Excerpts from my newsletter, posted here to provide deeper insight into my art.
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My work has long been about separation and connection, but I’ve returned to questioning myself in duality. The double-layer of silk I’m now employing serves as a simple metaphor for this condition. I’m driven to describe the wrenching emotions of anger, sorrow, and regret in a world of delirious transformation. Deeper in, I envision a gracious, immutable presence, yet myself, but impervious to my pain. Such perilous unity with my own spirit is guiding these compositions, but I am beginning work without clarity of its message. I am the dark shadow in these works, I am–I make–the wounded, cowardly forms. If there is beauty, it can only show through me from something greater; it does not arise from within me.
August 2019 (Re: Courting Struggle)
Questions are the gut of art-making. An artist has no will to create without need for an answer, even if the answer is unattainable. The act of making is a physical attack on something unknown, unsolved. The swerve my art has taken this year with the introduction of the human figure is a direct result of my increased desperation to describe being (human). The early works of my career were investigations into our physicality, and after thirty years as an artist my questions have only expanded and deepened.
Enduring the question is required: “How am I a part of this?” I am tormented by separation and (re)connection. That my work revolves around this esoteric theme may be why I refuse to accept that I create art just for myself. I’m not the only “part”—you are a part as well. This may be why I see struggle as my greatest potential for benevolence. This is why I see my work as valuable.
May 2019 (Re: the Observer Series)
(Also read my artist statement for this series.)
I’ve begun working with my shadow image alongside my signature technique, again paired with LED light. The series is loosely based on Jasper Johns’ “The Seasons” series. Given my affinity for Johns’ silhouette in his works (a print of which I spent time with while an intern at ULAE), it’s an appropriate place to begin. His series focused on the passage of time and personal narrative. I’m focusing on weather extremes, pitching the seasons as scenarios beyond our human control, amplifying our vulnerability.
What I love most about Johns’ figure is it’s delicate imbalance and curious posture. The stance in my version is intentionally resolute and resigned. Facing my life-size shadow in my own version has deepened my anguish. It has reverberated my place as a participant in the world, here and now, temporary, limited, a witness, questioning.
The light box is surprisingly adept at conveying my meaning. I’m not utilizing its light at whim. There’s no need for the sun, here. My shadow faces me like a mirror, having its own magical illumination, pitching me outside the scene. I am no longer myself, no longer holding possession of my shadow. I surrender its form and personality. It’s a stick figure symbol, pedestrian sign, or contacts icon–and in this way, is humanity.
March 2019 (Re: Living with my own art)
I have a piece of my own work in nearly every room of my home. Living with my art, having it in ready view, keeps me daily reminded of how natural it is to change. I am one who fears instability and resists experiencing something new. I thrive on habit and familiarity. Looking at my work reminds me that stability is an undercurrent, not a singular condition. My technique replicates this idea. Cut and sewn, over and over again, I am investigating the effects of change. I am describing my wonder at never-ending cycles of separation and connection.
My art encourages me to float as one bit of color among many other colors. One length of fabric can remain discernible as itself throughout elaborate fragmentation. My art reminds me that I am connected, yet individual. It shows me that all of us are linked with the same thread. It gives value to one small bit of silk within the mass of other bits. That’s me. Could it also be you?
December 2018 (Re: the Alarm Series)
Making art is my way of dealing with experience within the world. Although it may be restorative, I’m not creating for therapeutic gain or personal revelation. I work to communicate a larger story. I view art as a conversation beginning with one (myself) and expanding to human society. Even if it acts as a mirror to push my personal growth, its greater purpose is to facilitate communal growth. Art is my way of connecting to the core of my being, and in that way to all beings. It’s my way of accessing a sense of relation.
In the wake of the devastating wildfires this year, I’m thinking about all that has burned. I’m thinking about the land, the plants, and the animals and the path ahead in recovery. And I think about humankind and its torment.
October 2018 (Re: Origin of utilizing light in my work)
My interest in making work about the environment and climate change began when I created “The Seasons” series in 2017. These works grew out of my attention to the sky and the sun over the course of a year. It seemed light made its introduction into my awareness and art during this time. But once “The Screaming Dreams of Flowers” was on exhibit (July 2018), I began to wonder if it was introduced much earlier, in my childhood.
I’m the youngest of four in a Methodist minister’s family. Until now, I’ve been reticent about divulging that, but I think it plays a role in my creative practice. My spiritual life is independently driven—I don’t affiliate with any specific religion or belief. But my upbringing under the stewardship and example of a father whose spiritual life led his every action left an indelible mark. It fostered an attitude of respect for all things and instilled in me a habit of seeking. It trained me to think deeply and apply my spiritual sensibilities to daily life.
