Play-doh and polymer clay squish and crack as I work them into clay paintings of urban and suburban scenes, interiors of domestic life, and close-ups of the body. There is a playfulness in using these materials of childhood, yet there’s also something dystopian about the way the clay wiggles and cracks. My thigh squishes a bit like wobbly clay. My living room overflows a bit like the clay pushing just outside its precise borders. I work with precision, using clay tools and a sewing pin to help position tiny bits of clay, yet the clay rebels, as do my students, as does my daughter. I’ve learned to allow that rebellion, to embrace it rather than fight it. I forfeit control and seek materials that force me to give up a bit of control.

Color sticks in my memory. The saturation is slightly exaggerated, while the precision of light and shadow highlights the everyday, the scenes we rush past, the colors we take for granted. This work advocates for the importance of play, of slowing down, of taking time to squeeze clay in your hands and notice the particular grays of the sidewalk and road. It advocates for the importance of mothers and mothering, saying this craft material is Art.

During hours of mixing colors by mushing and rolling clay in my hands, I reflect on my days and process past and present traumas. There is both a disconnect and an uber-connect between the mundane daily rituals of early motherhood and my deeply felt femaleness. Tea parties and leaf collection, pancake flipping and butt wiping, purple baths and personification of everything fill my days. While worries about continued climate inaction, pervasive racism and specific racism directed at my child, the breakdown of my relationship with my mother and the breakdown of the world around me fill my mind. Things fall apart. Concrete crumbles and the sky cracks. Will the powerlines hold?

As I watch my daughter go under the water, kick down, and come back up, gasping and laughing, I feel the waves. Waves of joy seeing her in these moments of fun, peace, and calm. Waves of anger and grief over my own childhood. Water has memory (or so Olaf tells us)… and we’re made up of 60% water. So how do I overcome generational trauma? How do I stop from passing it down?

“Manifesting Hope” draws its name from a discussion between Greta Thunberg and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in which they talk about acting on the most pressing issue of our time, climate change, and doing so with hope. This series is about women manifesting hope for the world, pushing past traumas, smashing ceilings, and demanding change through small but persistent actions. It is about highlighting motherhood, valuing time spent collecting leaves with a child. Nursing in the street is simultaneously an act of defiance, a routine, and a sacred bond. I see a connection between the way women, especially mothers, are treated by a society and the way the planet, Mother Earth, is treated.

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My “Fire” series of paintings and prints use color, energetic marks, and repeated trees to express emotions about the increasing severity of the forest fire seasons here in California and across the western U.S.

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My “Separation” series draws connections between the push and pull of early motherhood, the heartbreaking separation of children from their families at our border, and the trauma of abuse.

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