About Me

Home in the Piedmont

My hometown of Greenville, South Carolina sits at the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the Piedmont region of our state.

Nestled in a hilly, fertile area alive with creeks, rivers, natural springs, waterfalls, over sixty species of trees and a thriving population of wildlife and people, Greenville has been a good place to spend my life, bond with nature, and make artwork.

Lately, I am remembering the early kinship I felt for the Piedmont and my childhood self, the child who made a deep connection to the region’s flora & fauna during many summers of non-stop outdoor play and exploration. My summertime schedule was: dress for bed in outdoor play clothes complete with socks and shoes, make short work of sleep, and pounce on the new day at the crack of dawn. Splash through creek beds ribboned in pale grey, bright mustard and rust colored clay. Dig out chunks of clay to squish and roll around in my hand, then climb up the bank and into forested areas where hidden footpaths ran into cave-like thickets. Snakes lolled on sun-baked rocks, crickets chirped, turtles glided, their heads barely cresting the water’s surface along the creek’s edge, while cicadas buzzed madly overhead as the afternoon heat waned. I remember dusk in a violet blue shot through with a twinkling, undulating multitude of fireflies, jazzed frog song and flocks of birds dipping across a luminous sky, then floating behind giant spires of tulip and sweet gum. I watched trees’ tapering forms silhouetted against a deepening sunset leaning into and tangling with one another so I had the impression they were gossiping. I now see that during these early summer experiences I was becoming a witness to the ebb and flow of the natural world as I developed a kinship with nature and discovered my artist self.

Solitary Endeavors

As my artist self took hold, I gravitated toward solitary endeavors such as bird-watching and drawing. I established a bird-watching station in a section of the attic with a window large enough to see birds settle on tree branches, follow their flight to other trees, and watch them alight in an open area or abruptly pivot mid-air to catch insects. I adapted to their fleeting movement by anticipating where they’d land or in which direction they were most likely to head. This helped in drawing these mobile creatures.

The most shockingly beautiful bird I saw from the attic perch was an indigo bunting.

It was such a glowing blue that, at first sight, I thought it was a piece of colorful gift-wrapping paper. This indigo bunting, seen from my attic hideaway, made a lifelong bird lover out of me.

Through the late nineteen fifties and into the sixties, not a soul in Dellwood cared to make a vegetable garden in the midst of their perfectly trimmed lawns. The general attitude was that a lawn was a tidy affair as opposed to a messy, unpredictable vegetable garden. Who in their right mind would plant and harvest food when it could be purchased effortlessly at a grocery store?! Besides, convenience was modern and this was the space age.

Flavia from Kentucky

Enter Flavia Moore: bread baker and gardener extraordinaire. P.W. and Flavia Moore were retirees in their fifties from the lush woodland state of Kentucky, and next door neighbors on Dellwood Drive. The Moores were famous in Dellwood for their backyard garden. Every summer it was thick with exuberant “Big Boy” and “Beefsteak” tomatoes, plus fat stemmed, large bulb, spicy garlic. Flavia said to eat every part of the garlic: greens tips, fat stems for soup, and the bulbs, a main ingredient in everything. Mrs. Moore nurtured a fledgling fig tree which produced plump, yellowish green fruit with a caramel-colored interior slashed with deep pink. This fig tree was next to our driveway, and from my father’s study I could watch her tend it. She planted a floral carpet around the base, flowers some people called weeds. These soon became the subject of our leisurely conversations and my introduction to Flavia’s world of medicinal herbs, woodland plants, and wildflowers. Inspired by Flavia’s gardening prowess, my Mom began a rock garden in our backyard with plantings of daffodils, irises, daylilies, four o’clocks, periwinkle, and even allowed a few flowering “weeds” along with Grandma Lucille’s Bleeding Hearts, a tender perennial.

