I was raised in Wichita Kansas. We visited my grandparents dry land wheat farm in Western Kansas at least one a month, always helping with summer harvest. Since I was the youngest of three daughters and small, I would lie in the back window and watch the fields go by. At night I would study the stars and faraway farm lights. These images, beautiful haunting images of pastoral life were burned into my psyche. I knew it wasn't a financially lucrative way of life. But the payoffs were independence and a deep connection to the earth.
As a teenager in Wichita, I absolutely hated the treeless suburbs and proliferation of big shopping malls where we lived. I would walk down to the creek near our house but it was under a freeway and had become more like an urban ditch.
In high school my mother enrolled me in Saturday painting classes at the Art Association. I went to oil painting classes, not drawing, I jumped right into wet, gooey paint. The Art Association architecture was Japanese style and our studio had a big north facing window looking into a tall grass meadow with a variety of big trees. For the first year or so Betty Dickerson had us paint the rotting still lives she set up around the room. Then I became bold enough to paint the view from our windows. Later my husband Glenn Whitehead said those paintings reminded him of Bonnard. My painting classes became an alternate universe for me. I slipped into a mysterious visual world when most of my high school contemporaries were interested in clothes and cars, I would drive alone to Sims or Riverside Park and just gaze at the scenery.
When I went to college at Wichita State University, I had no intention of majoring in art. I methodically took my core curriculum with extra math classes and I an added art class for fun. I had one professor John Fincher, who encouraged me to enroll in another of his classes every semester. At the time I thought it was because I had promise but now I realize the Fine Art College needed their numbers. In any case I found my home with all the kooky, non-mainstream art students. Much to my mother's dismay and disappointment my trajectory changed. She couldn't make me the difficulty in making a living selling art, that art would be an appropriate avocation not occupation. She changed the locks on her doors as I dreamed of the swirling colors of Van Gogh.
I first encountered Glenn on Jim Moore's porch as he entertained Mira Merman and other partying art students and faculty. He was charismatic and witty, more leprechaun than man. He convinced me that we could live the artist's life in Houston, sell our work to the burgeoning masses, rich oil companies and associated businesses. I followed the WSU's graduate adviser Glenn Whitehead to Houston Texas where he exchanged a university teaching job for the artist's life. That year in Houston, I did a large painting of Glenn dressed in tights ala Walt Kuhn's circus portraits. It was accepted into the Houston Area juried show. From that exposure I was invited to show in a gallery group show. But I wanted to return to school, become a better painter, make my own friends, have some independence. So I moved to Austin and began taking art classes at the University of Texas. After Wichita, UT's at department was the disappointment of my life.
After a year or so Glenn followed me to Austin, bemoaning it was the end of his life. We hung out at Lake Austin, Barton Springs, and Lake Travis painting the same view for the lake house deck. Austin was a laid back town, as they called it then, some say it was caught in a fog. We were a part of that relaxed lifestyle and didn't aspire to much. Although we had galleries and showed work in Austin, it wasn't until Michael Henderson and Gay Massengill of Houston saw a little painting of Glenn's at UT, that our careers took off. They were able to place our small paintings in Houston's corporate collections. We worked with them for years. Then they introduced us to Harrison Itz of Harris Gallery and I was introduced to Martha Meier of Jack Meier Gallery. I showed at Meier Gallery for several years until I joined Glenn at Harris Gallery.
In the meantime I had been traveling east of Austin on painting excursions. I found beautiful historic homes in Bastrop and old timey truck gardens adjacent humble railroad homes in Smithville. When our friend put his Smithville bungle up for sale we nabbed the property. You see in Austin we were having daily visitors who would sit around and sip wine while we tried to paint. We had become ambitious.