I am drawn to old, broken, discarded, often rusty objects that have a history of their own. They speak to me of perseverance and survival. I love the mystery that surrounds them, for I can never know their true stories. Where did they come from and what was their purpose? Whose hands have touched them -- and what was their story? How did they get to where I found them? (Which could be the street, a garage sale, eBay, the dump, the back of a mechanic's workshop...)
I also love natural objects: sticks, stones, shells, eggs, bones. They have their own stories to tell. Since I was a child I have collected, arranged, embellished.
I am a harvester, a beachcomber, a rag-picker, a spelunker, an archaeologist, a dumpster diver. I rummage, I excavate, I extricate. I find ancient shards, fragments of ceremonial garments, clues to lost civilizations...hints of fallen heroes and forgotten myths... and people's cast-off toasters and beer cans. I arrange them in an effort to decipher their intent and create meaning.
When I assemble and juxtapose these objects, affixing them to a "ground," my hands weave connections and create metaphor. I chronicle an intersection of time and space, an isolated place and moment. I create a new context, a new story. Somehow, through me, these things have come together, here and now, and become something new. Then my story is joined to the Whole.
My work is often "rough" and may have a seemingly haphazard quality to it. This enables the viewer to "finish" the story as they see fit; to draw from the work what is needed for themselves, and thereby add their story to the Whole. I do not intend my work to be permanent. I see it as process. I do not use archival materials. Much of what I use is organic and in some advanced stage of returning itself to the earth. It would be folly to think I could preserve it, and vain to think it mattered. We are all, after all, in process. In some ways, this is how I make sense of it.
I consider my work inseparable from my personal spiritual process, which is eclectic, sporadic and meandering, but deep. I don't do pretty and I don't do decor. I will never match your couch. To me, my work feels dark, primal, chthonic...yet, I hope, also numinous. It comes from an interior place so old, wild and forgotten as to be unnameable.
ON MY MATERIALS...
I use anything and everything in my work! Natural, found, created: sticks, stones, bones and shells. Nests, strings, coins and bells. BBs, buttons and rags. Old tools, spools, clock faces and wire. Doll heads, old jewelry, papers and bottle caps. Mechanical parts, kitchen utensils, car parts... anything that can be used to transport the viewer into the metaphor. Basically, whatever works.
ON WORKING WITH FOUND OBJECTS ...
I work with Found Objects because of the thrill of the hunt.
I love the economy of found object materials. Materials are readily available and for the most part, readily dispensable – if I inadvertently destroy something, it generally doesn’t matter – therefore I am encouraged to experiment creatively and I am only limited by my own imagination.
Found Object Assemblage is a relatively new medium. There are no predetermined aesthetics, standards or trends to be considered other than good aesthetic integrity and construction. I don’t have to adhere to any externally imposed criteria and my work is free to evolve organically. To me, it’s what art should be: a personal uninhibited interaction with materials, filtered through my experience and perceptions.
Found Object Art often has built-in humor, puns and metaphor if I choose to use them.
Working with Found Objects allows me to play in a variety of media. I work in metal, wire, paper, paint, inks, rubber stamps, wood, natural materials, polymer clay...in addition to the found objects themselves, giving me a huge visual vocabulary.
Working in found objects allow me to recycle discarded objects which eliminates a little trash in our over-cluttered world.
Working in found objects challenges my ingenuity. Each new piece is a whole new puzzle to be solved. It’s never boring.
HOW I WORK...
I work sporadically and intensely, often for several hours of the day, late into the night, for a few days. And then I don't work again for days, or perhaps weeks. I'm getting better at showing up now that I've retired from my other life and I have fewer excuses, but I have much room for improvement.
I rarely know what I'm going to do before I start. The materials speak to me as I touch them. Every time I've tried to "plan ahead" I either end up with something totally different than my original idea, or the piece doesn't work at all. As I begin to work, a title often appears in my mind and becomes a mantra as I work. Only rarely does the final piece have a different name.
