About the Artist

Update

Ms. Branson was recently invited to hang her original military series paintings at the Pentagon. These 5 paintings are on loan to the Pentagon exhibit for the next four years and will not be available for sale until after that time.

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Since early childhood 'T' Branson has held a fascination (bordering on obsession) with hands; their unique form, expressiveness and individuality. Growing up in a home rich in culture and the arts, she watched her talented, professional artist mother skillfully transfer her creativity onto canvas. It would be more than forty years before Ms. Branson would discover and apply that talent in her own life.
Disheartened by years of forensic investigations and disenchanted with metropolitan living, Ms. Branson moved from Phoenix, Arizona to a small, quaint town in Colorado in the spring of 2000. Not anxious to continue working in a law enforcement venue, she reflected introspectively on what different paths she might pursue. In the early, quiet hours of a snowy winter morning in 2002, all her questions about what she should be doing were answered in what she refers to as ' a Divine directive'. She was to be an artist; to capture, document and create pieces that would 'touch' people in a unique way. A small painting that her mother had created of a Russian peasant's hands hung on the wall in her living room. "Everything in me told me that I could paint that,” T says. Because of her passion for and attention to people's hands, it seemed an appropriate subject matter to try to start with. After a few hours of awkward sketch ing, the latent talent revealed itself. Her ability was obvious and undeniable. Ms. Branson says, "It was the beginning of an amazing journey..."

"A person's hands reveal so much about them and 'hold' so much history, both for that person and in the memories of those who have loved and been touched by them.  I try to capture the essence of moments in people's lives by interpreting those instances through my portraits of their hands.  There is only enough within the composition of each painting that is necessary to get a sense of that person; to perceive a glimpse into each person's uniqueness. And, it seems, there is always just enough to allow an observer to relate to and imagine a story of their own."

The mother of grown sons, T Branson lives an abundant and peaceful life where the mountains meet the prairies in southern Colorado.

Local artist finds healing in newfound gift of creation
By LORETTA SWORD
The Pueblo West View

 
Some artists say inspiration arises from their dreams. For "T" Branson, putting pastels to paper is a healing way to hold her worst dreams at bay.
The 46-year-old Pueblo West resident didn't pick up a sketch pad until two years ago, shortly after moving here from Phoenix to join her parents and two sisters.
Before that, she had spent several years in investigations with the Maricopa County Medical Examiner's Office - a job she took after going through a divorce that left her the single mother of young sons.

Her qualifications included a degree in forensic science and six years as a trauma and surgical nurse - experience that had hardened her somewhat to the sight of blood and broken bodies, but not to the many faces of human destruction wrought by violence and neglect.
"There was nothing in my background that could have prepared me for that job," she said during a recent interview in her sunlit living room.
"I had a very privileged childhood, and an even more privileged marriage. There was certainly nothing in my background that could have prepared me for the things I did – crawling into dumpsters and under houses and dragging dead bodies out. Examining children who had died at their parents' hands. Looking into the empty eyes of nameless, discarded victims who had no one left who cared to know they were dead - or how, or why," she said.
After her parents - her mother is an accomplished artist and her father a retired Episcopalian priest and psychologist - moved to Pueblo West, Branson visited occasionally, and found that each time, "I realized when I was here, I could breathe. I could see the sky all around me. It was cleansing for me to come here. I felt safe. I felt calm. Those were the big ones. I didn't have to feel as guarded here."

So nearly three years ago, she decided to "risk it all and move here."  

She packed up the last of her teenaged sons still living at home and their belongings and settled in Pueblo West, with the idea of continuing her career in forensic investigations. Several local law enforcement agencies were interested, she said, but none had an opening.
They also advised her that she'd have to become an accredited Colorado police officer before she would be considered for a future opening.
She enrolled at the academy, graduated with honors and became certified - only to learn that she'd have to again spend two years "on the streets" as a cop before she could move to investigations. She had no interest in carrying a gun or dealing face-to-face with criminals, she said.

"I've seen too much of the damage they're capable of inflicting. I knew that wouldn't be a good choice for me. I wanted a kinder life than the one I had left. Being a street cop wouldn't offer me that."
So she took a job in the communications division of the Sheriff's Department, and realized quickly that the job was not a good match for her temperament or talents, either.

