Monday, January 23, 2017


        Over time things become clearer; whether in hindsight we romanticize the past, or see more clearly with the heat of the moment subdued, looking back tells us how far we've come. For me it's easy to see my influences as an artist, and educator. Throughout grade school, high school, college, and beyond, I've had a few tremendous teachers, educators and artists in the truest sense. They gave me the confidence I lacked otherwise to assert myself through visual communication. Some lessons were harder learned than others, but all of them are clear in my mind because they came at the hands of people I respected, whose opinions I valued, whose frank words continue to sink deep into my conscience. They respected me enough to lend their care and I find myself reminded daily to pay forward what I can in my own practice as an artist and educator.
        This year I was invited again to participate in the 10x10 show at Coconino Center for the Arts. I agreed, and set about creating two pieces to donate. Due to a framing mishap, the pieces were unusable when the time came to submit to the show. So as not to fail in my commitment, I set my hands to work for several hours on a new piece. I thought about my greatest influence, my high school Art teacher, Mr. Smith. Those who know me well, know my admiration for him. His presence in my life was well timed and continues to form me from the inside out. As I worked on the piece I remembered his home in Phoenix, its white paint and green trim, his front yard planted thick with cactus and native trees, a shaded desert paradise attuned to its climate, not fighting it. I imagined it under monsoon skies and could smell the creosote alive in the surrounding hills. I thought about the conversations we've had in his backyard studio, a menagerie of toys, figures, and projects alive with his distinctive style and reverence for life. I remembered the childhood drawings he reworked into hauntingly expressive, yet simple, figures. All of these things mixed with my feelings about myself, my future, and my own visual language and culminated in a deceptively simple piece.
        As is wont to happen, I fell in love with it. I spent a long while staring into it; that's how I know a piece is finished. I wondered if I could let it go. I told myself that this was only a study for a larger piece on the same theme, and I delivered it to the Center the next day. At the opening reception I was excited to see that the piece hadn't sold; it might still be mine to enjoy a bit longer. However, on a subsequent visit, I found the little red dot on the nameplate, it was sold.
        Now, just as I tell my students, the artist's intent is largely unknown and a work must stand on its own. I can't follow the piece around, forever explaining it to everyone who sees it, nor would I want to; it's theirs to experience on their terms, in their context. Nevertheless, it's always a challenge to let a piece go knowing that a part of me goes with it and yet remains anonymous amidst the perception of the viewer. Even now it bothers me that most of you reading this will only see this piece as a jpeg on your mobile device. Still, I wanted to share it with you, and memorialize the experience in a tangible way.
        I know I can't duplicate the work, but I can continue to allow the past to reach forward into the future and remind me of who I am and why. In deepest gratitude, I'll continue to create these love letters to my teachers, to our memories, to our hope.
Hatcher, Mixed Media on Panel, 10x10"

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