I almost never know what a piece is about until after the piece is finished. Sometimes LONG after, as in days or on a couple of occasions, weeks. I rarely consciously choose found objects as symbols or metaphors. Somehow that takes care of itself and often astonishes me! The only exception to this I can think of is my shrines to La Virgen de Guadalupe.
ON INFLUENCES PAST AND PRESENT...
The desert outside of Tucson. A privileged but confusing and lonely childhood. An amazing mother.
Folk art, Outsider Art, expressions of creativity from people who don't call themselves "artists."
Joseph Cornell and Kurt Switters, of course, the Grandfathers of Assemblage. Frida Kahlo, who gave women permission to mine their lives, their pain, their subconscious. Bettye Saar, Meinrad Craighead, Georgia O'Keefe, and so many other strong women (mostly) who courageously walked ahead.
My direct teachers include: Meinrad Craighead, Susan Lenart Kazmer, Ellen Wieske, Michael de Meng, Myriam Bardoux, Dennis Pohl, Kate Church, all of whom I admire greatly, as persons and as artists.
My many, many artist friends, who never cease to amaze me with their artistic vision, their vitality, their support. I have been especially thrilled at the creativity, and most grateful for the generosity of spirit, in the San Miguel artists' community. Mil gracias.
METAPHORS AND MATERIALS...
In my Portals and Passages pieces, I usually work in Goddess and archetypal symbology. I often use old circular saw blades to represent cycles and energies. Placing the blade "spinning" clockwise indicates manifesting, birthing, gathering, binding, accumulating energies. Placing the blade "spinning" counter-clockwise indicates releasing, unbinding, death-ing energies. Linear saw blades depict constructing/deconstructing, building energies. I love that this tool is called "saw blade." In my work the use of a "saw blade" is indeed a tool to enable us to see with spiritual clarity. We use a blade to cut away that which is destructive or we no longer need... that which we "saw" or need to "re-see" or re-vision.
In these pieces I often use round objects: bottle caps, lids, anything circular to represent cycles, seasons, energy points of power, and especially moons...a powerful symbol of the watery realm of the Divine Feminine. Shells also represent the oceanic realm of the unconsciousness.
Threads are used to depict pathways, journeys, connections and also entanglements on all my pieces. I usually use knots to infuse the piece with prayers, mantras or intentions. For instance, for each knot, I will say a mantra, or a Hail Mary or another form of invocation of that energy... The number of knots on the string is also symbolic and intentional: 3 and multiples of 3 indicate cycles of completion, 13 is the sacred number of the Goddess and her energy, etc. Sometimes I also use an exact and intentional number of tiny nails to also serve this purpose of infusing the work and invoking a specific energy.
Spear-like shapes depict guardianship or protective energies.
In my Tribes, I use altered dolls and doll heads. These pieces are frightening or disturbing to some people, because they view them literally. They are never literal to me and always represent archetypal metaphor. Dolls are, by their very nature, metaphorical. Since ancient times "baby" dolls have been given, primarily to little girls, to inculcate the roles of caretaking and motherhood. "Adult" dolls, as substitute humans, have been used for healing, sympathetic magic and protection. In the Dream Bearers, the doll heads are metaphors for the unconscious self, residing in the shadowy dreamworlds of our psyches. They bring us the gifts of Sacred Knowledge in dreams. In the Tribe of the Silenced, the doll heads are metaphors for our Shadow selves, hidden, often unconscious, those parts we are ashamed of or afraid to acknowledge for fear they will overwhelm us or draw us into the underworld. These figures are usually disfigured in some way, as any being would be, hidden in our psychic depths and not allowed to see the light. They have remained children -- wounded, undeveloped, unhealthy -- not allowed to grow naturally in the light. They have developed misshapen to survive and conform to the contours of the prisons of our psyche. We ignore them at our peril. It is my belief that until we bring these shadow aspects into the light and heal them, we will never be truly whole.
