I am concerned with the collision and interpretation of various forms of nature, mythology, art history, and metaphysics. I am interested in unexpected relationships, the way a spider web mimics a wheel, the commonality between Dr. Seuss and the Dalai Lama, the resemblance between patterns in the constellations of the stars and the minute particulars inside the human body.
I become fascinated with the materials: mica recreated as a skin or a chamber, thread floating on diaphanous fabric, knitted metal mesh emerging from a sand floor, the lyrical shape of a sphere of umbrellas, etc. The materials become a jumping off point to explore the nature of a veil, the phenomenology of an umbrella, or communication between plant life.
In some drawings, I have removed the original beginnings (hole in the center) and re-created the point of origin or potentiality directly on the wall. It exists on a more immediate plane, on a level where change is the relevant operative. The viewer has to look outside the work to the context to uncover its origins.
In the umbrella installation, I perceived the umbrella as a simple shape: a many spoked wheel, a lotus blossom, a rounded hilltop, a mushroom, a woman’s breast, as well a many other objects. Although umbrellas have their beginnings as an object to protect from the elements, they later came to represent a way of honoring, a canopy held up over a deity, usually depicted without an axel pole, so that it floats miraculously in the sky. An umbrella is also a temporary shelter, a portable home that you can fold and carry with you, a kind of personal architecture that creates it’s own unique intimate world.
The mica veil creates a similar intimacy, a delicate screen unfolding with its own symbolic language, a curtain rising from the stage of life, revealing only parts at a time, a tender membrane hiding deeper metaphysical questions.
Do we perceive in tiny bits of information, because otherwise so much beauty would knock us over? Like the French poet, Paul Valery, who wrote, “ Man’s great misfortune is that he has no organ, no kind of eyelid or brake, to mask or block a thought, or all thought, when he wants to.” It seems we need to be able to temporarily turn off the bombardment of stimuli, in order to re-emerge with new eyes.
I hope my work acts as a kind of magic cloak, gathering fields of color and texture ever present in nature, reinventing and re-issuing them into another form. Like a butterfly that emerges from a chrysalis, when a filter is allowed to widen, a universal truth, or a band of possible truths may emerge, moving to a language that has been pulsating under our eyelids all the time.
Jokes of Nature:
Playfulness and Monstrosity in Contemporary Grotesque
By Geoffrey Shamos and Donald Fondness
“There are few grotesques so utterly playful as to be overcast with no shade of fearfulness, and few so fearful as absolutely to exclude all ideas of jest.” -John Ruskin, Stones of Venice (1853)
“Laughter caused by the grotesque has about it something profound, primitive, axiomatic, which is much closer to the innocent life and to absolute joy than is the laughter caused by the comic in man’s behavior.” -Baudelaire, “On the Essence of Laughter” (1855)
For Early Modern natural historians, the “jokes of nature” were aspects of the natural world that defied explanation or categorization, including strange and exotic animals, rare stones and minerals, plants from the New World, and creatures born with monstrous deformities. These demonstrations of Nature’s playfulness were collected and assembled in Cabinets of Curiosity, where they induced feelings of wonderment, confusion, and uneasiness. Perverse and playful, Nature offers a model for artistic creation that stretches the boundaries of convention, inviting both pleasure and disgust.
The Grotesque inverts, subverts, and perverts the standard order of being. It celebrates a world turned upside-down where the reconfiguration of familiar forms evokes both terror and laugher simultaneously. Horace compared Grotesque imagery to a “sick man’s dreams,” where seemingly contradictory features exist in suspension and monstrous hybrids emerge from the depths of the subconscious. Although seemingly marginal, the Grotesque resists easy dismissal and threatens to subsume the center as a persistent, gnawing fascination. As confrontational as it is seductive, the Grotesque leads to a psychic estrangement filled with horror and wonder as new realities arise from familiar forms that are recombined, transformed, and mutated in a process of unbridled metamorphosis.
By stripping away the confinements of established reality, the Grotesque allows for the unfettered play of the imagination. As an aesthetic category, the Grotesque includes aspects of the diabolical, scatological, pornographic, dreamlike, carnivalesque, uncanny, and caricatured. Such features have been adopted and exploited by a wide variety of contemporary artists interested in the fruitful juxtaposition of the comic and the marvelous, the natural and the artificial, the attractive and the repellant, the refined and the low-brow. By sanctioning combinations of seemingly contradictory binaries, the Grotesque promotes artistic play that generates new realities and new states of being. The contemporary Grotesque, like all the grotesques that have come before, elicits diabolical laughter as it reveals essential truths about human nature that are at once comical and profound, playful and monstrous.
THEATER OF CAVES & OVUM
Embedded in the wall, these miniature phantasmagorical theaters have lent themselves to the pellucid (“beyond light, beyond consciousness”) of my imagination.
I began the investigatory process by peeling the skin off a mica rock and sewing it, alternately, to a butterfly wing or a scrap of trash, treating each with equal reverence. The fields of color merge both the discarded refuse and the coveted butterfly wings. I have taken mica out of the ground, transformed, and then reinserted it into a representation of a cave. The culminating effect is a prismatic noctilucent environment, a dream turned inside out, revealed in perverse form.
The curtains add a theatrical element, dividing both inner and outer worlds, the real from the pretend, the audience from the stage. Curtains can both obscure and reveal things. They symbolize death (Curtains to you!) or the veil between life and death. Theater is a way to witness the drama of nature unfolding in all it’s contradictions, beauty and darkness united in a subterranean environment.
An egg, or zygote, as well as a cave, is a place of magical incubation. The origins of life begin with the most ridiculous of odds. It is indeed a marvelous joke that a human begins in this way. Thousands of sperm cells swim in maniacal fury toward the single egg, while only a very small percentage reach the destination and even fewer actually make it to the sweet spot of entry. Sounds like an impossible equation to create life, or at the very least a joke of nature! Thousands of possible combinations per egg, yet only one or two outcomes.
A cave, an egg, a curtain, a veil are all entry points into the theater of life, a story that plays out in ways both full of terror and of beauty.
Maps are flat renderings of Three Dimensional landscapes. They delineate countries, continents, states and bodies of water. They separate and unite simultaneously. We live in times where wars are fought between countries, over borders, over land and water rights, and yet we are all interconnected through the land, rivers and oceans that exist on our singular planet spinning in space. The world we inhabit is rendered in “Emanate” as ephemeral networks with intricate interconnections, similar to the veins inside our bodies. We live and breathe in the pathways, the journeys where our lives lead us. Some paths we traverse are intentional and some are misadventures or unintended. But all become part of our destinies, the forks we choose and those we leave behind. We weave backwards and forwards, creating our paths as we travel. We live in the gaps, in the interzones.
Here I have re-drawn the territories, so to speak. I have cut through layers of code to rearrange geography. The journeys are mysterious depictions through space. They are the true places; they carry our stories beyond existing boundaries. They move in the realm of the inner world, between experience and imagination, the world where the personal quest is perfectly crafted for each individual and also part of a greater universal migration.
Elemental Sewn Drawings with Holes
These drawings represent the elements. The marks or lines are sewn on paper, illustrating the continuous nature of the “drawn” line. The process of creating the pieces is a vital element of the experience. Even the frames themselves become a part of the visual exploration. The holes in each frame emphasize the role of empty space in the illumination of each element.; the air necessary to create fire, the gaps between water currents and the intervals between breaths. The threads move beyond the frame into a world outside the designated frame, so that the art unites with the viewer’s perceived space.