A pile of bones greets me as I walk toward Natasha Stanton’s front door. An artist well known for using elements from her surroundings, Stanton’s bone collection doesn’t surprise me. As I make my way through the overhead tunnel of flowers that lines the path to her cabin, she welcomes me into the cozy, eclectic space she calls home, offering me a cup of hibiscus tea, which she said is a Native American tradition.
While Stanton is not Native American herself, her art is heavily influenced by the spirit of a Native American boy.
“He came to me in a dream before I lived in Sierra Hot Springs, back when I was just visiting,” she said. “He told me I was going to live in this cabin and that I was going to work here.”
After her encounter with the young Native American spirit, Stanton moved from Santa Barbara to the Sierra Hot Springs Resort, where she began working as a massage therapist. After dappling in pottery and other art forms for over 20 years, Stanton found her true calling when she began painting on wood in 2007. Her constant use of organic elements hints at her adoration of simplicity and reveals her love for life in the Sierra Nevada.
Stanton explains that she lets the knots and nuances of the pine guide her as she stares at the wood and paints what she sees. The same young Native American spirit comes to her often, guiding her painting, and it is Stanton’s trust in the spirit and the wood, along with her focus on consciousness, that make her art unique. That is one reason she calls her art “spirit art.”
“The knots and the grains are key to me working with wood. You can see stuff in the wood. It’s like seeing stuff in the clouds as a kid,” she said.
“People enjoy my work because it brings them back to the innocence of childhood textures, like bark in the tree.”
Using acrylic on repurposed wood, Stanton started small, painting box turtles and dragonflies. She soon progressed to larger pieces and today even weaves animal bones into the mix.
Stanton’s use of bones heightens the spiritual experience but she likes to pull her art back down to earth. She paints bright colors on deer skulls, juxtaposing white antlers with red and purple woven string. The bones and eye sockets of skulls are draped with over a decade’s worth of lost earrings that Stanton found at Sierra Hot Springs.
Decorated deer skulls are just one piece in Stanton’s current art show, Sanctuary, a collaborative installation with Reno artist Melissa Gilbert. Stanton’s paintings are printed on repaired and redesigned antique Japanese kimonos. Gilbert also sewed Stanton’s art on fabric panels that she made in the style of thangkas, Tibetan Buddhist paintings on fabric, usually depicting a Buddhist deity or scene.
Showing until Aug. 31 in the Reno Generator building, Sanctuary is open to the public. Stanton displays and sells her art in the lodge at Sierra Hot Springs and at Trunk Show in Tahoe City. Visit natashastanton.com and fineartbistro.com to view and purchase her paintings online.