~ words on the Forest

Artist Statement for "Lost in the Forest"

 As a child, I would stay outside each day until the humid hot Virginia summer, gave way to the cool, grey dusk.  Fascinated by things and their essential nature, I used to crush flowers, mud, and berries, watching their color bleed across the stones.  My images grew from the motion and power of the world around me. I became fascinated with kinesthesia: the sensation of motion, the ability to feel strain in muscles, tendons and joints.  When my mother died, I soon found myself in a torrent of busyness, the deafening chatter of the world around me closing in, a tightening crowd on the verge of riot. It was then I walked back into the forest and found silence.  The quiet energy of the life there, the still presence of the trees—reminded me that a solace could be found.


My work is an exploration in the synthesis between the physical and the ethereal aspects of forest forms, as they strain upward from the earth. I am drawn to the gestural movement of twisting vines and figural tree bodies that capture the dynamic energy of being in the forest environment.  I think of “painting” in this way as spearing holes into the dark fabric of our ‘accepted’ existence, stepping through the divide of the known.  My art is a vehicle for such discovery; each mark exists as a map of my journey directing me towards my next voyage, pulling back another veil, moving closer to the truth.


As I create, I search myself—what do I seek, desire, need? As I strive to touch the unknown--to connect with something outside myself, I have found that painting touches the deep, the primitive, the true parts of the soul that I have found

 in the forest of my world.     

~ jss. 2008

Lost in the Forest


Lost in the forest, I broke off a dark twig,

and lifted its whisper to my thirsty lips:

maybe it was the voice of the rain crying,

a cracked bell, or a torn heart.


Something from far off: it seemed

deep and secret to me, hidden by the earth,

a shout muffled by huge autumns,

by the moist half-open darkness of the leaves.


Wakening from the dreaming forest there, the hazel-sprig,

sang under my tongue, its drifting fragrance

climbed up through my conscious mind.


as if suddenly the roots I had left behind

cried out to me, the land I lost with my childhood

—and I stopped wounded by the wandering scent.

-Pablo Neruda                 


from Cien Sonetos de Amor, University of Texas Press, Austin. 1986.