During my attic bird- watching era, Mrs.Moore and I baked bread together. I was her baking apprentice. When we successfully baked a loaf, home it went to my parents. Our bread was a hit, especially with my Dad. Enchanted by our fragrant and tasty fresh baked bread, he soon tried his hand at baking using Mrs. Moore’s recipe. He was a surprisingly good bread baker, and continued on with this new hobby for the rest of his life. Such enthusiasm was the effect of Mrs. Flavia Moore’s garden and kitchen magic. When I remember her, I see a tall, gentil presence, her dark eyes magnified by ever present glasses, silver wavy hair fixed about her head snugly, garden gloves and apron stained with red clay and humus. Flavia; an agile, elderly woman leaning into the fence, waving me over for a chat. She will forever be the wise and patient spirit who introduced me to the nature of plant life, and the pleasures of bread baking, all of which factor into my present day artmaking.

Andrew Wyeth & The Art Institute Of Chicago

Although I live for the color and chill of Autumn, it’s usually Summer when the trajectory of my life swerves, a change of tone happens, a new experience opens the way for insight.  This was the case on a bright June morning as my younger sister, Mary Lou, and I boarded our first flight in an airplane, on an Eastern Airlines jet, and flew from South Carolina to Wisconsin. Barely teenagers at the time, we were dressed for the flight in matching linen jackets and skirts a la “Jackie  O” with new Samsonite luggage.

Our jet landed on a small runway coursing through a field of vivid green grass dotted with hundreds of sunny dandelions. ” So this is Wisconsin ,” I remember thinking at the time. Our plan after arrival was to meet up with our sister Anne, at Marquette University, spend a few days in Milwaukee, and then accompany her home to Greenville.  Anne’s stylish white GTO convertible inspired taking a circuitous route home, and a casual tour of famous big cities in the states of Illinois, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia.

At the beginning of our journey, the first stop was Chicago, Illinois, where I’d walk straight into an unusual art experience,  and one that would  inspire my future in art. Sightseeing in downtown Chicago, Anne, Mary Lou and I came face to face with the magnificent Art Institute of Chicago. It sat atop a wide expanse of stone steps flanked by two over-life size lion sculptures in bronze. Each lion depicted in a different, naturalistic stance was described by Edward Kemeys, the sculptor, as “on the prowl” and “in an attitude of defiance”.

This bold entrance to the Art Institute of Chicago foreshadowed the power of what was inside its galleries. As I gazed up the steps to the Institute’s entrance, I locked eyes with a lone, spectral horse on a large, billowing poster announcing the 1967 exhibition of Andrew Wyeth. As we entered the hushed and intimate gallery space of Andrew Wyeth’s exhibition, I felt the presence of a kindred spirit.

Wyeth’s paintings and drawings were pensive with a tinge of loss, and the choice of earthy, naturalistic, autumnal color emphasized this feeling.  I was immediately drawn to this artwork depicting austere, windswept landscapes, the quiet, shadowed interiors of an aging home, and striking portraits of the people who lived and worked in solitude within the Pennsylvania township named Chadds Ford. Andrew Wyeth ‘s artwork expressed the transitory nature of life and the spirit of an enduring sense of place.

As I viewed Andrew Wyeth’s 1967 exhibition of paintings and drawings I remember feeling that he’d breathed life into every work on display.  These artworks were not lifeless entities, but images alive with the force of nature and the pulse of a human heart. This exhibition will forever live in my imagination as a vivid example of the emotional power of an artwork, and one that sparked my desire to paint and draw what I saw.

The 1967 Andrew Wyeth exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago showed his temperas, dry brush watercolors, and drawings created from 1933 to 1966, and was a traveling exhibition that began at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, October 5 – November 27, 1966.  

At the close of our travel adventure from Wisconsin to Illinois, then sideways to western Pennsylvania, casually veering southward, headed toward Maryland’s eastern seashore, and finally cruising through the farmlands and mountains of Virginia and North Carolina, we arrived home.  Home in South Carolina where the summer of 1967 unfolded as fluidly as a cat in full stretch, and a new art experience lay ahead in the mountains.  