Many have commented that my work (utilizing LED light) looks like stained glass. Aside from the glowing colors, they’re focusing on the similarity between leaded lines of glass and the darkened, sewn seams of the silk. But I suspect something subliminal is at work. Stained glass is a common part of liturgical architecture because it ignites our spiritual emotions. The colored glass becomes a radiant veil between us and the sun, and places us in a state of wonder.
The use of light in my work fulfills a need for conveying my feelings of awe. Obviously, there are different kinds of light: sunlight, LED light, the light of the soul—no matter. I crave its vital and vibrant presence. In each of our lives, light is present–unequivocally, consistently, essentially. It’s the engine for our survival, inspiration to poets and sages (and artists), and unfailingly supports us. Because I have these feelings about light, I require it to be there on the other side of my work, making my artwork—my expression–a veil between myself and beyond.
April 2018 (Re: The Screaming Dreams of Flowers)
Pollinators are showing themselves as a demanding voice to me recently. Two years ago, I co-existed with a hive of paper wasps on my patio balcony. During that summer, I read and learned a lot about their behavior and life cycle. I watched and respected them; they left me and my cat unharmed.
I’ve always been unnerved by insects, but I don’t deny their right to live in the world. The decline of butterfly species is ringing like an alarm siren to me. And the more I learn about the demise of all pollinators due to pesticide use, lack of habitat, or destruction of their food source, the more I find myself emboldened to act. Everyone has their own line in the sand, and this mine. Yet I’m not an activist, a lobbyist, or an ecologically-minded public speaker. I’m an artist.
I’ve spent years and years with a lack of will to affect the world around me, simply observing. This is not procrastination, it’s a dismissal of the importance of the present as an opportunity to be involved. My life-long tendency to be unmoving in fear of any repercussion now demands I move past my comfortable stance and contribute meaningfully. Work is underway.
January 2018 (Re: Trusting the Muse)
I have a firm trust in my muse. If I let my mind try to run the show, I usually fail. While I was making The Seasons series, I thought I was simply addressing climate change. That’s where my head was during the months of its creation. Those were the headlines that were causing me emotional turmoil, and where my attention was being drawn in my daily life. But the real story behind the series was motion and endless change. I know that now, but I didn’t know it before or during–because I was caught up in the task of making.
My artwork is better if I don’t try to figure it out before creating it. It’s better to give it up to fate, to the muses, and just let my hands work. This takes trust. It takes knowing from experience that it will end up okay—even if the piece fails, I’ll still gain some kind of knowledge. An artist must accept that before starting, or risk an expression that’s mediocre, or decorative, or derivative. It’s the process– the fall–of art-making that’s the draw for me, not the result.
December 2017 (Re: The Seasons Series)
For over 17 years I’ve been creating mobiles, objects of constant movement. It never occurred to me that this was an inner obsession or a driving force behind my creativity. I considered mobile-making to be an outgrowth of curiosity following grad school, the result of a whim that happily evolved into my business. I’m seeing now that the art I make often expresses motion and continual change.
When I returned to textile art in 2012, I began with ideas about particles moving in space and color transitions. My recent series, “The Seasons”, takes the idea of never-ending change and couches it in terms of the environment throughout a single year. In my statement specific to the series, I use phrases like “flickering action and variability”, “volatility”, “boundless, unrelenting variations”, and “countless moments”. These are kinetic words.
Creating art about seasonal change has led me deeper into the bond between the transitory and the eternal. What exists without movement? At some level, everything is in motion. Where movement is intrinsic, there can be no end, no fulfillment, no reconciliation, no achievement…and I find this idea freeing. Not that there’s no need to try or be responsible or cultivate integrity—but the weight of striving is now relieved.
October 2017 (Post-edit: Origin of the Observer Series)
In the last year I have spent many hours alone, or in the company of my cat, Elmo. This cat has coached me to be a more momentary being. We take walks in the backyard, and he shows me how to listen, and how to look. Through his eyes I have watched ants and spiders and wasps. I have looked closely at twigs and grasses and leaves. I have studied dirt formations, holes, and hollows.
As Elmo, I’ve smelled the air, and hunkered down at the wind. I’ve chased and eaten butterflies, one a painted lady and one an orange sulphur. I’ve eaten a dozen grasshoppers, and one cricket. I’ve remained still with no agenda, communing with the clouds and the sun.
I’ve been witnessing the tone of my art descend for the last year or so. You might not think so amid all the bursting of colors in my textiles. But that explosion is a marker for inevitable collapse. I have slid down the thunderous slope, now buried, incubating (forever incubating!). Although I describe it as a descent, it could also be called a deepening. It is definitely a ripening.
Currently, I am perhaps dissolving. Every morning I feel a dropping sensation in my outlook. Every day is one less, and one more. This dampens me. This means I am not charmed. I am looking at myself in every headline, flood or fire, gesture, and animal. I am wailing and rejoicing at the same time. I can no longer be just me. I can no longer be selfish. I can no longer keep my thoughts within. There is piercing, hidden sobbing. This is us. I am us.