"The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance." — Aristotle
Bringing to life the “Park City Boys” left an imprint on me. I was commissioned to create this piece last spring for a family who live in Arizona and spend some of their most meaningful time together on the slopes in Park City, Utah. Year after year, these four brothers have been photographed on the ski lift as their mother turns back from the lift in front of them taking them in, in the way that only a mother can. She described to me the ways in which her boys could be together there on the lift, over the years. One year they might be fooling around—teasing each other, another year they might be huddled up from the cold, on this particular year the youngest brother—the “bonus baby” of the group—discovered a place to rest his head on the shoulder of his oldest brother. She asked me if I might be able to capture this unique way in which she viewed her four children and all that it meant to her. I instantly felt a resounding sense of “yes!” In retrospect I can see that taking on this behemoth work of art—it measures a sprawling 5 feet wide and 6 feet tall—on the cusp of a very large home-renovation project with little child-care arranged might have been somewhat audacious. I am a “leap and the net will appear” devotee and this undertaking was no exception.
I quickly began learning about the four brothers and what made each of them unique. It became clear to me that the substance, the imagery, the mix of color that I used to distinguish each of them would be crucial in getting across their essence—the part of them their mother recognized at the core of their being. Silently I meditated on them, I thought about the images I had seen of each of them—they are truly a beautiful and vivacious group. I thought about the heartfelt and passionate words that their mother used to describe each of them. I got very, very still and just sat for a while and then I jotted these words in my journal:
Bradford: A Mountain
Colin: The Wind
Nate: A Breeze
Caden: Child of the Earth
Over the course of the next two months, I poured myself into this piece. I collected imagery from southwestern landscapes creating a palette reminiscent of the colors of Georgia O’Keeffe. I began the work of creating a drawing around fifty times the size of the image that I was working with. I carved out time to work. And then I began working. It took me a very long time to complete the “first” skier who came to life from images of red rocks and various layers of the earth impacted by geological pressures. I took pause upon completion of this mountainous young man and reflected on the strength it took to move him. He was true to form. I thought of the words of a friend who had recently reminded me that when you say, “yes” to the Universe, you have the right to ask the Universe to back you up. With a bit of sweat on my brow, I began asking for backup and moved on to the “bonus-baby” who rested his head so peacefully upon his brother’s shoulder. I relaxed. Each day my two young boys would come home from school, from being out with my husband and they would comment on, “our skiers.” They were intrigued with the mismatched pants of the first skier. “Why did you do that?” they asked. It was hard to explain that I didn’t make that decision myself, that it was revealed to me. Each of these vibrant boys—these skiers—went on to declare themselves to me. With their ease and with their energy, with their depth and with their wit and I just marveled at the accuracy with which they had been described. I fell into a flow and reveled in these moments of channeling bliss. My six year old son Jonah came home from school one day and upon viewing the third skier, exclaimed, “I want those pants!” We laid next to the skiers and measured ourselves—they aren’t quite life-sized, but close. I anticipated shipping them out with a bit of longing in my heart. I knew that they would be missed.
Coincidentally—or rather not coincidentally at all—just after the “Park City Boys” had been sent off to be carefully packaged and shipped, I traveled to Arizona for the very first time. It was a trip long-planned prior to taking on this commission. I remember arriving there and coming from the land of pine trees and rocky shorelines, I experienced the landscape as otherworldly. I was mesmerized by the blooming cactus and the arid, mountain horizon. I rolled the windows down in the car despite the high temperatures—the closer to be with this mysterious place. Later, I found myself nestled in a magnificent hideaway in the midst of Sedona. I found myself in the depths of the towering red rocks and the palette of my latest work. I looked out and I looked up—taking in the colors that I had been living in—mind, body and soul—for many weeks now. I felt as if I was being fused with my surroundings. I was no longer looking at the rocks—I was within them, a part of them. Time suddenly became fluid and in that moment—if only very briefly—it felt as if this time was the beginning of my creation, that this part had come first.