How would you describe yourself? Not easy, is it? For most of us, a few labels might come to mind: daughter, employee, mother, reader, gardener. But who we are is so much more than a list of labels. Sure, those classifications may help us determine our social groups, but that’s not a guarantee that we’ll find a kindred spirit behind that kindred label.
Terry McDaniel defies labels…even the one we used in this post title! She is a passionate artist, and she does work tirelessly to protect the environment. But most of all, she lives to enjoy the beauty of each day, each person, and each thing with which she comes in contact.
Terry never intended to become an artist. In fact, she fought it as long as she could. “It felt shameful to want to become an artist because, growing up, we were told that we couldn’t make a living at it.” Ironically, all of her siblings are now artists in their own right: two of them are potters/ceramicists, one creates artwork by welding, and two remodel homes.
Although Terry makes a living by photo styling for companies like Quad Graphics in the Twin Cities, her passion lies in photography itself. Carl Jung said, “The creative mind plays with the objects it loves.” That is certainly true of Terry. Her stunning images of ice luminaries and frozen waterfalls speak to her goal of making people feel more connected to the environment. She published a limited edition of Ice Luminaries, a compilation of her photos, and she is working on a second edition of it. Her second book, Listening to the Waves, is a photographic journal on grief she made several years ago after her dad died. She never published it, but would like to in the future. Click here to view her website and see more of her amazing work.
Despite having a degree in photography and visual communications, it wasn’t until Terry started photographing her ice luminaries that she first truly defined herself as an artist, “I was an artist, but I kept it all inside.” That is, until her turning point unexpectedly came. For several years, she froze a variety of flowers, plants, and other organic materials in water and put candles inside to create the luminaries to line the driveway at her annual Christmas Eve party. As the last guest was leaving one year, she told Terry to make sure to take some photos of the luminaries, as they were incredibly beautiful.
Hundreds of luminaries later, Terry inspires all who view her work with her celebration of the majesty of nature, frozen briefly in time. She connects the flower and ice images with how the seasonal cycle affects us, contrasting the harshness of winter with the roundness and gentleness of summer, and comparing it to the constant ebb and flow of our lives. “The ice predicts death and symbolizes grief, but yet the flowers, they show life…I want my work to help people heal and be inspired by the beauty of nature.”
Terry finds peace in nature. She used to live in the country in an amazing dome-shaped house raising bees, chickens, and horses. Her flower gardens were the stuff of legends, and the neighbor kids couldn’t wait to help her build her annual igloos that even received attention from KARE 11 news. But she missed the connection with other artists. So, after ten years, she moved back to the city, with all but the horses.
Although the first year was an emotional struggle to adapt to her new, more cramped surroundings, Terry is surrounded by wonderful neighbors who love her urban farm. And the kids enjoy her chickens, named after strong women throughout history–Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, Helen Keller, and Malala.
She hosts an annual honey harvest open house for her neighbors, complete with hands-on experience, a video on the process, and a chance to watch the centrifugal honey extractor at work! She’s even installed a number of different gardens on her city lot, for both aesthetics and to help the pollinators.
Terry spends a good deal of her time teaching others about the importance of bees and pollination. “Without pollinators, we wouldn’t have the beauty of flowers and trees and the abundance of nature. Nature is where I get my spiritual connection.” She is also a swarm chaser, and has even posted a Youtube video on how she catches and moves a bee swarm. You can see more about her honey bees at “T McD’s Bees” on YouTube.
Her honey has won many ribbons at the state fair over the years, and Terry volunteers to speak in classrooms as well. She loves helping children understand where our food comes from and the important role that bees have in our ecosystem.
In addition to her photography, BareBones Productions is Terry’s current creative outlet. She has helped to build the puppets over the years, with her favorite ones being for the production showcasing the coral reef.
Most recently, Terry just finished performing in BareBones’ outdoor Halloween Extravaganza. Although her shyness has kept her from being much of a performer in past productions, this year she actually mastered stilts for the show!
Terry has lived her life in search of beauty, and she always finds it. Lucky for us, she always shares it as well. “The goal is to do the art and share it. I love to see the joy, not just in people’s faces, but in their whole bodies. If I can help people, that gives me joy.”