Village of Flatrock & Eliot O’Hara

Anne enrolled all three of us in summer art classes in the Village of Flat Rock, North Carolina. The artist-in-residence at the quaint and only art school in Flat Rock was a watercolor painter from Maine named Eliot O’Hara. As it turned out, he was seriously credentialed and well known. Born in1890 in Waltham, Massachusetts, O’Hara established the first watercolor school in the United States at Goose Rocks Beach, Kennebunkport Maine, wrote eight books, produced more than twenty films on watercolor technique, and taught painting classes throughout the country. His artwork, which includes aquatint etching and watercolor, is in over sixty public art collections in the United States: The Art Institute of Chicago, The Corcoran Gallery of Art, The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, The Library of Congress, The Museum of Fine Art Boston, The National Academy of Design, The National Museum of American Art to name a few. He received a Guggenheim Fellowship, and was a lifetime member of the American Watercolor Society and the first watercolorist elected to the National Academy of Design. He was mostly self-taught, loved painting on site, and worked without an easel, sitting or kneeling directly over his 15 x 22 inch paper while painting. Eliot O’Hara was the elder statesman of watercolor in the 1960’s, and we were his summer art students.

Perversely, Anne, Mary Lou, and I unanimously opted to work in oil paint on canvas. We liked the look and feel of this medium. The guy who was paying for the art classes, our Dad, took a solo watercolor class with Eliot O’Hara and “enjoyed the heck out of it.” He surprised himself by painting a mid-size watercolor in O’Hara’s class. Dad framed his one and only watercolor, and hung it in the dining room. His watercolor became the topic of many of our after-dinner conversations, along with Eliot O’Hara’s famous phrase, “It’s the very last stroke that makes the painting either a success, or a failure.” To emphasize this idea, Dad would happily point out an odd little flourish in cerulean blue sitting astride a ceramic pot, the focal point of his watercolor. Needless to say, Dad had boundless curiosity, and Eliot O’Hara was a patient, kind man and an excellent teacher. O’Hara simply applied his wisdom to our first painting attempts and directed us accordingly.

At Flat Rock we painted in a studio with high ceilings filled with natural light, and stood at our easels working from direct observation of a still life arranged by his assistant. The class touched on the themes of incorporating negative space, organizing a balanced composition, and simplifying subject matter into concise shapes by eliminating detail. Interestingly, and to the credit of our teacher, our paintings, even ones painted from the same subject matter, looked very different from each other.

My sisters, Anne, the gifted pianist and avid reader, and Mary Lou, the mathematician and budding scientist, completed every painting they set out to do. As “the artist,” I never finished one painting during the entire summer art session, but not for lack of fortitude! I dove into painting, enthusiastically sketching in the composition, enjoying the visceral feel of oil paint pulling across the canvas, and the freedom that comes with beginning on a fresh canvas. A world of possibilities beckoned from the fresh white canvas I loved, that is, until my painting began to gel and lock onto a specific path. At this point I would lose power and sputter, then doubt where the painting was headed. However, I would always begin again with a new idea on a new canvas, craving a fresh start and looking for the initial spontaneity that had gotten lost as the painting became demanding.

I was as surprised by the process of art as my Dad had been by his one completed watercolor painting. I began to see that making an artwork involved making a commitment to resolve the constellation of artistic problems within it. And so life as an artist who paints and draws began in earnest that summer in the airy, light filled studio of Flat Rock in the mountains of western North Carolina.  

Surfside Beach,  South Carolina 1967

As I reflect upon this time together with my sisters, and the loving gift of this art class from my parents, I see and feel the summer of 1967 smiling upon us all once more.

