Artist Moira Donohoe

An example of fine art by Moira Donohoe

Photo of Moira Donohoe

The Artist Says:

I was born in Yosemite National Park, on a bright day in May, to a loving and creative family. Are there any accidents? In all the realm of possibility, of places to be born, a family to be born into, a life view, and in all the realm of choices, this remains.  An earlier generation of my family, Irish Emigrants, came to that beautiful Valley in California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains, and made a life there. With them came a love of the land, of the mystical, of poetry, song and legend. They followed a dream of a new and abundant life for themselves and their children. My Great-Grandparents, John and Bridget Degnan, established a bakery, dairy, and eventually a café and grocery store in Yosemite Valley in the early 1880’s. She baked bread and made cheese, helping sustain the family’s’ finances, and hungry travelers who came overland by wagon or mule to the then isolated but world famous Valley. He built trails and buildings, planted apple trees and lilac, which are still used and enjoyed today. It was a strong foundation for the children that came, and grew up amidst the wild and rugged mountains there, including myself and my siblings. Against this vivid background, I painted my child paintings in the granite blues and river greens. They were encouraged and admired, and set me on a course that I follow today, wherever it leads…a life in painting, a landscape of discovery.
I paint for the joy of finding colors on the canvas I didn't really put there. They somehow merge and blend and become something I had been thinking about, or dreaming about.  It is a mystery how globs of paint, thick and sumptuous globs of paint, become a metaphor for essential things, deeper things. It’s like looking at the surface of water. At first maybe you see a bit of reflections, ripples, things floating on the surface….pretty soon you are mesmerized by all the layers of stuff…last years’ leaves, a bit of mud, a water skeeter….infinite. It isn't something that is seen at first glance.
Painting to me is as natural as breathing. It is sensuous, nourishing, and wonderful. Sometimes an inkling of knowing something comes in a flash, like a thunderbolt, brief and electric. More often it is an exploration. Whichever, I am driven to paint it. I am interested in the poetic. Anything in this physical world has connections to a world of spirit I believe. A forest in early morning mist can become a meditation, a prayer. The physical effort in painting is like stepping on stones across a river to the other side. Some paintings become markers, or reminders of who we are. That is what I aspire mine to be. Not a pretty scene, but a transcendent experience.


I am a landscape painter of places that to me echo the wild heart of things... Yosemite and the Sierra, the west coast from California to Alaska, and areas I have yet to explore. My family has had a very strong influence on why I paint and what I paint. Our home was Yosemite National Park from the time my great grandparents, Bridgid and John Degnan arrived there from Ireland in the early 1880's. They had come to Coulterville to live and work with John's uncle Patrick Degnan, and heard of this wondrous Valley. John walked there from Coulterville to see the valley for himself. Brigid, John and their young family moved to Yosemite Valley and established a business in 1884. Bridgid ran the bakery and store while John worked building trails, and structures for the government. 
My grandfather, Dr. John P. Degnan, and his sister, Mary Ellen Degnan were a large part of our lives as we children were growing up in Yosemite Valley. The stories they told of their youth in Yosemite, and people that populated the valley in those days were compelling. Mary Ellen and her parents John and Bridgid helped raise John Jr.'s 3 girls, Frances, Margaret, and my mother, Nell, after their mother Mae died. We young ones thrived growing up in the same valley as my mother and grandfather, steeped in nature and the goodness of the people around us. 
One of the memories I treasure is my sister and I as very young children taking our oil paints out in the meadow where we could see the falls, or down to the river near the footbridge to paint our surroundings. It is and was something we would do almost daily. As we grew we ventured farther afield. The high trails offered new viewpoints to paint and [...]

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