I was born in Pennsylvania and grew up in Annapolis, Maryland. As a child, I spent a lot of time exploring the world around my house—the woods in the backyard, horse trails across the road, a nearby creek that fed into the Chesapeake Bay. I collected feathers, horsehair, pine cones, oyster shells, driftwood, crab skeletons—the organic matter shed from animals & trees or washed up from the Bay. These treasures were my earliest subjects and by observing and documenting them I learned important lessons about life such as nature’s cycles, impermanence, and non-attachment.
September 11th, 2001 changed everything. My nephew-in-law was killed in the World Trade Center leaving behind a shattered family. Washington, DC became a living nightmare of fear and paranoia, barricades and “evacuation plans.” My reaction to everything going on around me was to turn inward. I felt an urgent need to draw and nature became a refuge for me as it had been when I was a child. The leaves falling from the September skies were both beautiful and horrifying; they looked to me like bodies plummeting from the top of the World Trade buildings. Lives torn from their limbs, dropping to the ground twisted, cracked, and broken. I collected some of these leaves from my backyard and drew them. They were all unique—beautiful even in their death—and they deserved to be remembered. I named this series “The Art of Dying.” It was then that my portraits of leaves and other natural ephemera found on the ground—in various stages of disintegration—began to evolve.
My portraits are tributes to the beauty and dignity of things separated from their whole and in a state of transition. Sources of inspiration are Joris Hoefnagel’s 16th century illustrations of “natural minutiae,” Andy Goldsworthy’s “collaborations with nature,” and the drawings of Vija Celmins.