Three Alma Maters

GCMA

In 1958 the Greenville Art Association purchased its first permanent home, the Gassaway Mansion, and in 1963 the South Carolina General Assembly established the Greenville County Museum Commission. I took art classes in the earliest version of the Greenville County Museum Art School on the grounds of the Gassaway Mansion, in a mid-size, two-storey building outfitted with floor-to-ceiling windows, spacious drawing and painting studios on the second floor, and ceramic and sculpture studios on the ground floor. Back in the day, the museum art school was a very short drive (about a twenty-five minute walk) from my Dellwood Drive neighborhood. It soon became a second home, my art home.

The new Greenville County Museum of Art opened in1974, on Heritage Green in downtown Greenville, South Carolina. The museum has over 70,000 square feet of exhibition, education, and secure storage space. Its collection is focused on American Contemporary & Modern, Southern American art, and South Carolina-based artists’ work. It is home to the world’s largest collection of watercolors by Andrew Wyeth, and an extensive collection of paintings & prints by Jasper Johns. The GCMA building is a standout example of Brutalist architecture, a mid-20th century style associated with Le Corbusier, using “Béton Brut,” raw concrete, as its building material.
In 1968, I delved into my first formal art classes in drawing and painting under the guidance of local professional artists, all of whom were agreeable and inspired, at the first museum art school on the grounds of the Gassaway Mansion. The artist/teachers were happy to share their buoyant enthusiasm for “favorite artists,” materials and techniques. Robert Henri’s book The Art Spirit was their lodestar, and as students, we were read passages from this book and encouraged to follow the art spirit! I am forever grateful for their introduction to the paintings and life of Paul Cézanne, the father of modern art.   In 1969, during a family trip to Montreal with Airstream in tow, Dad, Mom, Mary Lou, Michael, Christopher, and I stopped in Washington, D.C., and paid a visit to the National Gallery of Art. I knew just whom to seek out, and quickly found a collection of landscapes by Cézanne. I planted myself a foot away from the landscapes, and looked into them. I could see areas of raw canvas, the paint texture, the light touch of one color placed over a similar color, a subtle change of gradation, the unusual interpretation of the landscape, and I felt the sensation of Cézanne’s presence as I admired his forthright compositions. I ended up crying. I remember my brother, Michael, watching me, at first embarrassed by my reaction, but then curious, maybe even sympathetic?!  

The lessons learned at the first museum art school I continue to make use of today: Patience, drawing and painting from life, valuing and utilizing mistakes, perseverance, and most importantly, skill that follows sight—these cohere to become the powerhouse ability to perceive and observe directly from life in order to glean its essence. Intuitive understanding and sympathetic insight develop from this work of sustained seeing.

Furman University

Founded in 1826, Furman University is the oldest private liberal arts institution of higher learning in South Carolina. A secular university since 1992, Furman currently enrolls 2,700 undergraduates, 200 graduate student from forty six states, and students from fifty-three foreign countries. One of Furman’s best attributes is the student to teacher ratio of 11:1, with an average class size of eighteen to twenty students.

Located five miles from downtown Greenville, the picturesque 750 acre campus is ringed by natural woodlands, with the majestic Blue Ridge Mountains as a backdrop on the western horizon. Furman’s entry drive, lined with stately, towering oak trees, runs throughout the campus, looping past Furman Lake, the Bell Tower and the university’s James B. Duke Library, the Herring Center and Music Pavilion, the Townes Science Center, the Homozel Mickel Daniel Music Building, and the Roe Art Building, just to name a few of the institutional facilities within the campus grounds.

In the early 1970’s I was an enthusiastic, adventurous undergraduate art major at Furman, ready to explore every course of study, even in completely different fields than my chosen major. Coming from a “hands-on” education in traditional studio art, I was surprised by the shift in learning style to a mountain of reading and reading thoroughly, then memorizing and compiling detailed information from the reading in addition to digesting information from lecture notes, writing papers and taking tests! Fortunately, at the helm of the courses I chose were engaging professors, there to guide me into the world of ideas ancient, modern, and contemporary, and most importantly, there to challenge the ideas I brought into the mix as a student.

