I enjoy getting my hands dirty and working with materials--plaster, paper, wire, wood and lights--and then painting or bending and layering those materials. One material I go back to over and over again is paper. Paper is simply exciting: write on it, color it, bend and wet it. Fold it. Harden it. Maybe I'm fascinated with paper because I wrote the novel and worked as a professional writer for the first 25 years of my career. However, with the advent of the internet, paper flew away and the screen emerged. I wanted to hold paper again.
Working in my outdoor studio in Salento,Italy
I found my niche. For the past decade I've been working with the Italian cartapesta technique that I learned from an Italian artisan, Claudio Riso, in Lecce, Italy, where the art form has a long history. To create many of my sculptures, I use a glue-less paper, wheat glue, and plaster. Just as in the traditional execution of the craft, I form the sculptures by working inside a plaster mold. In my case, the molds are most often made over human models. I prefer human scale, classical design and process all my art from the inside out. The intention is to reveal the Inner Self that is connected to the larger, communal world.
What emerges on the surface of my art--both sculpture and prints--has its root inside the person/figure/torso. A networking theme runs through all my work--written and visual--that is related to the materials I use as well as concept: when a part is broken from the whole, what story/energy/essence remains in the part and how does that 'part' continue to move and grow through time and place.
A bit more about how I work: I make my molds from plaster. Working inside the mold, I carefully puzzle and layer successively larger pieces of torn paper. I begin by pressing 1/2” by 1/2” pieces of paper inside the mold, starting at the rim and working toward the center. The small pieces fit snugly together with very minimal overlap. The next layer of puzzled paper is 1” by 1”; the next 2” x 2”; the next 4” x 4” and so on for 8 layers. Paper is moistened with water and wheat paste.
How I build a cartapesta breastplate from inside a frontal torso mold.
When wet, Lecce paper is flexible, clay-like. Working the layers against the mold and over the preceding layers requires a lot of thumb action and just the right pressure so as to eliminate air pockets. An air pocket would result in a dip, lump, and/or a bubble on the surface.
The paper cures/dries in the mold and is then removed.
Sometimes the artistic process stops here. Or, I may collage on the sculpture, paint it, or compress it to make a printing plate. Or I might weave lights inside the sculpture. Or silk threads. Other times, using plaster or another agent, I harden the sculpture to be like stone.
A Goddess Nike mask just pulled out of a plaster face mold.