Live Byron talks to the world’s first Tetrachromat artist to see what life looks like with “super vision”.
When did you first realise that not everyone saw colour like you do?
One of my students pointed it out in about 2007 and suggested I may be a Tetrachromat and shared an article on it. I laughed! As a teacher of oil painting of over 24 years, I had observed that few students saw what I was seeing but I thought it was just my experience over theirs. Later, another collector said there was an alchemy in my work that she could not explain. She was a research scientist and a neurologist so sent me some bibliography after I mentioned that someone had suggested I might have a fourth receptor in my eyes.
So I read more about it and I started to believe that perhaps I might be a Tetrachromat for several reasons. I then reached out to three well known colour vision scientists in late 2012 and one, Dr Jay Neitz of the University of Washington contacted me immediately, tested me, and placed me in a Japanese documentary – and so it all began. For the past 18 months I have been under ongoing study at the University of Irvine, California who have determined I am “the perfect storm” for this genetic anomaly for many and varied reasons unique just to me.
Does Tetrachromacy affect other aspects of your vision in addition to the advanced colour spectrum?
To my knowledge it primarily involves my vision’s colour and luminance; I see more colour in low light and at night, hence my love of nocturne painting. However this is a question for Dr Kimberly Jameson and her colleagues at UCI. My potential is that I may see up to 100 million more colours than those with regular vision. Tetrachromacy has however affected my other human abilities such as my what my brain has done with this information over the years and with practice.
How do you describe your art?
My art is certainly colourful due to my defined Tetrachromacy, but not in a crass-colour way. As I am able to see the myriad of colours in everything, the subtle nuances that I can define with my super vision gift allows me to show these colours to others via my work, so my paintings are a lesson in the colours that are truly there in our world.
Moreover my collectors tell me there is a spirituality of the kind found in Mother Earth. That my art is blissful, happy and comes from the beauty that I see on our planet and project onto my canvas. Primarily Impressionistic in style, there is an edginess of composition and a whimsy that is otherworldly. I paint what moves me and always in just one sitting; I birth my canvases, so to speak. My goal is to portray the beauty of our planet as an education to save it, so I like to think of my work as beacons of beauty… that will be revered. I love to paint birds, animals, flowers, sea and landscapes. Of course Australian themes tend to dominate as they are in my heart. My Eucalyptus trees are a collector favourite!
Are you a prolific painter? We know that’s like asking how long a piece of string is!
When asked how long it took him and his price, Picasso said, after painting a table cloth in minutes and selling it for thousands that it took him 40 years. It is all about the 10,000 hours thing when you are a master painter. Yes, I am very prolific as my lifelong career as an oil painter coupled with my gift has allowed me to process colour and value so deftly and rapidly (I started at age 7). I am a plein air and alla prima artist so I produce all my works in one sitting only. I have over 700+ works and increasing in private collections. I also paint live and those who have witnessed my process find it hard to believe it.
When did you first visit Byron Bay?
Hippie-style surf camping trips with friends in my late teens and 20’s were my first intimate experiences of the amazing Byron Shire and Northern River areas. It was pretty rustic back then (late 70’s/80’s) but the pristine beaches and the natural splendour of it all was memorable via a tent and kombie van! Prior to that, when young, my family had a home on the Gold Coast on the Isle of Capri so we lived on the beaches and ventured down to this area too. I am a long-term fan!
How would you describe the visual splendour of the NSW North Coast?
Heaven on Earth! This area abounds with beauty. And green is NOT green here (or anywhere really) to me! This verdant area is beyond breathtaking – it is an immense palette of varied colour perfection! I am eager to paint it and will be doing some canvases here at my farm and surrounds that will preview at my ‘Gum Nuts, Billabongs & Bunyips ~ The Australia Show’ in San Diego on March 28th, 2015. I will also show some work locally and am currently looking into exhibition spaces.
What motivated you to purchase property near Byron with the plan to relocate from the US in 2015?
My 27-year “stay” in the US was not planned. I was supposed to pass through in the 80’s on my way to Canada to teach for a year and come home. The rest is history. I have had a very determined desire to return home for over a decade now, ever since my youngest two children Ava and Zen were born. Byron Bay offered the perfect location for all that we wanted. Amazing schools, outdoor/farm lifestyle (we all ride horses), wonderful historic and cultural elements, and close enough to springboard to Sydney and see my family, or Brisbane and international travel needs, yet live the ocean and farm lifestyle.
We are all surf lovers, vegetarians, organic everything fans, obvious art fans, animal lovers (10 cats and 2 dogs!) and avid gardeners so it seemed perfect that we found a farm here close to the ocean! It was a process – we all flew over four times between 2009 -and 2013 until we finally found our dream farm in Myocum, the perfect midway point from Bangalow to Mullum to Byron! Initially we travelled as far out as Federal, up to Currumbin and south to Sawtell but nothing beat Byron Shire!
My American husband Jason is an avid surfer – he had to be convinced to leave his homeland – but it didn’t take much as he was well versed in the surf locations here and loved the Aussie culture and friendly ways of the folks here, not to mention the beer! We bought our 100-year old heritage farm on 12 acres on farmbuy.com sight unseen in March and closed in August 2013!! Our family and friends thought we were crazy: we say who’s crazy now?! We have been back and forth restoring it all since then.
What is your vision for your property?
Oh endless visions! I named it “Tooraloo” – meaning farewell for now – and it is evolving with my help but also own its own merit. After over 50 years of disrepair it is being reborn. We have helped with uncovering and restoring the beautiful historic Federation bullnose verandah with all its trimmings! Discovering a lost formal cottage garden and replanting roses and fencing it, building tea houses and aviaries on lost slabs, replanting an orchard, and veggie garden and much, much more. Originally one of the first dairy farms of the area, it boasts a beautiful location. We heard from an old timer that it used to be the showplace of Myocum and we hope it will be again. Now that the main homestead is fully restored we are completing restoration work on the beautiful grounds, other farm-use dwellings as well as the building we lovingly call the Big Shed. The ideas for the land use are still swirling but a farm stay is brewing as well as art experiences by you know who! We expect all to be complete by the end of 2015. Stay tuned!
Do you plan to hold classes or workshops when you move to Byron?
As I am a full time internationally known artist I will primarily paint paint paint! But YES! I plan to offer some form of instruction to the Byron community, the format of which will soon reveal itself as everything does in time. I am currently based in San Diego with my own salon and gallery so the American market is still my primary focus; however as time passes I am thrilled to become a part of this thriving art mecca!
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Photography by Veda Dante.