While the art courses were interesting and familiar, Asian Studies, a new course offering, was enthralling. I jumped into it wholeheartedly, switching from an Art Major to an Asian Studies Major. After changing majors, I realized I would qualify for the recently established program of Japanese studies. Soon I was in Osaka, Japan, with two more Furman students, and students from universities in North Carolina and Minnesota. At Kansai Gaidai University we studied the culture of Japan and the Japanese language. Our teachers frequently organized class trips to see Kabuki and Noh theater, historic temples, art collections, and famous garden sites in the cities of Nara, Kyoto and Tokyo. We all traveled on these excursions via the bullet train. (The train system in Japan was amazing, with three speed levels: slow, moderate and super-fast, and reached every corner of the county.) Eventually, as I became more familiar with my surroundings, I struck out on my own to find an art teacher.  

Luckily, while in Kyoto, I found a YMCA that directed me to the home of a well known Nanga-Sumi-e painter who happily took me on as a student. It was the experience of a lifetime studying with this profound, elderly master of ink painting. I was tasked with going out in nature to observe, then come back to class to paint from memory what I had observed first hand. The Nanga-Sumi-e master would set my ink, water, and brushes alongside a drawing board with a sheet of very thin Sumi-e paper attached to it, while the board lay flat on the floor. For me this was a very peculiar position to paint in as a western artist used to standing upright at an easel. I struggled with the newness of this mode of painting, but with determined effort, I finally caught on to the feel of this way of working. It had to do with time—the gap between observing and letting the observed experience settle into your being.

Back home in South Carolina from Japan, in late summer of 1973, I signed up for the winter semester in order to take a few of the prerequisite courses I’d been avoiding in lieu of more interesting fare. However, I found I was a person with different goals, and a refreshed, and renewed desire to make art. The pull of the studio was overwhelming, so I set out to discover a serious, traditional art school with morning-to-evening studio art classes, and professional artist instructors.

After completing the winter semester at Furman in 1974, I decided not to return for the spring semester to finish my third year. Instead, I opted to find a job, save money, live at home, and search for a traditional art school. My hope was that such a school was out there, and would suit my needs as an artist.

Meanwhile, I found a job as an apprentice mechanic on airplane engines, those used as jet refueling aircraft in Vietnam, and being refurbished at Donaldson Air Force Military Base in Greenwood, South Carolina. I was able to score this good paying federal job due to Richard Nixon’s Executive Order 11478 Equal Employment Opportunity, prohibiting discrimination in employment on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, handicap, and age in the federal civilian workforce. This order gained extra punch with the Federal Women’s Program following the release of Executive Order 11478. The mechanic team I joined as an apprentice, along with another woman, Naquisha, was tolerant with a mostly “what the hell” attitude. I thought to myself, well, at least I’ll learn how to use an assortment of useful tools, and gain a great toolbox to keep them in. My red toolbox impressed my brothers, Michael and Christopher, who were both very touched that I had an interest in something they loved. The “boys” eventually became the recipients of it, as it was too heavy to carry around as a purse anyway.  

PAFA

In 1974 there were no personal computers, or cell phones; there was no Internet or Chrome, so I searched for art schools advertised in art publications such as American Artist and Art in America, and spoke with the staff of the Greenville County Library and art teachers at Greenville County Museum of Art. I garnered addresses of art schools in Canada, England, Italy, and all over the United States. I wrote to them and mailed off requests for brochures and information about their programs.

The standout among the more than thirty responses to my quest was The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the former art school of Robert Henri, author of The Art Spirit, the lodestar of my earliest art classes at the Greenville County Museum of Art in the 1960’s. I also found that the city of Philadelphia was only a hop and a skip from Andrew Wyeth’s town of Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. After applying and being accepted as an advanced student, I felt I’d found the most profound, traditional art school in the nation. By the fall of 1976, the nation’s Bicentennial celebrations were drawing to a close, and I was beginning anew at the first and oldest museum and art school in the United States.

