Dorothy Holmes Mohler has turned significant challenges into an art career.
photo by Katy Yoder
By Katy Yoder
Dorothy Holmes Mohler knows firsthand that tough times can be good teachers. She's learned how to overcome challenges and find the gifts - no matter what.
Twenty years ago she had a hemorrhage on the left side of her brain that forced her to become a right-brained person. Coming back was slow going and she soon realized she wasn't the same person she was before.
"I was a paralegal. After the hemorrhage and recovery I had the ability to create. I saw things differently. I became a much softer person and began to forgive people and make significant changes in my life," she said. "I realized this wasn't all a tragedy; it was all good. I don't let the tough stuff bother me... I just keep going."
Understanding what happened to her was something she had to pursue. But that was a challenge in itself.
"I have severe short-term memory loss. At first I couldn't even read. It took me two years before I got my reading back," she said.
She remembered wondering if this was a permanent thing or just the drugs. Eventually, she had to settle into the fact that it was the "new Dorothy" and be OK with that.
Holmes Mohler also learned that facing hardships brought out the warrior in her. She asked herself, "What are you going to do, sit around and whine?" It wasn't easy coming back from her illness, but she was lucky. She had support.
"My mom was and still is amazing, and now I have my new husband Chuck who supports me through everything," she said. "I know I met him for a reason."
With her new artistic gifts, Holmes Mohler first made a living painting murals for clients with big homes and lots of wall space. Eventually, she decided to transform her skills as a muralist onto the canvas.
"I took off as a working artist. The brain injury made me a person who gets bored easily. I change my hair and furniture all the time," she said, laughing. "That's why I paint in three different genres. I do abstract landscapes, women in nature and trees."
Holmes Mohler works in acrylics on thick Birchwood panels, never on canvas.
"I paint in acrylics and sometimes India ink and oil pastels," she said.
For her women-in-nature pieces, she's drawn to the ethnic diversity in the U.S.
"I do women from varied backgrounds. I don't like to paint things that are expected. The women come from my mind, I rarely use models. It's semi-autobiographical, I was raised cherishing nature by my mom. She taught me everything about the out-of-doors, she was the president of the Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society."
A lifelong birder, Holmes Mohler likes to include birds with her female subjects.
"I'm most at peace when I'm outdoors," she said. "That's a reflection of how I feel; I'm quiet and peaceful when I'm outdoors. I want to paint the places that make me happy."
Holmes Mohler's work captures strength and serenity.
"I try to paint things that I'd want up on my wall. I just try to create what makes me happy, not what someone might want to buy. That bird or that woman in my mind makes me happy. I'm self-taught. YouTube is a good friend of mine," she
The Mohlers are settling into their new life together in Sisters, where they moved in July. She's been working in a studio in their home, but they're also building a new studio on her
"I'm very excited about that. It's my dream studio. I can build it from the ground up and have everything that I want. It'll have great lighting and it's all mine. I've never had a studio that's just my own workspace. I have three dogs that will be with me all the time. So we have to make room for them in the planning stages."
Her focus now is to show people her artwork. Bedouin is featuring her work now.
"I want them to come into Bedouin and enjoy it. I'm excited to bring new artwork to Sisters," she said.
Holmes Mohler does commissioned work as well. Two of her commissioned pieces hang in Faveur in Sisters and Bend.
Eager to meet other artists and get involved, Holmes Mohler joined the Sisters Art Association and is excited to be a part of the art community.
"I know my pieces are reasonably priced, I'm just interested in people in Sisters discovering what my artwork and I'm all about," she said.