.
And then I sort of depict that through
these animals doing different things
that bring me joy.
A lot of the artists I follow on social
media are sort of activists. And I think
sometimes, “Oh gosh, I’m creating these
cute, playful paintings, and there are so
many horrible things happening in the
world. How can I do more activism?”
But that’s just not who I am. It
wouldn’t feel right to me.
I’m creating this sort of
utopian, positive world that I guess I’d like to
envision at some point.
You could paint a polar bear some-
how suffering from global warming.
It’s not that you don’t care about
global warming ...
I was working on a commission last
summer and it was animals from a
one-year-old’s mobile. And it was the
specific animals that were present in
the mobile, and they just happened to
all be endangered species. The way I
put them together it really felt like an
endangered species art print ... it just
didn’t feel right. I’ve never really tried
to do that. I don’t tend to go there.
I think about it a lot. The artists I
follow, I love how they cope with that
kind of thing.
Well, I imagine it’s really hard to
depict something that can make
someone else feel delight.
I think it’s just different personalities, too. It’s part of my personality.
Even in the most horrible circumstances I’m looking for the silver
lining. It’s like a self-preservation
thing. Maybe it’s just ingrained in
me. I love painting, it’s my escape, it’s
something I need in my life. ... When I
stay true to myself, it seems to just be
the best path.
Do the characters in your art mean
It’s more what they’re doing and the
objects. Certain objects I’ve painted
over and over and they symbolize
different things to me.
I’ve painted a lot of phonographs—representative of music and the joy of
music. Lots of monarch butterflies,
representing change. The rainbow—I
struggled with infertility and wasn’t
painting at all. Emotionally I was
having a really hard time, and then
I did get pregnant and we had our
daughter. That’s really when the whole
Joie de Vivre series started. I was
home with her and she was napping ... I thought maybe I’ll just paint for
myself. I had this urge to create.
I was so happy and I’d been through
such a dark time. So I’ve done a lot of
rainbows that represent this beauty
and joy that follows this really dark
and scary storm. A lot of the people
who collect my artwork seem to see
that. There’s sort of this struggle and
this joy component. I don’t know if you
can see the struggle in all the paint-
ings, but there’s a seriousness to them.
They’re not overly cutesy, I hope. It
seems like the people who really enjoy
them pick up on that.
How do you pick the animal? Why is
it a chipmunk drinking tea and not a
fox or a racoon, for example?
Well, it could be a racoon. Sometimes
I’ll do very similar versions of paint-
ings and switch out animals. There are
some animals I favor. Racoons, squirrels, groundhogs, chipmunks—they
have almost hands.
I definitely wouldn’t have a fox
grasping onto a cup because they don’t
have the same hands. There’s certain
things I just wouldn’t do because it
wouldn’t look right to me. ... To me, it
makes sense. In my world, I have rules