Where did the phrase “that will cost you an arm and a leg” come from . . . ?

Historical fun fact: The phrase, “That will cost you an arm and a leg” came from art commissions that charged for additional the body parts. If you wanted more than your face in the painting, you had to paid for it. (below, (2014) Transitions, commissioned by the State of New #art #painting #commission Hampshire, 1% commission award).

The sound of Falling Water: the relationship between the Kauffmann’s and Frank lloyd Wright

I had the pleasure of visiting Falling Water this past Monday.  During our tour, I was impressed by the description our guide provided about the relationship between the Kauffmann’s and Frank Lloyd Wright, specifically as it related to their role as patrons to his now famous design.  Did the Kauffmann’s allow Wright the space necessary to create his masterpiece? How involved were they in the ultimate design?  We did learn that Mrs. Kauffmann insisted on adding screens to the windows one year after taking occupancy of the home given that the mosquitos appear to have loved the home almost as much as did the Kauffmann family and their servants. We also understood that the window treatments, as simple as they were, were also the idea of Mrs. Kauffmann who wanted some degree of privacy for and from her many guests. Finally, Mr. Wright refused to allow Mr. Kauffmann a garage for his many vehicles, instead settling for a “car port” thus inventing this now familiar term.

But, overall, it appears that the Kauffmann’s allowed Mr. Wright the space he needed to create his seminal work, and in doing so, ensured that their famous architect would create what is arguably the most famous home in American history, second only to the White House.

This got me thinking of the importance of the relationship between client and architect, patron and artist.  It is a delicate dance to give the client what they want, while maintaining the integrity of the design and allowing for the artistic vision to come through.  I have had experiences on both ends of the client/artist spectrum, from experiences for which my artistic vision was given space, to suffering the consequences of the “overly involved client.”  The Kauffmann’s were well served by Mr. Wright, and it appears he as well by his clients who allowed him the creative air to breath so they could enjoy the sounds of falling water.


Open House at Care Dimensions, Lincoln, MA

Sunday, March 24 was the long awaited and eagerly anticipated opening of the Care Dimensions Hospice House in Lincoln, MA.

The 18 bedroom house is just gorgeous, the work of Siemasko and Verbridge Interior Design and EGA architects. 

To play even a small part in this project was an honor and a thrill.  Many thanks to the staff at Care Dimensions for commissioning me to create two works for this special place.


Care Dimensions Open House, Lincoln, MA. How paintings Tell a Story installed in the background.

Terra Cotta Army at the Virginia Museum of Art, Richmond.

What a thrill to see members of the Terra Cotta Army at the Virginia Museum of Art last week. I had no idea they were on exhibition-made my trip to Virginia and DC all the more memorable. 

Care Dimensions Paintings, Lincoln, MA. Installed.

Very excited to see these works installed in their new home.  Looking forward to the open house for this important space.  Many families will benefit for the hard work and dedication of the Care Dimensions staff who worked so tirelessly on this project.

Installed, January, 2018.


The autumn painting in progress, September, 2017.

An in progress review of the paintings, October, 2017.

Installed: How Paintings tell a Story, Care Dimensions, Lincoln, MA.

The intension of this triptych is to visually reference the writings of Henry David Thoreau, who lived on Walden Pond near what is now the new hospice center in Lincoln, MA. He moved to a cabin on Walden Pond soon after the death of his brother. The combination of the hospice center hiring me to create site specific work and the research I did on Thoreau’s time on Walden Pond made a big difference in the success of this important space. The design team was able to consider proper lighting and optimal location for the painting.

My visual interpretation of Henry David Thoreau: How paintings tell a story.

A Walk through Walden Woods in search of Thoreau’s Cabin.

I spent last Saturday walking through Walden Woods in search of inspiration for my #caredimenisons commission. The new Care Dimensions building is located in Waltham, MA. not far from Walden Pond. The commission features three paintings inspired by the natural environment of Walden Pond. The quiet serenity, sense of peace and the smell of autumn trees on the trail was invigorating. Thoreau, who lived in Walden Woods for two years after the death of his brother John, (his friend Ralph Waldo Emerson owned the land at the time and let him live on it for free), wrote his most famous essays while huddled in his very small cabin. A replica of the cabin is on site and invites visitors to imagine what it was like for Thoreau to live there. I understand Thoreau’s desire to live simply and peacefully. I hope my paintings reflect the Walden Pond Thoreau came to know so well.

