By Anna Klement | Artwork by Trish Land
Gratitude is the state of being thankful and appreciative, and achieving that level of consciousness can mean that you’ve willingly forgiven people who have hurt you. That often entails overcoming adversity and reaching peaks you never expected to climb.
As the youngest of four children growing up in the 1960s, Land was predestined to live in the shadows of her older siblings. It was never going to be easy, and as Murphy’s Law states, anything that can go wrong will go wrong—which essentially followed her throughout her school years. Her father was a Vietnam-era soldier whose life was eventually taken by the lingering effects of Agent Orange. Her mother, it seemed, was so busy working two jobs that she didn’t notice her daughter ate cereal for dinner most nights.
Despite all that, Land held out hope. She has an old and wrinkled print of a beautiful ballerina with a quote from William Ward: If you can dream it, you can become it. It was her favorite gift ever given to her by her mother, and Land has held onto the tiny dancer long enough to forget the age she was when she first read its inscription. As if it were a retablo, the words on the ballerina always brought her a moment of tranquility wherever she was on life’s journey of high peaks and low valleys.
A distant relationship with her family, combined with the typical growing pains of being a misunderstood teenager, wrote the script for lessons Land would come to understand much later in life. She practices gratitude and forgiveness now, but during those years she was mad as hell. Like most people dealing with trauma and strained relationships, she needed a physical and emotional outlet. Dancing was her first choice. “I had a wonderful teacher who shared all of her travels with her students,” Land says. “I learned about the outside world through her stories. She made me aware of what art is. I’ve been a creative my entire life, though not by choice—by necessity, I guess you could say.” She recalls making her first Barbie car out of a Kleenex box and doll clothes out of old fabric and paper towels. “I developed a great imagination and ways to do so many things on my own.”
When she was old enough to leave, she took the first Greyhound out of Albany, Georgia. First, she went to Tallahassee and worked in a luxury gift store. She wasn’t there long before she started the next chapter of her life, which led her to open a dance studio in DeFuniak Springs, Florida, where she taught young girls to prance around in pink tutus and live their dreams through dance. At the time, Land was only twenty-four. Her greatest advantage—and her biggest curse—was that she could never stay in one place for too long.
“I had a wonderful teacher who shared all of her travels with her students. I learned about the outside world through her stories. She made me aware of what art is. I’ve been a creative my entire life, though not by choice—by necessity, I guess you could say.”
Every mile traveled taught her to be aware of her surroundings—literally, but also intuitively. The most valuable lesson she learned was to pay attention. To some, change can be uncomfortable, but for people like Land, it is essential for personal growth. She loves the fluidity, uncertainty, and inspiration that comes with life on the road. It seems she was bound to become an artist.
Land picked up her first paintbrush about twenty years ago. Since then, she has led destination workshops in Europe, gone on cruises with her muses in the Caribbean, opened a store, and learned how to play the tambourine. What started as a creative outlet to heal the wounds of her past has allowed her to create art that inspires others. Her art is mostly abstract landscapes, reflecting the different moods and attitudes she interprets from her surroundings.
“It takes time, but you hope to develop your own language,” she says of her painting style. “It took me several years to find that voice, and I am quite happy and comfortable with where I am now with my work. Every piece I paint is an extension of me, of my current mood, or the color du jour, or where I’ve been. I don’t paint from photos; I paint from memory or my broad imagination. I am always growing as a human, so that causes my work to grow as well. I don’t want to jump out of a plane or walk on hot coals, but I am always seeking beyond my creative comfort zone to expand my abilities and learn new techniques.”
In her most recent travels, Land has taken on artist residencies in France and Italy. In May, she spent two weeks living in a medieval village called Noyers-sur-Serein in France’s Burgundy region. It’s one of the oldest communes in the world and protected as a UNESCO Heritage Site. Its scenery is unrivaled compared to anything Hollywood could try to replicate, and its streets are lined with the same cobblestones that nobility once walked on.
“It takes time, but you hope to develop your own language. It took me several years to find that voice, and I am quite happy and comfortable with where I am now with my work.
“Being in a medieval village so rich with history is much bigger than any thought I have ever had,” Land recalls. “I’m pretty sure the light was born there. It’s pure magic. When the sun is bidding adieu to the day, it seems to turn to golden dust, collecting at my feet only to return the next day with possibility and pure wonder.”
She says the French countryside smells like fields of green with a hint of croissant. It’s earthy but not heady. She remembers the panoramic views of lavender fields and sunflowers bigger than her head. They contrasted well with the petit brown-eyed boy who said bonjour to her every morning. Land has plans to return to house-sit in the fall and to host another workshop for seventeen students in the village. She is also contemplating buying a flat there for only thirty-five thousand euros.
America is lucky to have her work, too. Land’s art has been featured in galleries from Denver to New Orleans, her home base in Atlanta, and now the community along Florida’s Scenic Highway 30-A. Her latest collection, inspired by her time in France, is on display at the East End Gallery in Inlet Beach as part of The Storyteller Series from July 27 until October 26. This isn’t her first appearance as an artist in the area—she was a featured artist at the Bluewater Bay Marina in 2015. You might also spot Land and her not-so-hidden talent playing the tambourine with her partner, singer Michelle Malone, at the 30A Songwriters Festival.
Beyond just wanting to paint for herself, Land often takes on a teacher role to her “students,” who could be anyone, even a stranger sitting next to her on a plane. She travels with a mini watercolor kit and hosts her Muse Destination Workshops annually in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
“I’m pretty sure the light was born there. It’s pure magic. When the sun is bidding adieu to the day, it seems to turn to golden dust, collecting at my feet only to return the next day with possibility and pure wonder.”
“I love to have something or someone to paint for,” Land explains. “I ask a lot of questions, try to get a sense of what’s important to my client, and paint from their point of view in my style of painting. For me, painting is like having a conversation. Since I’m self-directed, I experiment with colors all the time. I absolutely love an unexpected color. The brain loves it, and it makes the viewer curious. There’s lots of back-and-forth when painting—yeses and noes, more of this, less of that, pauses, time, energy—like when you get together with a friend and you banter back and forth and gather information that forwards the conversation. I paint for others, but it’s through me that the story is told. How long does it take? Until it’s finished, that’s how long.”
No matter how long it takes, it’s the scenes she creates that Land’s audiences love. Just like the ballerina print she’s kept all these years, she creates moments of tranquility for those who need them.
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Visit TrishLand.com to learn more and see her work.
Anna Klement is a freelance magazine writer and editor. She is a Santa Rosa Beach local and has a degree in journalism and creative media from the University of Alabama. She writes profile essays inspired by people, places, and good food for both print and digital media. She strives to write meaningful stories that are enlightening and offer a different perspective.