becoming Lecia, the short story of this artist

I was born in San Francisco, California, in the spring of 1970.
My parents didn’t belong together and parted ways before my first birthday. My father was barely present for the next 38 years, but my mother was my guiding light, my shining star, my inspiration. Sure, it's a bit heavy on the clichès, but it's true, nonetheless. She was the epitome of the strong, stoic, amazonian woman I wanted to become.
First and foremost, she was an artist. While she never had the luxury of being able to pursue it as a career, no matter how many hours she worked she always made time for art. I realized early on that art was the place where she experienced the most joy, and I wanted to be part of that.
Money was tight, but she managed to come up with the price of admission for us to see things like the King Tut exhibit at the DeYoung, a flower show at the Conservatory or a live performance of Camelot with Richard Burton. She had beautiful books about Georgia O’Keeffe, Gustav Klimt and Winslow Homer. The radio was always playing music; jazz, classical and 70’s rock. I reveled in all of this culture and was touched with the idea that beauty was everywhere, just waiting to be discovered.

My mom could be rigid and demanding, never letting me be slapdash with art projects we began together. Sometimes that could dampen my joy in the process but it also forced me to be more focused on my intentions and taught me to ponder what I wanted out of my time, the project and, ultimately, my life.
Mom forged a bond of support with several strong women in our community and this led to some life altering travel opportunities for me. The first, a plane ride by myself, was in 1977, to one of these ladies who had recently relocated to San Diego, CA. A year later, I got to spend half a year in Yakima, WA with my best friend and his mom. And when I was 10, I got to fly, again by myself, to Ecuador, to my aunt who was volunteering in the Peace Corp, fully igniting my wanderlust and curiosity about the world.
Mom stressed about being a single parent in the city, worrying about what kind of trouble I might get into while she was working, so she moved us to Belfast, Maine. I was not happy about the change of venues. I was an independent city kid. I felt stifled in the small town. Then she got married and we moved to the even smaller town of Buxton.
I was pretty angry about these changes, but had no power to alter my fate, so I turned inward and started to discover my own art and music, drifting away from my mother’s preferences.

I went off to New York as soon as I finished high school and studied painting, photography, printmaking, fashion and jewelry at Pratt Institute. I was into realism but surrounded by people who wanted to be the next big abstract artist. I was often annoyed and harshly judgmental, having the opinion that a form can’t be broken down and continue to make sense unless it is completely understood to begin with. I was frustrated in general and, to my shame, my fellow students were an easy target. I didn’t fare much better with my professors, who wanted me to define my art in what I thought was pretentious terms. I felt it should speak for itself. (This problem pestered me long after college. I’m still reluctant to explain my paintings, or elaborate, as they either reach into you or they don’t. But folks often want a little more and my inability or unwillingness to expand is problematic.) My professors wanted me to participate in long critiques, which I thought were a waste of my time (I was probably wrong - ah, hindsight).
I couldn’t wait to leave. I did not thrive in this community, one that was supposed to be mine.
A few months after the graduation ceremony, I moved to England. My hope was to see and photograph the world. I worked as a bartender and saved my money while I planned* the journey of a lifetime. I was going to wander until the money ran out.

*my version of 'planned' goes something like this: Paris for my birthday, Easter in Rome, Moscow in time for the TransSiberian train departure. everything else was just winging it. No wonder my mom got anxious!

This marked the beginning of defining myself as a stupidly fearless adventurer. (Click here to read some of the stories.)
I cut a swath through Europe, visiting 15 countries, then crossed Russia and Mongolia on the famous Trans-Siberian Railway, finally arriving in China, a place I'd been dreaming about my whole life, thanks to my favorite children's book.
All this took just under two years, but my mother had had enough of worrying about me. She decided it was time for me to return stateside, and used the emergency money I had sent her to buy my ticket home. It was too soon; I wasn’t ready, but the ticket was bought, nonrefundable and unchangeable. I wasn’t brave enough to travel without my safety net.

I returned to San Francisco. I was a little older, a little wiser and ready to start my life, whatever that meant. Plants, a cat, a job?
To feed my creative spirit, I made jewelry and did window displays. It wasn’t really enough, but it was something and I still hadn’t figured out where I was supposed to be.

