My work is about finding a visual way to engage verbal ideas through sculptural mixed media, specifically fiber. I’m deeply interested in words, word usage and wordplay, and often use text and photographic images in my work to strengthen the visual expression, and to clarify the ideas I want to illustrate. Often, my work can be a sculptural exploration of verbal expression. In general, I make work that creates commentary and discourse about social issues, and the politics that enhances or inhibits them. I am fascinated by the differences between what is said, what is meant, what is not said, and what is distilled from it. Words have power, and, as Jenny Holzer famously remarked, “Abuse of power comes as no surprise.”
In 2008, after a heart attack, I was diagnosed with some genetic issues with my heart that require ongoing management and medication, and have made this the topic of my recent work as a way to understand both the condition, and the emotions that frequently take center stage. Thus my recent interests lie less in the public realm and more in the personal as I have attempted to create a visual language for the places where words have failed me. To refer to Julia Kristeva’s influential statement about Abjection, I am attempting to come to terms with being “ejected beyond the scope of the possible, the tolerable, the thinkable” and am worried that I might always be in the place where my health issues “cannot be assimilated.” I find myself in agreement with Kristeva’s statement that it is “not a lack of… health that causes abjection but what disturbs identity, system, order.” These works are about trying to understand and assimilate the new identity that my health has insisted I create.
In this most recent series, I have chosen the hospital gown as a vehicle for expression and as a template for self-portraiture. I have reinterpreted the gown in ways that illustrate specific facets of my health related emotions, and I see this garment-making as a way to express wearing, and thereby owning, these emotions. To quote Alice from Lewis Carroll’s Through the
Looking-Glass, “And now, who am I?” Who am I now that I inhabit this abject space outside the natural order of taking my good health for granted, and of known or proven solutions for what ails me? Who am I now that I must live within the confines of health induced limitations?
I am aware that this work lies in the canon of “the body,” as I am also aware that by depicting these garments without my body in them, I am speaking to the “out of body” experience of dealing with the impact of my diagnosis. I also note that I am keeping some emotional things at a carefully calculated arms’ length through obsessive or tightly controlled craftsmanship, and the occasional use of humor. I like visual and verbal puns, and find that using them can inject much needed levity into the gravity of thoughts that are at times, far too much to deal with.