The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts is a museum and art school founded in 1805 by painter and scientist Charles Wilson Peale, and sculptor William Rush. In 1871, the architects Frank Furness and George Hewitt won the design competition for The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and built the eclectic Academy building on128 North Broad, in downtown Philadelphia. It is now a Historic Landmark Building and one of the finest examples of Victorian Gothic architecture in the city. The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts Museum exhibits and houses a renowned permanent collection of 18th and 19th century American Art, which includes the nation’s greatest artists. The Academy’s art school offers painting, drawing, printmaking, sculpture, and illustration taught by a distinguished faculty of working artists. PAFA students work in both cutting-edge shared studios and individual private studios, and practice drawing from plaster casts made in the early 1800’s from ancient Greek sculpture. During their final year, they have an opportunity to exhibit in the school’s world-class museum.

In the summer of 1976, after I’d received my letter of acceptance from The Academy, my aunt, Esther Maude Holton, and I traveled to Philadelphia to check out the school. Esther was a pro at long distance driving, and got us safely to “The City of Brotherly Love” one of her favorite historical cities. She was a super Colonial America history buff in addition to being a superb middle school teacher and a choir singer with a rich, beautiful voice. Esther could easily dip into contralto, then glide skyward in soprano mode. I wanted Aunt Esther along for her love of driving, her vivacious personality, and because she was the only artistic person I knew who drew with scissors—hand Esther a sheet of paper and away she’d go, snipping out cats, flowers, personages. You name it, she could cut it out. I felt her artistic know-how would augment our team effort to impress the officials of the art school. As we zeroed in on the academy we got caught in the traffic circle, going around City Hall several times until we realized N. Broad Street was to the right! We blew a kiss to William Penn standing atop the City Hall’s cupola as we took a hard right, heading toward the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.

From 1968 to 1980, all three alma maters, The Greenville County Museum of Art, Furman, and The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, anchored my artistic aspirations, reinforced my drawing and painting know-how, and shaped me into the artist I am today. After graduation from each of these schools, the same question and statement would always present themselves: Who are you? and To thy own self be true. Each time I’d respond by unearthing a little more of my authentic self and set off into the future.

Artists at Work 

I remember 1979 as an unusual year. Voyager 1 sent the world’s first detailed images of Jupiter’s rings back to earth, snow fell for thirty minutes in the Sahara Desert, and I asked my friend, sweetheart, and artist colleague to marry me. Wide-eyed and amused Luis smiled, then said, “Of course!” We laughed and hugged to make the proposal official. Luis and I married in my hometown of Greenville, South Carolina on May 25, 1979 in a formal wedding at Saint Mary’s Catholic Church at five o’clock in the afternoon. Back in Philadelphia, as newlywed art students, we completed the required four years of fine art study at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and graduated, May 11, 1980. At the end of May, as newly minted fine art professionals, we packed up our belongings, and closed the door for the last time on our Philadelphia apartment in a renovated tobacco warehouse by the Delaware River. We said our goodbyes to the charmed city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and headed to Greenville, South Carolina in a UHaul truck. “Misshu,” our fluffy, long hair tabby cat rode with us on the front seat as mascot.

Greenville, South Carolina was our transition stop from May 1980 to August 1981. In late August, we flew further south via Avianca Airlines to Barranquilla, Colombia, South America. We left the temperate forest of my home with its delicate sunlight and slender, deciduous trees, and flew into the bold, sunlit tropics. We landed in the port city of Barranquilla, on the Atlantic coast, Luis’ hometown. I was in the Caribbean for the first time in my life and my new home, Barranquilla, was set in a tropical land crowded with lush vegetation, hunkering, thick leafed trees that grew more sideways than upright, anchored by thick, snaking, hungry root systems. The Mango tree was one such tree, and the instant I see, or smell, or eat a mango, I am back in the tropics heart & soul.

