I’d always grown up with art. When my siblings and I were toddlers, my mother wanted to keep us quiet while my father wrote. There are vague memories of sitting in a high chair with paper and crayons, and of the day I painted an entire page in my “Brimful Book” bright blue—a misunderstanding when my mother suggested I paint in my new (coloring) book.
Thus, it is no surprise I ended up studying art. I taught and administered art programs for thirteen years—ten in Boston, MA; three in Long Beach, CA. During this time, working with at-risk youth in poverty neighborhoods, I became interested in the development of literacy and the parallels I saw between the development of art and language in young children. While teaching middle schoolers in Long Beach, I transitioned to the school library, where I worked with the same population for the next fourteen years, using my art to renovate two school libraries and creating interdisciplinary programs with a focus on reading.
Simultaneously, I journeyed from a homogenous childhood to a multi-cultural, diverse environment, which has stimulated and nurtured me the rest of my life. For many years, I chose to live and work in situations where I was the “other.” I even lost myself for a while, entirely immersing myself in another culture. It is the concept of bi-culturalism that ultimately defines who I am.
S. Eliot said: “We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”So my own exploration has been—as I return to making art.
At the young age of 55, physically and emotionally exhausted from years of challenging work, I was fortunate to be able to retire before I became fossilized. Taking a year to regroup and rest, it was natural to drift back to an earlier form of fulfillment—making art. With a lifetime of experiences and the self-discipline to work hard at something, I devoted myself to my art. It is, perhaps, the most selfish thing I have ever done, balancing all those years dedicated to the needs of others. The gratification of working with young people continues, as I collaborate with my young models in the context of the studio.
When Van Gogh began his art career at the age of thirty, he considered the possibility that his career might not last that long. As an older woman approaching my artistic development in the latter half of my life, I identify with his thoughts about this. He said:
I need not rush myself too much—there is no good in that, but I must work on . . . as regularly and fixedly as possible, as concisely and pointedly as possible . . . I have walked this earth for thirty years, and, out of gratitude, want to leave some souvenir in the shape of drawings or pictures—not made to please a certain taste in art, but to express sincere human feeling.
Helen what a joy to experience your art again. You have a true gift and you found a unique way to share it with everyone. I have looked at your paintings many times and find something new each time. Thank you for sharing it with us.
This was written beautifully. I can so relate to the Van Gogh quote. Thank you for sharing ✨