How Paintings tell a Story

My goal as an artist is to work with designers and architects on site specific projects; working with designers and architects presents an opportunity to interact with professionals with whom I can share my ideas and who can in turn share their visions for how they perceive the final building will engage the user.  Currently, I am working on the Care Dimensions commission for their new facility in Waltham, MA.

By creating site specific work, I can pre-determine the size, shape, palette and subject of the work.  As with all of my commissions, this one attempts to connect the mission of the patron, in this case a hospice center, with the local scenery and history, Waltham, MA., and given this location, the writings of Concord native author Henry David Thoreau whose book Walden recounts his experience of living for two years in Walden Woods near the Waltham/Concord town line.

The three paintings in this commission attempt to celebrate the beauty of Walden Woods as they simultaneously act as metaphors for the trajectory of life.

The painting on the left is meant to suggest sunrise seeping through the trees, breathing life into the foreground. The light source coming from behind and creating a shadow in the foreground mimics stage lighting, a common practice in Baroque art and one that gives the painting a theatrical quality. This sets the stage for a life to come, a promise of a future to be explored. The trees point to the right, guiding the viewer to the painting in the center.

The central painting includes a pathway in the composition. This suggests moving forward into unknown terrain, climbing up a path that is a bit crooked and uneven, but guided by the light that is now in the background.  The open space in this composition is on the right of the painting-the light blue of the sky which holds a sense of distance, a way forward, the bend of the trees guiding the wanderer up the path and into the near distance.

The painting on the right contains the body of water that one expects to find on Walden Pond: calm, cool, and a deep Prussian blue value that bespeaks a brisk New England autumn day.  In this composition, the trees shift to the left, allowing the viewer to return to the first painting and engage with all three paintings as one unit.

The trees are included in all three of the paintings to represent the rootedness of life, a visual symbol used in many cultures such as in Navajo Sand-paintings.  The water is symbolic of the ephemeral nature of life, another visual and spiritual symbol recognized in many cultures and throughout history.

As a naturalist, Thoreau understood that the path to a greater understanding of our life on earth is through an understanding of the natural world around us and of which we are part: “We can never have enough of nature”, he wrote. We must be refreshed by the sight of inexhaustible vigor, vast and Titanic features, the sea-coast with its wrecks, the wilderness with its living and its decaying trees, the thunder cloud, and the rain which lasts three weeks and produces freshets. We need to witness our own limits transgressed, and some life pasturing freely where we never wander.” (reprinted from walden.org/thoreau).

Working on this commission for Care Dimensions has provided me with the opportunity to share my ideas with architects and designers, with the CEO of this important Hospice facility, and to channel the writings of Henry David Thoreau.  Next: the mission of Care Dimensions and symbolic in the paintings.


If you are interested in finding out more about how my work, please contact me to discuss your ideas.

Care Dimensions Commission: The in-progress paintings in my studio

Care Dimensions commission as it unfolds in my studio.

Using simple household tools such as a turkey baster and a squeeze bottle, I apply layers of colored pulp to the surface of the painting, building the many elements of texture that make my process so unique. The three dimensional quality of the surface will mimic the original, natural environment.

The three paintings in-progress at the beginning of the work day. The challenge of working on three paintings at once is to make sure they flow together. The palates for each must be unique so they hold their own identity; at the same time they must also work harmoniously together. It is a challenge I embrace as I see this as a musical concept-harmony and identity, almost like instruments playing in an orchestra.



  Close up image of the Fall inspired painting. The cotton abaca pulp is applied with the turkey baster while the overeaten pulp is applied with the squeeze bottle.

End of the work day, Friday, October 27. The Fall painting is coming along with a new layer of colors having worked on it all day. The Summer inspired painting (right) will be worked on next. This allows all three painting to be worked on at the same time and to keep pace with each other. That is, when one painting is worked on for a period of time, I leave it for a few days until the other two paintings are worked on to meet the same level of completeness.

What the final paintings will look like. This is what the art review committee chose during our meeting in August, 2017.