In 2001 I moved to Los Angeles and immediately felt like I was home. I fell in with a group of artists and models, it was close to how I imagined Vienna to be at the turn of the 20th century. I returned to one of my favorite past times, figure drawing. And I realized I was where I was supposed to be.

Then personal disaster struck.
My mother was diagnosed with stage 4C ovarian cancer. We were told she might have a year left, so I went home to Maine for several months to help with the first round of chemo.
When I went off to college, my mom did as well. Since her graduation, she had developed an art therapy program with Spiral Arts, in Portland, Maine. She was really changing the quality of the lives of institutionalized stroke victims, elders and young adults with disabilities. Because the chemo compromised her immune system, it meant that she shouldn’t go into the places where her program was running. She hated leaving the clients high and dry, so I stepped in to her formidable shoes and ran the sessions for her.
It was inspiring.
The creative output of these folks, who were all inhibited in very real ways, was awesome. It reminded me of how much I loved to create and it was humbling, since I'd not been pursuing art full throttle for a long time, and there were no restrictions on me.
I returned to L.A. with a sense of urgency about my art.
I began to delve into all of the mediums I had dabbled with in the past, and I braved new ones with a fearlessness that I’d forgotten I possessed.
For the next six years, my mom and I reconnected through art. She continued to live despite predictions, and I shared everything I did with her. And while I was seeking her approval, I was also attempting to engage her in a conversation that would keep her energized and fighting. And I wanted to brighten her life by bringing beauty and joy into every corner of it, as she had done for me.

Somewhere along the way, my mom became obsessed by my lack of health insurance. It was as if there was a big ball of stress hanging over her, and I saw no need to add to the fear and uncertainty she was already living with. So I took a real job, at a wonderful post production company. The long hours strangled my artistic creativity, but I worked with terrific people, felt as if I was good at what I was doing, and was making more money than I ever had before.
And I had health insurance.
Mom was happy.

In 2008 I began to travel again, taking my camera on short adventures to Egypt, Mexico, Italy and India.
My mother passed away at the end of 2008. This was my worst nightmare come to pass.
A few months after her death, I began needle felting flowers. I wished dearly that I could show them to her, knowing how much she would have enjoyed them; that she would have had critiques and ideas that would make me climb higher. I incorporated the flowers into my jewelry design, which breathed new life into my enthusiasm for creating wearable art.
In 2009, I found out I had a younger half sister (thru my dad) in Baltimore. While she couldn't replace my mom, it was wonderful to have my family expand a little after the painful loss. And it didn't hurt that she turned out to be amazing.
In 2010, I left the production company. The recession made temp jobs (previous to the real job these were my bread and butter) hard to come by, so I began to plot the ways I would rather spend my savings. Starting with a reading of Kon Tiki (if you haven’t read it, you ought to, those fellas were true swashbuckling nuts!) I became inspired to go on an enormous odyssey of my own making.

At the end of 2010, I began a trip that spanned 3 continents, 12 countries, took a little over 9 months and was the catalyst for what has become the most prolific period of my creative life.

When my beloved camera fell ill at the bottom of the world (Ushuaia, Argentina), I couldn’t imagine continuing my travels without a replacement. Inspired by the Andy Rooney/Judy Garland “let’s save grandpa’s farm by throwing a broadway show in the barn” movies from the 30s, I decided to throw my own ‘barn show’ - I offered up three of my photos, in limited editions, for sale (click here to see them).
I was overwhelmed by the incredible response. Not only did I sell enough to buy a new beloved camera, my friends on Facebook were suddenly asking if other photos I had posted from my trip were available for purchase. Since I had never even considered selling my photos before, this was a revelation.

I was overjoyed and after returning home, I had my first photo exhibit and found there was nothing that made me happier than talking to people about this work - what a departure from my previous thinking of “the images should speak for themselves!”

I had finally found a medium that I could share without any reluctance on my part. However, I found it challenging to shoot my everyday life when I wasn't on the road, discovering new places.
Then I began photographing flowers and a funny thing happened. I heard my mom in my head, telling me what she liked about the shots, what she didn’t like about the shots, and suddenly I was inspired like never before. I was, and am, having a conversation with her through my work, keeping her spirit alive while engaging my own. It is incredibly rewarding.


And that brings us up to date, with me, still based in Los Angeles, planning adventures for myself and my camera while at the same time trying to honor my mother (and myself) by creating and capturing beauty every day.