My fraternal twin brothers and I fell asleep to the sound of my mother’s voice. She loved epic poems, which she read lovingly with deep feeling. Passages from the poems that she read are indelibly etched in my treasure trove of childhood memories. When we moved to a small cottage in rural western Pennsylvania, at night in the upstairs attic, I made up stories to tell my brothers. I was surprised to discover when I went to school that not everyone loved to draw and to read. The beauty of the rolling hills of western Pennsylvania where I spent endless hours, drawing, and the landscape of stories are intertwined to form the nucleus of a polestar that continues to call to me and guide me.
After art lessons in the Carnegie Museum, which I took for many years, I was sometimes free to wander the vast vaulted exhibition spaces. One afternoon I watched with awe as a man on scaffolding gave form to a visionary landscape inhabited by the plants and reptiles of the Pleistocene Era. His odd accent and the sheer scale of the immense mural in the Hall of Dinosaurs made his presence seem heroic and his skills mythic. I found the museum’s many dioramas compelling. In a dimly lit passage way, I was startled to find my own face looking back at me, a reflection buried in the heart of an ancient swamp filled with the creatures of its time. In that encounter I found myself both a part of the moment and a witness to the moment.
As a painting major at Carnegie Mellon University, I studied, as did everyone, with Robert Lepper, an industrial designer and painter, who encouraged us to engage in direct observation of the world around us and to create images drawn from autobiographical sources.
Nothing, absolutely nothing, in my undergraduate or graduate studies prepared me as a new instructor for the tumultuous nature of the San Jose State University campus in the late 1960s. One evening a young man with whom I still correspond burned his draft card in class. Beside me sat another young man, retired from the army. I watched his knuckles turned white in a silent protest to the protest. Emboldened by the boundless energy of youth, a scant handful of years older than my students, I could not then have imagined putting down roots in this community, but I did. In those years of ferment long before the feminist movement took form, I was fortunate to be a part of a dynamic community of artists who embraced me as an individual, an artist and a colleague. Academic communities are often rigid. Mine was not. I was free to explore drawing, photography, prose, poetry, and the nature of memory, dream, and metaphor as the content of my courses, and to give public presentations to psychoanalytic societies. I am grateful for lifelong friendships with my colleagues, life-long friends, who have also prized the “shape of content.” My son Mark, my daughter Beverly and generations of students have been my teachers, asking of me no less than what I asked of them.