Barranquilla, city of relentless sun and eternal August, swallowed us into the world of folkloric Africa and the poets, writers, and painters of “Atlantico,” Colombia’s Caribbean coastal area. After travel up and down the mighty Magdalena River and into the southern, mountainous interior of the country, I came to see Colombia as a land of the Andes, vast in scale, of humble hamlets and large, vibrant metropolises; an ancient land of mysterious ways and an unknown center, where over seven hundred indigenous tribes currently lived, where exotic wildlife and plant species flourished independent of human control, where the jaguar reigned.

Luis’s family was happy, warm-hearted, generous, and always available to lend a helping hand, or share a well-timed word of encouragement with two young artists. Because of their unconditional love and many kindnesses, Luis and I were able to live, work, exhibit and sell our artwork in Barranquilla, Colombia from August, 1981 until January, 1986.

On January 27, 1986, Luis and I landed in a bright, chilly Miami, Florida via cargo plane from Barranquilla with our cat, loom, art supplies, artworks, books, kitchenware, and a large suitcase packed with clothing. Early the following morning we rented a U-Haul truck, loaded our belongings and headed north. As I drove, Luis glanced up and pointed out spiraling, roiling cloud forms spinning out from a bright center, arcing across the heavens in multiple directions and gradually drifting down to the sea. I began to drive slowly. Stationed along the highway’s shoulder, groups of people stood transfixed, as if in a state of suspended animation, looking skyward. Since the U-Haul’s radio was broken, Luis and I were oblivious to the fact of a tragedy overhead, an entire nation in shock and on the cusp of grief. We had witnessed, unknowingly, the Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster off the coast of Florida on January 28, at 11:39 a.m. 1986. We continued on, traveling down the highway to Greenville, South Carolina and home.

We arrived at 108 Dellwood Drive, my childhood home, late in the evening, a frigid, twinkling ultramarine blue evening, full of promise and best wishes. What a warm, inviting look my home had on this particular night with its gingerbread-colored shingles and kitchen window glowing a toasty gold, its windowsill decorated with a row of jewel-like strawberry, blackberry, blueberry, orange and lemon curd-filled jelly jars, the porch light on beckoning us forward, into warmth and good cheer. I fully expected to see Aunt Esther at the door, but instead was surprised by my Dad’s presence. Our celebratory mood dipped and a profound awareness was cast over us, for I knew something was wrong. As we stepped inside the doorway, I immediately coaxed it out of him.

My Dad, who never fully recovered from Mom’s sudden, massive heart attack on February 13,1982, had retired from his medical practice in 1985, at sixty-five, and left for the seminary in Boston, Massachusetts to become a priest, a four-year venture. That night of January 28, 1986, while standing in the entryway of our home, he told me and Luis that he had advanced stage Lymphoma Leukemia. In a sudden, definitive reversal of roles, we now looked after him. We were his caregivers, along with my siblings, Christopher, Michael, Mary Lou and Anne. We all individually expressed our love and gratitude directly to him before he died on September 11, 1986.

Our life as a married couple and as professional artists began anew in South Carolina in 1986. Throughout the spring and summer, I taught adult figure drawing and oil painting at the Greenville County Museum of Art, and enrolled in the fall semester at Furman University, intent on finishing the Bachelor of Art degree I began in the early 1970’s. In the spring of 1988, I graduated from Furman with a Bachelor of Art degree. I continued to teach drawing and painting at the Museum until 1989.

During the early 1990’s, I was employed by a local downtown art gallery. and worked there for two years while designing and executing the stage sets for the Greenville Ballet Company’s production of the Nutcracker. After this seasonal production, I began work on a series of figurative conte crayon drawings on paper and oil paintings on canvas. Soon I had created a total of thirty five individual artworks. I arranged a traveling show of this new artwork throughout the state of South Carolina, exhibiting it in local art galleries, cultural art centers, university art galleries, and museums. I received an individual artist grant from the South Carolina Arts Commission to support my statewide traveling art show.

