About the Artist
My love of clay began in my fifth grade art class when I was tasked with creating a standing character out of clay. I can still remember completely losing myself in this project until I was totally unaware of the people or sounds around me. I did not come back to reality until my teacher came right up to me to tell me that my time for this project was up. This project was the first of a long series of ceramic studies. In my high school years, I continued to pursue this passion by enrolling in a ceramic bust class with my father for one month of each year. Taking the ceramic classes with Dad are some of my fondest memories.
The next pathway in my ceramics studies led me to the University of Georgia in Athens, GA where I earned my Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. After college, I worked as an elementary school teacher, but my main hobby and passion remained in working with clay. Eventually, I turned my attentions full-time to creating meaningful pieces of art.
The Rose People
In 2008, Marti Schwem, gallery coordinator at the Pump House Regional Art Center, saw my art and invited me to do a solo show. The summer prior to my show, my family and I went to North Carolina for several weeks to spend time with our extended family. My inspiration for my next project came to me one morning as I was spending time with my mother in our familyís rose garden. While taking in the beauty of each individual rose, I realized that roses are a lot like people. On first glance, the roses seem very similar and beautiful. However, as we worked to deadhead the bushes, I noticed how much variation there was in each individual rose, and how each Rose contained its own imperfections. In Momís garden, the idea for the Rose People was born. The concept of my original collection of Rose People focused on capturing individual personalities at a given moment in time, aiming to help people relate to others in moments of intense emotion. Two months after first dreaming up the Rose People, nine different Rose People debuted at my art show at the Pump House Regional Art Center in La Crosse, WI.
Dr. Jeanne Johnson, a surgeon at Gundersen Lutheran Hospital and guest of the art show, was captivated by the Rose People and commented on the calmness that she felt in the presence of these pieces. Realizing the value that this calmness would offer her patients, Dr. Johnson inquired about having some of the Rose People installed at her hospital. Through the vision of Dr. Jeanne Johnson, the leadership of Gayle Jago (manager at the time), and the fundraising ideas of Robyn Tanke (Medical Foundation), I was commissioned to design the first series of the Rose Sisters for Gundersen Lutheranís Norma J. Vinger Center for Breast Care. In order for these art pieces to connect with the patients, I interviewed several breast cancer survivors, including my Mom. My motherís insights on how it feels to go through the many treatments, as well as other research, inspire and inform my art. Each piece is designed to create a calming atmosphere and a welcoming connection to promote healing while at the same time reducing stress.
The original Rose Sisters collection was sponsored by Gundersen Lutheranís Medical Foundation as a fundraising event. Each piece was then made available for ďadoption,Ē giving donors naming rights to their piece and a personalized dedication in the Rose Sister collection brochure. All fourteen Rose Sisters were adopted quickly, raising meaningful funds for the hospital and providing a meaningful original art collection. Moreover, the art collection has created a positive connection between the breast care center and the Greater La Crosse Area community. Donors have noted how important is has been for them to honor a loved one in a priceless way, while donating a gift that will endure as a symbol of their love.