Some of my earliest and most important creative influences came from my first-grade classroom and art teacher, Mrs Leutwiler. She always made a big fuss over my artwork, taking my drawings and paintings home to her husband to brag about me. I remember seeing the contents of her desk drawers—pencils, erasers, rubber bands, paint brushes, jars of paint and plasticine clay in wax paper, all the supplies neatly organized. Mrs Leutwiler and her desk full of supplies inspired me.
Thirty-odd years after my first-grade experiences, I happened to bump into Mrs Leutwiler in a store. I proudly told her that she had influenced me to become a teacher, but she looked slightly disappointed at that, saying that she thought I should be doing my own art. I wanted to be the same sort of positive role-model for young artists that she was to me, so I became an art teacher. Her continuing example led me to explore my own artistic interests in drawing and sculpture.
I still get excited by fresh art supplies, but lately my inspiration comes from…old stuff. I discovered this about myself over the few years it took to clear out our family farm in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, where my parents had lived for 60 years. I don't think they ever got rid of anything. My father had a workshop in the barn loaded to the rafters with all kinds of ancient junk. There were rusting cars with weeds around them on the property, corn cribs piled high with god knows what, and in the house, closets that still contained relicts from my childhood. I would open a cabinet and pull out a box of antique doll parts, or look in a drawer and find crumbling photo albums. Walking into a closet was like revealing a long-hidden time capsule. Every day felt like an archeological expedition.
I started creating things with the material that was destined for the dumpster. I began by drawing some of the objects, and drawing from the old photos. I started making robot-like assemblages out of old junk, and then making illustrations where the drawings and assemblages interacted with each other. I didn't want to see these bits of the past disappear, bits of my past. These objects had a purpose once, and now they'd been reincarnated. I found that it was a cathartic exercise for me to make something new out of things connected to my history. During this time I also began to realize that my point of view comes from a somewhat dark and yet humorous place.
Through the years I've been influenced by many artists, including Edward Gorey, Barbara Nessim, Alex Gross, Boris Artzybasheff, Louise Nevelson, Joseph Cornell, and Robert Crumb. I honor these brilliant people and many others with each new piece I produce.
I now live in a Louis I. Kahn–designed Bauhaus abode in the New Deal town of Roosevelt, NJ—with my husband, two dogs, and four cats—where I continue to be compelled to make new stuff out of old stuff.