Further Information on DREAM BEARERS:
Dream Bearers: An Abstract
Journal of Scientific Inquiry
Vol. 12, No. 17, Page 46
Dream Bearers are a tribe of messengers who inhabit The Mists between the Worlds. They guard Dream Seeds, incubate them to maturity and deliver them to seekers, or those of the Human Realm requiring a dream. (It has been noted that there are parallel tribes of Dream Bearers who service the Animal, Vegetable and Mineral Kingdoms – and also those inhabiting even more obscure realms – but virtually nothing is known of these tribes, as they live further back in the very dense mists closer to the Other Worlds.)
Dream Seeds manifest in Earth, Wind, Water and, more rarely, Fire. The essence of the dream always relates to its birth element, whether or not this is readily evident. In a surprising synergy, Dream Seeds contain both a dream and the potential of a Dream Bearer. The potential is activated only as the need for more Dream Bearers arises, though how this need is perceived and communicated and the potential activated is not known. (There appears to be a tendency for Earth Dream Seeds to create more Dream Bearers than other elements, although this is anecdotal and no definitive pattern has been established.) Dream Seeds, therefore, do not always create a new Dream Bearer, but they always contain a dream.
Dream Seeds are borne to Dream Bearers by their elements and adhere to the Dream Bearers by invisible means. It is thought that the mechanism is something like microscopic Velcro© but this cannot be verified at this time. Dream Bearers have no arms and seem to exude some sort of pheromone essence which attracts and “captures” the Dream Seed. The Seed then “clings” to the Dream Bearer until maturity. A new seed is small and quite hard. As it matures, it and its outer membrane more permeable. At maturity, it is diaphanous, papery and virtually weightless. When the Dream Seed attains the perfect point of ripeness, the Dream Bearer shifts between the Worlds and softly drops the Seed onto the head of the awaiting sleeping Human. The dream, in a smoke-like vapor, curls into the Sleep Folds of the Human and the Dream Sequence begins instantaneously. The seed simultaneously dissolves and evaporates. The Dream Bearer then rapidly retreats into the Mists. It should be noted that this process does not transpire within our (human) parameters of space and time and therefore we are unable to ascertain a time/space framework for this event which has meaning to our limited perceptions. It has been speculated that the Dream itself secretes minute quantities of a potent chemical designed to expand our perceptions, but there is no way of detecting or quantifying this at this time. It is known that each and every Dream (including those we define as “nightmares”) bears gifts of wisdom to the recipient. Like all gifts of wisdom, the degree of assimilation and usefulness is entirely dependent on the perceptions and initiative of the recipient.
Currently, the elusive nature of the Dream Bearers and the rapid life cycle of the Dream Seed itself make scientific study almost impossible. Quite simply, the study is in its infancy and our technology is woefully inadequate to the task. Nevertheless, some things are known:
•Dream Bearers appear to manifest full-blown and immediately capable of executing their duties.
•Their form appears somewhat humanoid, albeit limbless, with a head most commonly, but not exclusively, on the end of a long cylindrical body. It has been noted, however, that Dream Bearers most likely shape shift and only appear to “us” (humans) in this semi-recognizable form as a projection of our own consciousness.
•It appears that the Dream Bearer derives some form of nourishment from the incubating Dream itself, but again, this process remains a mystery.
•It has been posited that there is a strong likelihood that we (humans) each “have” our own Dream Bearers.
The existence of Dream Bearers was not scientifically verified until the late 1960’s, when research into psychedelics yielded proof of the existence of many hitherto fore unknown or unacknowledged realms and entities. We must reiterate that the study of Dream Bearers is in its infancy and at present we have many more questions than answers.
Me possibly contemplating my work... or, more likely, whether there's ice cream in the freezer...
In my studio in San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico.
Many heads are better than one... or something....