August 2015 Newsletter

Hello friends -

I'm excited to share some photos of my recent art opening, as well as some new work and words below. Thank you so much for your continued interest in my work!

Warmly, Sheila

Sheila Dunn's show at The Workhouse

Lisa Marie Sipe, MaryLea and Sheila Dunn


Declan & Grandma by Sheila Dunn


Red Barn by Sheila Dunn

Red Barn 8.5 x 11 inches - $25 13 x 19 inches - $45

Western Train by Sheila DunnWestern Train 8.5 x 11 inches - $25 13 x 19 inches - $45



in process painting by Sheila Dunn



My amazingly talented friend Katie Thurmes, one of the co-founders of Artifact Uprising, recently spoke at Brene Brown's event Rising Strong (!!!). Before the event, Katie sent out a request to friends to send in their favorite photo and some words about the image...
Suddenly all my ancestors are behind me. Be still, they say. Watch and listen.
You are the result of the love of thousands. -Linda Hogan

Hanging on the wall outside my painting studio are faded black-and-white portraits of my four grandparents. I've only had the honor of knowing one grandparent, my maternal grandmother, in this lifetime. But through these portraits - and the stories passed down through the generations - I still feel the presence of each in my life. I like to think of them as guides and guardians as I journey along my path, encouraging me to 'be still', to 'watch and listen'.

This portrait of my grandma Frances Falkenberg was taken circa 1940, in the small town of Westcliffe, Colorado, where her grandfather homesteaded in the 1860s. He was among the first white settlement in the Wet Mountain Valley, traveling west from Chicago. At the time of this photo, my grandmother, the youngest of 8, was 17 years old. And I'm pretty sure the man snapping the photo was my grandfather George "Shorty" Byrne, a wild, charismatic young Irishman from one town over. Although only one mile apart as the crow flies, Westcliffe and Silver Cliff were divided by a much wider social distance...

Westcliffe was settled by German homesteaders, like my great great grandfather, and eventually became a ranching community, whereas Silver Cliff was a mining boom town of the 1870s whose Irish miners earned a reputation for being wild and unruly. This tension - and physical division - between the Irish miners and German ranchers remained well into my grandparents lifetime. So when Frances and Shorty found love across the proverbial (literal?) train tracks it created quite a stir among both families and communities.

What I adore most about this photo, taken during my grandparents' controversial courtship, is the look on my grandmother's face. There is obviously love reflected in her eyes - a love strong enough to defy familial expectations. But there is also the underlying grace and courage that still make up the substance of her being at age 92. And on some deeper level I recognize and know that the courage and grace reflected in this photo is not hers alone, but the result of the love of thousands that came before her. And the thousands that came before my grandfather. Those who journeyed to unknown places and loved who they wanted to love. And that we - her six children, twenty-some grandchildren and countless great grandchildren - are held in the embrace of that ancestral love everyday. And that it is both our duty and destiny to carry forward her/their love, courage and grace to the thousands that follow.