I have been painting aspects of the natural world all my life, nature provides the inspiration, and I follow it. All of my work is done in series, as a way to study a subject in depth. I am interested in reducing images into their most iconic forms, and repetition is one way to achieve this outcome.
When I returned to making art with a commitment, in 2008, after several years of only making art sporadically, I began with very austere, detailed paintings of individual flowers. I consider them portraits, and the works have a studied feeling. These paintings were created using traditional oil painting techniques, sketched in oil directly onto the canvas, the layers of color built up with glaze. My practice was to paint from life, soak up as much as I could from the actual flower, then augment my experience by photographing it for later reference, if needed.
From there I moved on to a series of 36 paintings of one phalaenopsis orchid, from the beginning of its budding process to the end of its life. Titled, “Silent Journey”, it represented a watershed moment for me, when I began to come to terms with life and its different phases, from birth to death.
As the Silent Journey series came to a close, I felt a renewed sense of confidence in myself and my abilities. Completing a 36-piece series was quite an achievement for me, and I felt strong as a woman and an artist
The next work I made was a series of daylily paintings called the Lilith Series.
This series is about the visual power of the centered flower, in this case, a daylily. Open flowers suggest the sensual, yielding nature of the female, their beauty an enticement to the bees that pollinate them and the humans who cultivate them.
The biblical term "Lilith" translates into "night creature", and is said to have been Adam's first wife, before Eve, who was created by God at the same time as Adam, not from his rib. Lilith refused to be subservient to Adam, and fled the Garden of Eden for darker realms*. Her name embodies the “wild feminine”*, and I felt her eternal presence arise in these paintings, created from the transient beauty seen in this short-lived flower. The dark background is in contrast to the daylily's bright, bold colors, and symbolizes the light in the darkness of so much strife. These paintings are full of hope, strength and beauty, in the face of the reality that, “Life is short and then we die”. Maybe so, but let’s live wondrously!
My interest in the shape of flowers continued with an awareness of the geometry involved in their design. Grid paintings, especially those by Agnes Martin and Kes Zapkus, have entranced me, and I wanted to paint the experience of seeing lots of flowers at once, relating to and communicating with each other. My vision was inspired by the crowded mum blossoms one sees in the autumn, and I call this series, “Mummers”.
Working with an organic grid design made me long for an actual, sculptural experience. I had a basic understanding of materials, so I started some new pieces as a combination of two and 3 dimensions. The idea is to create a unique design, based on a real flower, but transform it into something new, by interpreting and emphasizing its reproductive area. By making the center of the flower stand proud, then painting the flower petals flat on the panel surrounding it, the configuration of desire is made prominent.
This exploration of creating art from repurposed materials coincided with my renewed interest and appreciation of traditional women's work, childhood play, crafts, sewing, all handwork that women have done from time immemorial. There is evidence in my work of a collective history - the story of women's work that goes back to the beginning of time. We are makers, whether we have given birth to children or not. Women are tireless creators. Our history does not hang in the walls of museums, with a few brilliant exceptions. We embody our history in our hearts, minds, and hands.
However much I enjoyed making these, and still do, I wanted to challenge myself further by making the flower centers and petals entirely in three dimensions. The paper scraps I cut and used for some of the centers gave me a direction to go in, and I began to make pieces in which the centers were made out of various materials, and the petals were made entirely out of cut and rolled paper. Quickly, I realized that these pieces were evocative in ways I did not expect. There is a structural integrity that evokes the cellular structure of plants, although it is not literal. And somehow decades of living in NYC come through, as the rolled pieces of paper evoke the skyscrapers of my beloved city, in the way the different heights of paper fill the space.
The newest work is another step into a new area, and it is strongly connected to the earlier work. These pieces evolved from William Blake’s words:
“To see a world in a grain of sand, and heaven in a wild flower
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand and eternity in an hour.”
Somehow, by continuing to use the dark indigo as a base for my work, I can see the pieces as celestial. There are similarities between flowers and stars, they both share a round center that has elements radiating out from it. And I find that there is much to explore in this new realm.
My work has evolved in the last 18 months, and more changes are coming in the near future. I have always believed that art is a journey, a pathway towards enlightenment. Making anything can be done as a spiritual practice, whether food, clothing, shelter, or art, if the intention is pure. The act of creating something where there was nothing is how growth happens.
*Lilith, Healing the Wild, by Tom Jacobs, 2014