Q & A
Q. Why do you do what you do?
Why do I breathe?
Q. When did you start doing it?
I was born into a family that traveled every three years due to my father’s career in the Air Force. So every three years I had to make new friends and I did that by drawing and painting. It was a form of communication that was a lot easier and enjoyable than awkward small talk. Especially when I was eight!
I guess I was pretty good at what I was creating. I received praise and encouragement and that propelled me to push myself to be better and more skilled. While I was living in Washington, D.C., I spent a lot of time at the National Gallery. You learn a lot when you’re addicted to museums. You learn about history and how art evolves from one period to another.
Of course, my artwork was a refuge from my “normal” life. I could drift off into my fantasies and the world was beautiful and loaded with meaning and purpose.
Q. What brought you to San Francisco?
Q. What keeps you in San Francisco?
My husband. And the food.
Q. If you weren’t in San Francisco, where would you be?
London or Venice.
Q. If you could time travel, where would you want to go?
Golgotha when Jesus was crucified. Gore Vidal wanted to be there too, so maybe we’ll meet up.
“Growing up, artwork was a refuge from my normal life. The world was beautiful and loaded with meaning and purpose.”
Q. You seem to have acquired a lot of books on your museum visits. Have you counted how many books are on your shelves?
I have about 2,000 books in my office alone.
Q. What are some of your favorites?
Parcours Muséologique Revisité by Robert Polidori
Hubert and Jan Van Eyck by Elisabeth Dhanens
William Kentridge: 5 Themes (San Francisco Museum of Modern Art catalogue)
Giambattista Tiepolo edited by Keith Christiansen (catalog of a 1996 retrospective)
Lascaux: Movement, Space and Time by Norbert Aujoulat
Henri Matisse: A Retrospective by John Elderfield (Museum of Modern Art catalogue)
Francis Bacon: Incunabula by Rebecca Daniels and Martin Harrison
Rubens’ Life of Marie d’Medici by Jacques Thullier and Jacques Faucart
Mariano Fortuny: His Life and Work by Guillermo de Osma
Bronzino by Maurice Brock
Joseph Cornell, Master of Dreams by Diane Waldman
Q. Michaelangelo or Leonardo?
Tough decision. Michaelangelo for the color and drama. Leonardo for the elegance.
Q. Vermeer or van Dyck?
Vermeer for his subtlety, and Van Dyck for his billowing fabrics. Like smoke, or a bird caught in a length of silk.
“Distorting reality is what I’m all about.”
Q. Tudors or Bourbons?
I would feel safer under the Bourbons.
Q. So what possessed you to make 42 portraits of every single member of the Bourbon Dynasty?
Nancy Mitford’s bio of Louis XIV started my fascination with that period. It went from there. All the Bourbons were eccentrics; spoiled, narcissistic, highly sexual, unpredictable, sentimental and sometimes cruel.
Q. Do you have a favorite?
Well if I had a dinner party I’d want Louis XIV’s brother the Duc D’Orleans. He was flamboyantly gay and quite a chatter box.
Q. Did you get to the 26th portrait and say, why did I start this?
I could do more. Mistresses and illegitimate children seem to pop up at every turn in my research. Most have interesting stories and some are as boring as a plank of wood, but all have something to say.
Q. Turner or Constable?
No question, Turner.
Q. Would you lash yourself to a mast to really see what a storm looks like, or just rely on Turner?
I believe that Turner just made that up to impress potential patrons. But it’s a terrific story. I get seasick so I would never lash myself to a mast.
“Mistresses and illegitimate children seem to pop up at every turn in my research. All have something to say.”
Q. Are you more interested in containers, or what they contain?
If it’s a utilitarian container I’m interested in what’s inside. But I have several boxes that are beautiful in their own right. Who cares what’s inside!
Q. What do you see in the mirror?
Mirrors, for me, are like magic. They are like a glimpse into another world like Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass. I especially like old mirrors because I always suspect that a ghost will be peering back at me. I love mirrors that distort what they reflect. Distorting reality is what I’m all about.
Q. What’s the connection with Oscar Wilde?
His appreciation of beauty. His wit, never corrosive but always wise and focused.