Story from March 2012 Living on the Peninsula magazine
By Beverly Hoffman • Photos by David Godfrey
In the Port Townsend home of Dennis McDaniel and True Heart that overlooks the Cascades to the east and the Olympics to the west, three massive paintings hang on the living room wall. Each is painted by Maulsby Kimball, one of Dennis’ most influential teachers. Each is a depiction of “Spirit,” with colors and energy that show vitality and life. The paintings seem to be a metaphor for this artist couple who have transformed three acres, through their energy and artistry, into a space where the outdoors and the inside of the home open up to each other and then interplay off one another.
The living room, with its sitting area around a fireplace made of white ceramic tiles the couple made in their ceramic kiln, opens to a cemented patio, hand-crafted by Dennis to suggest swirls of a sandy beach, where a curved bench invites a dozen or so people to relax around a gas-lit fire pit. Throughout the home, the couple has framed a continual juxtaposition of an outdoor-indoor concept. In their master bedroom, the hidden bathroom shower opens to an exterior glass door with a view of a burbling low waterfall. In the other bedroom, an outdoor enclosed wall provides a meditative mini-garden for the sitting area.
Dennis and True, both 71 years young, met seven years ago. Dennis was visiting the Mount Shasta area where he noted a ceramics show at True’s art gallery. They met, and through conversations and her delivery of a Shamanic mask (that he actually had dreamed about) to him, their relationship solidified.
Four years ago they bought their property. Then a year-and-a-half ago, they built their home and recently finished landscaping their gardens.
In between the constant projects they designed and built, True dealt with ovarian cancer. As a couple they treated the illness just as they do everything — an artistic adventure. To True’s bald head, Dennis applied body paint, a phoenix rising that covered her perfectly bald canvas.
Their life is about awakening to the inner life, to be conduits to the creativity within. As they age, they guard against too much carefulness, and, instead see themselves on a sashay through Bold Street. Their wish is to both inspire and to share their life and home with others … maybe even to open it up to several small weddings each year.
Their home is filled with treasures they have collected over the years, such as the pre-Korean War Murano glass that belonged to Dennis‘ father, plus pieces by local Port Townsend artists, as well as many of their individually crafted art pieces. In their dining room, they worked with wood craftsman Robin McKann, who created a one-of-a-kind table, burled birdseye maple with a darker jarrah wood border that has live edges of the wood on the legs. In their guest bathroom, True worked with her daughter, Linna, a ceramicist from Cleveland, Ohio, who crafted whimsical fish, and then True finished the bathroom with tile she made to create an underwater scene.
Outdoors, right outside their master bedroom, is the largest garden area where a pergola made of salt-drenched wood from log booms shades a sitting area where one could read for an entire afternoon.
Across from the pergola is a small raised garden punctuated by colored glass art that looks like jesters’ hats. A back wall provides two things — a grounding of the visible garden and a foil for the private meditative garden behind it.
On the patio, Dennis has arranged large blown-glass baubles, made by a student of master glass artist Dale Chihuly. In another section of their front garden, Dennis has stacked and scattered some clay balls he crafted, the size of bowling balls. If you picked up one of the globes and shook it, you’d hear a rattle reminiscent of whimsical childish play, an aspect Dennis is trying to incorporate more often into his art.
Dennis feels he has been somewhat of a drop-out from the norm. As a Vietnamese and Russian linguist in the Army, his career, he traveled a great deal and learned from many diverse teachers. He was most influenced by Rudolph Steiner, the Austrian philosopher, artist and social reformer who is credited with being the founder of anthroposophy, where the science of Western thought is used to gain clarity within the spiritual experience. Imagination and intuition were two fundamental aspects of anthroposophy, which were fundamental to one of Steiner’s projects — the first Waldorf schools he established in the early 1900s.
Steiner felt art was healing and used Raphael’s Madonnas as particularly useful in healing. Dennis, highly influenced by Steiner, is exploring his next vehicle of art and is considering sound/light/color/and vibration as healing mediums. He is the explorer-learner, which was part of his decision to continue his mentor’s dream, and helped support and build a Waldorf school in Greeley, Colo.
True sees herself as a conceptualist, whose personal experiences guide her to a sense of space and design. She works with many materials. She gathered natural objects to create her masks, which she feels are guiding spirits. She has a sense she wants to dabble with felt banners and she assures everyone there will be an element of bling in them. Together, she and Dennis can walk from their home to their art studio, Floworks, where a drafting table, kiln, easel, tile cutter and tools keep projects simmering. She is walking energy, with ideas that flicker and rise within her.
In the garden, True uses soft brush strokes to create a harmonious garden, no hard lines. They have turned Trex decking material on its side to create curved spaces where she has planted a variety of sedums. There is the element of restraint in this section. Near the back wall, however, is the element of excess where a row of peonies blooms in a heady profusion.
True and Dennis’ home, named Heartspace, is their offering to others. Their Havanese dog, Annie, shares their home and loves the way she has room to run and play. Their artistry is replete in every part of their home and gardens where warm colors, natural woods and soft edges create a welcoming entrance and a gentle benediction.