Vessels, Vestals & Etudes
What the group might be thinking was an ensuing consideration. However, my original intention was to express alignment.
Alignment can be both functional and aesthetic. Mainly it’s about creating straight lines and stacking bones to increase the flow of energy in the body.
My use of materials continues to be straightforward and honest. In this close-up you can see how I use strips of paper soaked in hardening agents to create cultural patterns: most notably Egyptian mummy wrappings, as well as breast binding, the draped clothing of Greek goddesses, HIndu sari, and the slim form of Hervé Léger’s high-fashion bandage dresses.
The paper I use is a particular glueless paper, which in some circles is known as ‘Lecce paper.' The technique is called cartapesta, the high art of paper mache. It has been used to create arte sacre for centuries. I have been fortunate to have studied with cartapesta artisans in Lecce, Italy.
For the exhibition, in addition to Vessel sculptures I created Vestal plates. The plates explore the fragmentation of the female form and encounters with chance.
Patterns on this particular green Vestal plate, "Infinite Yearning Inside Finite Body," were inspired by pictures from the James Webb Space Telescope.
Each Vestal plate is a sculpture formed over the body of a woman. The cartapesta sculpture is then flattened under the wheel of a printing press. I do not know how the sculpture will fold or if it will tear. Where will it crumble? Where will it resist?
If you sing the scale right now, I believe you will feel the the vibrational lift that occurs when the notes shift from ‘Mi’ (below the diaphragm) to ‘Fa’ (near your heart). This plate divides the skip in sound with a horizontal line.
The MI (lower) universe holds a swirl of folds that emphasizes the soft vulnerable belly; two white triangles painted in the center of the swirl take the viewer’s attention to the omphale. Outside the soft belly are more stable elements of the physical body, such as ribs, which are stitched onto the plate.
In the ‘Fa” (upper) universe is the gold and copper sun of our heart. Outside the circles of heart energy are shooting stars and the spits of fire and life that connect us to each other.
"Become Responsible for Everything You Have Tamed" cites the discussion about the ties of friendship between the prince and shy fox in the French novella, The Little Prince. Their talk about the tenuousness that makes connection between people precious and enduring has always been meaningful to me.
The breasts of this Vestal plate are positioned like eyes. A central line is stitched down the middle brings emphasis to alignment. The sacred bowl reference at the bottom of the torso runs hip-to-hip, marked by a string of beads.
This is the only Vestal plate created from a male torso. It asks the question: “When does a 2D line becomes 3D?”
The answer arrives: “When a line is knotted it leaves the dimension of length x width and becomes length x width x depth.
In imagining this Vestal plate, I pushed the camel through the eye of a needle so that it could join with a menagerie of other animals. (See the camel on the lower left corner.) Other creature drawings on the plate include an elephant, lion, frog, bee, butterfly, bear.
The life-size Vessel sculptures require a huge chunk of time to make. Consequently, I choose to paint a small series of 'studies' as experiments prior to painting a large sculpture.
A salute to Maya Angelou and her fantastic poem Still I Rise.
Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I've got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?
The stitching on the Vestal plates is an artistic healing act to counter the fragmentations made by flattening the sculptures and the general fragmentation in our lives, families, relationships and culture.
The back-and-forth movement of the threaded needle-- from the front to the back of the Vestal plate, and from the back to the front again--- weaves together elements of present and past, contemporary and ancient. The stitching perspective is particularly relevant to the materiality of my work and my appreciation of the artistic traditions that preceded and influenced my work.
Etude #3 is easiest to explains as a fragrance. Pre-pandemic we hosted two amazing Syrian-Saudi women in our Cambridge house.After they returned to Riyadh, I still enjoyed their beauty, which most often appeared to me as a perfume memory when I walked into a room.
My Vessel sculptures and Vestal plates look at the beauty and mystery of the female figure and her mythic journey through time. I love the energy, the lines, stories, and surprise that developed in this body of work.
For the exhibition, I painted only one life-sized Vessel sculpture. She is gorgeously shellacked. Her pubic triangle, belly button and breasts are enriched with gold. On her back, a line of dots runs from her neck to her ankles.