scars, voice, breath, salt, transparency and light: I make artwork that
makes the life I want. The human heart-in drawing, painting, sculpture,
performance, installation, video and animation-has recurred again and
again during my years of practice as an artist. In fact, my entire career
can be read as an ongoing process of learning to hear my own heart with
precision and clarity. Through art making, I have been able to connect
with the deepest parts of myself, and to connect with the world from that
extraordinary place. Recurring themes in my work include the body and
its many layers of meaning, empowered storytelling, the dynamic nature
of reality, the sublime properties of materials, and the power of ritual.
Transformations: figures filling with red, emptying of blue, slowly being infused with light, becoming transparent; glasses filling and emptying; a delicately rendered ribcage expanding and contracting. The images melt at the pace of heartbeat or breath.
Though I have
utilized the techniques of animation, the breathing drawings function
more like paintings. The Breathing Drawings have no demanding narratives,
but instead depict slow, deliberate actions and are objects of gentle
contemplation and quiet poetic resonance.
Trauma, birth, family, mortality, sex, vulnerability, viscosity, disease: I set out to explore the powerful cultural meanings of blood following the events of September 11, 2001, when everyone I know rushed to donate blood. I often start with gathering stories in order to gain insight about a topic that interests me. In this case, I held a series of dinner parties where I asked guests to speak about their experiences with blood. I allowed the stories to guide me to the artworks. First, I created a complex sound, sculpture and video installation, Reflections on Blood. Many glasses filled with red wine were suspended from the ceiling of a small gallery, and lit with powerful lights. The room glowed red, the smell of hot wine filled the space, and the air was saturated with the audio of the blood narratives. When a viewer passed close to one of the glasses, it activated one of the narratives, so there were infinite possible combinations of stories. In subsequent works, I addressed different aspects of blood through video, video performance, sculpture, sound and drawing.
Craters, nicks, clefts, fissures, railroad tracks, spots-that-don't-tan, and raised purple tissue. I asked 100 women to tell me about their physical scars: when, where, and how they got them. The interviews are the basis of this audio and mixed media work. The Scar Project visual work consists of layered planes of plexiglass with sculptural, drawn, and textual elements. Headphones playing the interview of the woman depicted accompany most pieces. There is also a textured sound piece played on speakers in the exhibition space that utilizes all of the interviews.
My primary objective is to explore the way in which personal history manifests physically-how our lives become inscribed on our bodies. As the stories unfolded, I realized I had radically underestimated the depth and complexity of this subject. With laughter, tears, and the tools of storytelling each woman wove a life-story, painting a biographical picture and unveiling aspects of her identity. The Scar Project sings the stories and celebrates the lives of these extraordinary women.
To create the Salt
Prayer Wall, I cut niches in a wall, then dripped wet salt onto it over
the course of two months. During the entire process, I was...well...praying.
For everyone I know. Or maybe well-wishing is more apt. Something like:
"May Mama be happy, may she be peaceful. May Devon be happy, may he have
success." Again and again and again. I used over 400 pounds of salt to
make the installation.
The ritual performance What the Gods Do for Fun took place on March 22, 2012 on the sidewalk in front of Mixed Greens Gallery in Chelsea, NYC, on a busy gallery opening night. A large, beautifully lit pile of salt and chandelier crystals was carefully arranged on the sidewalk outside the gallery. Wearing all white, I repeatedly knelt down on the sidewalk and scooped salt from the pile into a bucket with a small hole in the bottom, from which the salt gradually ran out. I walked slowly around the area until the bucket was empty, and returned repeatedly to re-fill the bucket. Lines of white salt from the hole in the bottom of the bucket marked the entire block, crossing the street, fringing the sidewalks, and evoking the edges of waves and receded tides.
Emptiness & Its Implications is an abstracted drawing installation of the circulatory system, including hearts, veins and arteries. The drawing is rendered using thousands of painstakingly cut holes, allowing for light to shine through the huge sheets of black paper. Each hole is then backed with a chandelier crystal, producing a glimmering effect that causes the artwork to refract, flicker and shift as viewers move in proximity to it. At once aesthetically dense and conceptually layered, the resulting delicate, celestial image maps a complex system of connections, and points to the simultaneous fragility and strength of the human body and psyche.
The Light Offerings started when I was working
in a studio with an entire glass wall facing directly onto the track of
the J subway train in Brooklyn, New York. They are contemplative, beautiful
images that inspire train riders to pause and reflect. I create the images
by cutting many tiny holes into black paper, then light it strongly from
behind. Because there is a chandelier crystal behind each of the cut paper
holes, the images shimmer, glint and refract, especially as you move in
proximity to them. I have expanded this project into other public arenas,
including a large multi-site installation in cooperation with Barbara
Gillman Gallery called Ofertas de Luz Para Miami (Light Offerings for
Memento Mori, conceived and created in the winter woods near my childhood home,
is a body of work that investigates spirit, breath, transparency, stillness and whispering through various media
including performance, installation, photography, video, drawing and ritual.
From the Corner of My Eye, conceived and created in the winter woods near the artist's childhood home, is a non-linear video installation consisting of seven vignettes. Images include towering pine trees frenetic with wind, leafless limbs and white sky reflected onto rippling water, a semi-transparent veil hung between two trees, glass vessels filled with salt and knocking against each other, and the artist dancing in a slow, barefoot spin across a frozen river.
The project "Everything is Perfect" has been created in response to and in concert with the elements in Nosara, Costa Rica, where everything, does, indeed, seem perfect. The motif of the rainbow is associated with a spiritual tradition that considers everything that arises in our experience to be part of our necessary path, including spectacular sunsets, vibrant florae and fauna, and, too, difficult emotions and obstacles-which arise even in paradise. During July, ephemeral, site-specific artworks using the motif of the rainbow appeared in unexpected places, including on a cliff, on a sheltered piece of driftwood, merged with the sand on the beach, and on a sheer rock wall just at the high tide line. Part of the larger project "Everything is Perfect" the ritual dance performance and artwork "Dancing From Tide to Tide" featured the artist as she danced from one low tide to the following low tide-over twelve consecutive hours of dancing-from 5:30 AM to 6:20 PM on Wednesday, July 28, 2015. Pura vida literally means "pure life." In Costa Rica, you hear it many times a day. I was trying to explain "pura vida" to my five-year-old son. I think it means "Life is extremely beautiful." It can also mean "You are welcome, I offer this thing to you with grace and generosity." It can mean "Yes, I totally agree with you," or "We are so lucky to be alive." It is often used as the closing for a letter or email. It implies a kind of presence, joy and wholeheartedness; and, when uttered, acts as a reminder to take note of the spectacular moment that is currently unfolding.