Balancing out formal and emotive concerns, from its initiation the Coagulation series addressed the tension between the formal values of abstract painting and the emotional concerns that are the ultimate source of my work. Painted on paper attached directly to the wall the monochromatic red painting, the works nest shapes within each other but allow the enclosed forms to refuse to be fully contained, to push against and through that containment. Emerging out of a difficult personal experience, that work enacts the tensions implicit in this experience in formal terms, at once exhibiting the emotive tension yet holding it at a distance. Process is an essential part of working through these tensions to the final painting. In a series of progressive moves hard-edged lines are constructed with a squeegee, evaluations are made of the current state of the painting, and further moves continue to be made until the painting is declared finished. A refusal to make perfect self-contained works is particularly seen in my attitude towards the occasional drips of paint and tears on the surface. Although I try to avoid these accidental marks, they inevitably occur. The final painting cannot be predicted from the initial move and revisions of many of the completed marks are not allowed.
In more recent work in the series the movement away from a self-enclosed modernism is literalized through the incorporation of photographic collage elements that themselves have their own boundaries transgressed as they they are enclosed within the abstract shapes. In the earlier work the engagement with the world was suggested by form and color; in these works images of Vietnam, Berlin, and other places, often areas that themselves have strong associations of war and conflict, both complement and contrast the continued play of the formal structure of the piece. In one piece an elderly Vietnamese man looks at an ambiguously gestures at the photographer, serving to both transgress the space of the painting and the viewer (and artist) while inevitably eliciting thoughts of the complicated history that defines that space. The tensions that defined the early works in the series thus are further allowed to break out into the open.
Both the early and the collaged paintings hearken back to the modernist tradition of abstract painting but, in a manner more akin to post-modernism, refuse to participate in its ideals of stability, completeness, and self-containedness. This, as much as the incorporation of photographs connect this work to the photograph-based books that constituted a major portion of my earlier career as an artist. Dealing with issues of personal and gender identity, these works enacted in a somewhat more personal manner the tensions that are treated in formal terms in the current work. The book work is contained in the collections of the Schlesinger Library at Harvard University and The National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, DC.
the laughter the dirt and the grave
Collage has often played an important role in my work. My recent painting, for example, began with combining separate sections of paper brought directly onto the wall and developed to include photographs among the abstract elements. Also important has been has the interaction of words and image within works; a series of approximately 135 unique art books now in the collection of the Schlesinger Library of Harvard University, was structured around the interaction of photographs and personal writing. A recent series of collages, “the laughter the dirt and the grave,” continues both of these modes of practice.
Each of the thirty works in this series is structured around a typed statement of one of the articles of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights. Rather than merely illustrating the rights in a literal manner, however, they are joined to statements that subtly allude to the concrete personal significance of the particular declared right and found and taken images that explicitly or implicitly comment upon that right. The collage elements are mounted onto rough, frayed painted fabrics that suggest that the ideas expressed in the Declaration are not abstractions but expressions of lived, difficult realities.
This series is a tribute to Eleanor Roosevelt, who played a crucial role in the formulation and adoption of the Declaration in post-War period.