Her father was a psychologist. Psychologists at that time would often show someone a set of dramatic pictures and ask them to make up a story about each picture. Geertsen spent a lot of time with the picture plates of her father’s tests, fascinated by the ties between stories and images. As a result, she moves easily between story line and image and back again as she works, nuancing her work with psychological twists.
She has always enjoyed animals, which are often central to the design and content of her work. At the age of seven, she dragged a horse home and put him in the backyard, in case he was lost.
Geertsen had beginnings in science with several student research grants from the American Cancer Society involving genetic mapping. Her brother, who became a particle physicist, made a space capsule for her hamsters and planned to send them to the moon from a drive-in movie screen structure near their home. Her work is often travel-driven.
She grew up with psychology and science. Her pictures are full of contraptions, mechanisms, personalities and plight.
She studied drawing and painting at Brigham Young University where she acquired an M.F.A. in drawing and painting. Photoshop and digital art did not yet exist.
She and her husband moved to Arizona in 1980, where she continued her love of landscape from the back of a good trail horse.
Years later, she took a Photoshop class to restore old family photos. Two weeks into the class she began seeing her ancestors as characters in dramas. “When I first found Photoshop, I felt like I had discovered the other half of the map,” she says. Working digitally dovetails nicely with the way her mind works. She often paints a necessary object, photographs it and digitally adds it into a work – or paints it in Photoshop using digital bushes she’s made.
Her work spans more than a century and a half of technology. She uses Civil War and Victorian era studio portraits as source material, yet she works digitally on a computer with massive memory, deep within the technical intricacies of Photoshop. She enjoys the contrast and challenges of working with multiple technologies.
She works from her ever growing collection of 70,000 old photos and photos she takes herself. They include scans of photos she took in the 1970’s, photos from the 3 years she lived in Denmark, as well as photos her genealogist husband unearths.
Geertsen currently lives and works in Mesa, Arizona.