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Dana vanWestrienen

"Our very existence consists in our imagination of ourselves. Our best destiny is to imagine who and what we are. The greatest tragedy that can befall us is to go unimagined." - N. Scott Momaday

Pencil on paper, paint and brush are the tools I use to make either an inner emotional landscape or to express the emotional way an actual landscape makes me feel.The tension between these two real places prompts me to create, to imagine, to complete the vision I see and feel. It is satisfying to my very soul to visualize, and to make visible that, which is for me, where the numinous resides. 

I’m in the last third or so of my life. The first third I was growing into the adult I am, alongside 4 sisters and a brother, my mother

and my father, a pediatrician in Los Alamos, New Mexico.  I was born with a hidden physical anomaly.  At age 2ish the neurological problem in my spine made itself known by twisting my feet into tight pretzels making it harder and harder to walk. Soon there were braces and surgeries.  My legs and feet no longer worked properly. I began to learn how to stay behind, how to manage the anger, pain, hurt, and frustration that now walked with me. I felt singled out, furious, embarrassed, sad. I had long periods of time recuperating, to lie there and think, imagine. I had to wait a lot, entertain myself, to disappear into fantasy. I was able to create complete detailed experiences and worlds. I pictured everything functioning perfectly. I didn’t like in real life how I stuck out when I moved. Stared at. Even though I struggled to get around I was determined. I was determined to experience life anyway.


The second third of my life I conquered. I did what I wanted to do, inabilities included. I left home, left all behind, I worked, I studied abroad, I went to art school, I lived in Boston, San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles. I found a handsome, good man, and married him.  I brought him back home to New Mexico. We made a family of our own, a daughter, twin boys, then another son.  We raised them up in the house we built together on a piece of land in the countryside by the Rio Grande.


I became a school counselor, worked at the community elementary school for fifteen years. I used art as a way for the kids to express their feelings about their own personal experience of being themselves. I was a resource for the kids, the parents, and the teachers. I provided a respite in my office for them. It’s easy for me to relate and have compassion for the circumstances and predicaments we all find ourselves in life.


All the years working and raising kids I painted. I fit it in around everything else. Painting keeps me on track with the experience of living.


Now the last third of my life, peace and quiet.  I’m retired from the schools. Our kids are launched, have families of their own, live around the country. We have 8 grandchildren.  Abundance. Blessings. I'm still here.  Getting around is harder, acceptance is easier. I’m bothered by chronic pain, it sidelines me. I know that our own personal mental, physical, emotional experience affects our creative language. The qualities of my lines reflect how I’m feeling in any one of those areas of myself. Those emotions live in the figures and landscapes. My paintings are an intimate expression of what and how I feel and see, how it is for me here on Earth.

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