On January 3,1995, Luis and I became owners of a frame shop and fine art gallery which we renamed Gallery 291 Custom Framing. In addition to regular, commercially produced, ready-made frames, we took workshops and learned the craft of creating hand-made frames featuring gilding. In addition, we curated four exhibitions per year, supporting local art groups and individual artists by exhibiting their art and arranging art events in our gallery space. Luis and I continued to produce our own work while we ran our business. I branched into fine art portraiture, and Luis purchased a medium-sized printmaking press in order to explore etching and monoprints. After nearly ten years of exhibiting local artists, Luis had one solo exhibition of his monoprints, and I had one solo exhibition of my paintings and drawings at Gallery 291 Custom Framing. Our two solo exhibitions were the most successful shows of our gallery’s entire exhibition history. At this point in our career as frame-makers, curators of art shows, and professional artists, our mutual thought was: Why the heck didn’t we exhibit in our own gallery more often?!

From January 1995 until December 2005, our business endeavor, Gallery 291 Custom Framing, was a sheer pleasure which we enjoyed in Lake Forest Shopping Center, Greenville, South Carolina. From 2006 to 2008 we operated the frame shop in the basement of our former commercial space. In 2010 we opened the frame shop, Atelier Fine Frames, and operated it in our home while I painted commission portraits and taught art classes from my home studio and in the Continuing Education program at Furman University’s Herring Center. During this time we transformed our first floor into Luis’s printmaking studio by placing his Charles Brand Press smack in the middle of the living room. Luis and I worked from home as professional artists until 2016.

Life in the Midst of Botany Woods


At present, Luis and I are active artists in my hometown of Greenville, South Carolina. Our 2020 exhibition schedule is going strong with solo, joint, and group exhibitions, January through July, in several new venues. All 2020 exhibitions will be posted within the year on our revamped websites as soon as they go live.

We reside in a cozy, townhouse condo with our two cats, “Lucky” & “Pantufla,” and enjoy planting and harvesting in the community garden just across the street from our home. Our townhouse is part of Williamsburg at Botany which was built on an old dairy farm adjacent the woodland neighborhood of Botany Woods, a designated wild bird sanctuary. A medium-sized creek twists and turns through another forested area on the north side of our complex. With Botany Woods to the northeast, both areas make a perfect habitat for the barred and screech owl, the pileated, downy, yellow-bellied sapsucker, the red-bellied woodpecker, the red shouldered, cooper’s and sharp-shinned hawks, rabbits, fox, muskrats, and a large population of small birds from brown-headed nuthatch to chickadee to phoebe to bluebird. Surrounded by the grace of mature white and red oak, beech, maple, red bud, tulip, sweet gum, hickory, and black cherry trees, and a friendly community of neighbors, Williamsburg at Botany has been a perfect match for us since November, 20, 1988.

Our studio is in the annex of Saint Mark United Methodist Church, surrounded by the diverse neighborhood community of Sans Souci. The studio’s most inspiring feature is the north light filtering through windows running the entire length of the space. Our Sans Souci art studio is three miles north of downtown Greenville, S.C. a fifteen-minute car ride from our home in the Botany Woods area.

Over the last few decades, I have come to know myself as an experiential artist. My work draws from the direct experience of what I love: the ribbed texture of an iris’s sword-like leaf, its slender neck and moist, translucent petals, a crisp daffodil bulb replete with curled thick roots embedded in dark loamy soil, winter’s silver, pale gold sunlight illuminating bare skyward -reaching oak branches, a morning walk accompanied by bright, undulating bird song, and the feeling of breathing in tandem with my companion as we walk.

What I love stays within me as a lifelong source of inspiration embedded in every fiber of my physical being: a history of my personal experience of nature and a renewed daily connection to it through the making of a drawing, a painting, an etching, or woodcut.

Nancy M. Jaramillo, March 14, 2020

© Nancy Mary Jaramillo 2019