A sizable amount of my digital art is digitally manipulated photographs of orchids. This is because a.) I've shot a lot of orchids, and b.) orchids are of particular significance to me. My father and my birth mother were both orchid growers, my father going so far as to build his own greenhouse at each of three different houses that we lived at. He was also an orchid judge, eventually serving as president of the Northwest Orchid Society. Some of my earliest childhood memories are of accompanying him to Orchid Society meetings. I was the only child there, but most of the time I was pretty good at entertaining myself, looking at orchids, talking the ear off of any adult who would listen, and as I got older drawing orchids. The Orchid Society members felt like an alternate family for me to stand in for family members I'd lost or no longer got to see much after my parents' divorce. When my father remarried for a second time, my second stepmother took a dim view of the Orchid Society, referring to them as "the Gossip Society" and my father became less frequently active with them, which felt to me like I was losing a second family. Thankfully, my father didn't completely give up on the Society, so every now and again he would go to one of their events and I would be thrilled to accompany him, mainly because it meant that I would get to spend time with him and with members I hadn't seen in a while, and of course I would also get to draw orchids.
One of the people who most profoundly influenced my view of the arts was a woman in her 90s who I met at one of these events. Stately and slender in black with red accents, and a long, beaded necklace and rings, she had been an actress and recounted for me stories of acting classes in her youth in which she had gone to the park to study the behavior of old derelicts there, the way they bit off a piece of chewing tobacco and how they'd spit, facial expressions that she could still mimic quite convincingly all those years later. I think I was five at the time of meeting her. I do not know her name and I only saw her at that one event, but I will never forget her presence and dignity and the grandeur of the figure she presented. She lived, walked, and breathed her art, the way that I hope to do for all of my life.
This piece in particular recalls for me the feeling of that conversation and others held at Orchid Society meetings, the people talking about horticulture and aesthetics, and all the subsequent conversations with growers at their greenhouses, the orchid friends my father and even my stepmother kept in touch with outside of those meetings. I think perhaps I would not have worked later in event organization without those early experiences, where people gathering to share their obsession with these flowers became for me a refuge of human connection in an otherwise isolated childhood.