She quit, and while looking for other work and living off savings, she began spending long hours with her mother watching her draw and paint in her studio. "She's just such an inspiration to me. She's very talented, and very spiritually grounded. And no matter how old you are, you feel comfortable and safe in your parents' home. I felt very comfortable. And I felt something changing inside me."One Sunday morning at home, she recalls, "I was looking at a painting of my mom's hanging on my wall, and I thought to myself: 'I wish I could do something like that. I wish I could create that kind of beauty. And something inside me told me I could.'"
The painting depicted a pair of hands.

Branson picked up a sketch pad from a nearby coffee table and began etching lines and angles onto a virgin sheet of paper. Within half an hour, she was looking at a respectable representation of a hand.
And she was hooked. She soon became obsessed.
Since then, she has drawn and created a collection of portraits - all of them pairs of hands. Some of them are from photographs she has seen in various publications or other sources, but most are the hands of people she knows well, or who made an impression on her during chance encounters.

"I've always been fascinated with hands, from the time I was tiny, and I didn't know why. But they're the first thing I notice about people," she said.

"Hands tell stories, just like the eyes do, or the lines in a face. And there's something about hands that touches everybody, reaches everyone. They touch people in a place that doesn't get accessed very often. My works are an attempt at memorializing working hands, common hands, overlooked hands - in a lasting, and I hope in a moving image."
Branson's own hands fly frenetically through the air as she describes ideas for future projects, and how this new "gift" has calmed her spirit and soothed her soul.
She has come to believe, she said, that everything in her life was a prelude to this unexpected journey into a creative side she would never have discovered had she not moved to Pueblo West.
"Living here has taught me so much. Pueblo has brought me to gratitude," she said.


 


"There's a kindness here, a collective kindness about the people, and a graciousness that is a stark contrast from the arrogance and the insensitivity of the over-crowded places and the people I had been involved with in Phoenix."
From gratitude came grace, and an answer to a prayer.


"This gift, this talent I didn't know I had, was given to me like a gift wrapped up with a divine bow - just because I asked for it, because I wanted it. And I couldn't have recognized it,

 I couldn't have accepted it - and I'm not sure I have totally accepted it - without this profound sense of gratitude I have found." she said.
"I don't know how I do what I do. Every time I sit down at my easel, I wonder if I'll be able to do it again, because I don't understand how I do it. And that makes me very wary of the possibility of abusing it. How could I abuse it? By not doing it at all, or if I started doing it just for profit."
The fear of abusing her talent, or losing its magic in the process of sharing it with others to make a living, was behind her reluctance to speak with a reporter - and to accept early invitations to show her work, maybe even sell it.
Her first tentative "yes" came when she was invited to show, "The Green Ramp," at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. Someone there had seen a photograph of the work on the Internet - the result of Branson sharing it with a few friends who shared it with other friends, and "somehow it got to Fort Bragg," Branson said.
 
The print shows the hand of a soldier wearing camouflage holding the tiny hand of a little girl, peeking out from a pink sleeve.
They are the hands of her nephew and his daughter, photographed before he boarded a plane with fellow members of the Special Forces bound for duty in an unknown corner of the world, around the time the war with Iraq began.
The original, Branson said, belongs to her nephew.
But she was besieged with requests for reproductions after that showing, and prints now are on sale at the base.
She is negotiating the sale of another military-themed work, "Taps," which, if sealed, will result in the original hanging in a top military office at the Pentagon. The work shows a folded American flag between two soldier's hands.
Last month, Branson received an unexpected invitation to show some of her pieces at Pueblo Bank and Trust Co.'s annual Christmas art show.
"I've never been nervous about anything in my life. I just don't get nervous," she said. "But I was definitely nervous that night."
That experience, and her growing friendships with members of local artistic circles, led to an upcoming meeting with representatives of the Sangre de Cristo Arts Center.
Branson isn't pinning her hopes on that meeting, or planning on anything else regarding her art.
She has begun having prints made of some pieces in her collection - the hands of a red-robed Buddhist monk holding a string of prayer beads, a pair of old cowboy's hands resting atop a saddle horn, a young cowgirl's hands perched cockily on slim hips, among them - and sells them from her home.
"I really don't know what's next. I don't have a 'next,'" she said.
"What I do know is that I believe I was given this gift in order to teach people, to inspire people. If I can help anyone - just one person - to reach down inside for what they have and act on it, that will be my greatest blessing".