Song of Songs: Portraits of the Artist's Mother
My 99-year-old mother, Mary, lived with me periodically during the pandemic. Through her, I witnessed the effects of emotional and physical loneliness. The needs of the body - both the basics of bodily functions, and spiritual and emotional yearnings - are satisfied largely through physical proximity to others, touch, and intimacy.
The titles for the portraits of my mother come from the biblical text, Song of Songs. This poetry is both explicitly sensual and metaphorically spiritual, describing the intensity of the relationship between lovers. Although there is a societal disconnect between the language of sexual longing and the physicality of an elderly woman, I choose to title works of my mother from this text to convey the truth that love and desire, the need for human contact and touch are universal and not limited by age. Living through the pandemic and social isolation, this reality has become painfully clear.
After Light Darkness Rose, Another Day
After Light Darkness Rose, Another Day - a series of thirteen small paintings - references diverse geographies, seasons, and days. My images are inspired by faraway lands such as Japan and Scotland, as well as Midwestern landscapes that are close to home and heart. I have walked in each place, finding beauty beyond the traditionally conventional - breathing the air, absorbing the light, listening to small and large movements around me. This series expresses the concept of wholeness and unification, in that each moment is a creation story.
I love oil paint is because the medium is constantly moving and transforming. I paint with my hands and make smears. I layer the paint until parts of the painting become obliterated. I wipe away paint and leave behind ghost images on the surface. I use bristle brushes, some very old and worn, that make marks that I cannot control. I do not always know how the paint is going to meet the canvas. My work surprises me during the process of creating it.
Paint connects me to transcendent experiences, into the human and physical plane. Paint is the material that recreates my beyond-the-known-universe-experience here on earth.
We all go through earth shattering, life changing, mind blowing events - the birth of a child or a grandchild, the death of someone we love, a miscarriage, an isolating pandemic. These moments, which become the basic building blocks of our lives, are jarring connections to the universe beyond our personal and very limited borders. But waking our consciousness can also be more ordinary: savoring a cup of coffee in the morning; seeing a hummingbird and thinking that I did not know that hummingbirds existed in West Rogers Park; walking past tornado ravaged trees after the storm; the warm sun; my prairie garden; new snow; cuddling with my dog Yoshi. Anything and everything brings me deeper into myself and the universe, as long as I take notice. I paint because this is the act that makes all worlds available to me.
I have always made art, but have not always had a designated studio. There were times in my past when my dining room table was my studio. My sketchbook was my studio. And when I did not have either a place or the time, my mind was my studio. In his book, What Painting Is, James Elkins writes, “For painters the studio is the Prison House, and paints are the fluids that circulate inside it. Alchemy’s lessons here is that everything actually takes place within the body. The insanity of the studio is that it is not architecture - it is not made of wood and cement - but it is nothing other than the inside of the body.”