A Little Background

Helen Valborg - Biography


I am an anthropologist as well as an artist and have spent many years pursuing cultural and archaeological research in the field.  As an artist I also choose to paint plein air, working outside in the field, bringing my easel and paints to a site and soaking up the feel of the place while painting it.  My father was an artist and my first mentor.  One of my earliest memories as a small child was the smell of paint and turpentine.  This seemed utterly natural as did picking up a pencil and beginning to draw.  Later I received more formal training at the Art Center School in Los Angeles, Chinuard's Fine Art Studio and the Los Angeles County Art Institute.  Along the way I became interested in cultural studies and went on to receive my Bachelor's degree at UCLA and my Masters at UCSB in anthropology, later entering the doctoral program in anthropology at the University of Nevada, Reno.  I taught anthropology over a period of thirty years at Ventura College, California and Feather River College in Plumas County which was my home for fifteen years.  During this time I made friends with the Mountain Maidu people and began to explore their sense of place in the Plumas County area, a fascinating investigation of their origin beliefs, sacred topography and ways of relating to particular locales.  This study made me more deeply aware of how powerful an environment is in shaping the lives and thoughts of people.  It has influenced the way I look at a place and what I try to evoke about it in my paintings.  This is expressed in my rock art paintings which are inspired by work I have done recording ancient petroglyphs in Nevada, California and Mexico.  I seek to bring this sense of sacred topography, this living power residing in a place alive in my oil paintings of landscapes and the animals that live within them.   

Near to where I live there are several bands of wild horses.  In the last few years I have begun tracking them and getting to know something about the way they live on the land throughout the different seasons, how they interact socially and how they behave as individuals.  Slowly I have been able to understand some of their patterns and approach them as near as possible without disturbing them, especially in the spring when the foals are born and stallions are particularly protective.  I photograph them and, when they tarry in one spot, spend time sketching them.  These become the basis for my paintings of wild horses.  Gradually I am coming to depict them as they are, embedded in the land, part of the eco-system, adapting like all other forms of life here in this arid high desert country.  For this is a dry country and one I deeply love.  As an artist, I feel privileged to live here and be surrounded with its sometimes stark and often breathtakingly beautiful inspiration.