I am a strong believer in place, and how a region, community and a home will shape who you are. The place I know, where I was raised, is the Black Belt region of the American South. It is how I was raised, as a Southerner and as a Jew in a small southern town, instilled with belief in family and tradition that motivates me to document the place I call home.
Paint as material belongs to the sense realm, a phantom limn of touch. As a process painting might become a brush with pleasure, a stroke that rubs the wrong way, a sideways glance, a covert encounter. I can’t stop. I don’t want to stop. Paint pushes me but I push back.
My current work is about women. Although it’s becoming more recognized in this current moment, it has always been clear that clubs, books, movies, etc. that are about, for, or by women are thought of in a lesser subcategory. It’s popular in certain circles to dismiss groups such as cheerleaders and sorority members and, though I understand the criticisms, both institutions were created by women who just wanted the same opportunities as men. This tension between what looks frivolous and what in another light is actually feminism is why I’m so interested in these groups. They are also a microcosm of power dynamics. I use the positioning of figures and their poses, colors, uniforms, and scale as well as the baggage of stereotypes to explore the nuances of the hierarchies within and between groups. What are the unwritten rules, and do we claim power or willingly give it away to be polite?
The subtle contradictions that exist within a painting are what interest me most and sustain me in my practice. I want my work to be beautiful, but at the same time unsettling; serious, but with a comedic aspect. I create a narrative around these ideas while the work is in progress and believe that the inherent contradictions that emerge add another level of richness to the world within the painting.
Although rooted in an abstract tradition, my work makes clear references to the natural world. I spend as much time as I am able near the water: listening, watching the light, collecting. It is my intention that the images depicted, while not recognizable per se, be believable and exist logically within the environment of the painting.
Subject matter and process are seamlessly interwoven; the way each painting evolves, both technically and conceptually, is of especial interest to me. I emphasize the pure physicality of my materials while also exploring their alchemistic possibilities. My hope is that a compelling tension exists within these paintings, and that they feel familiar while hinting at something ethereal and unknown.
My paintings are built from a merging of the languages of representation and abstraction with mythological overtones. I prefer to maintain a pictorial fluidity between the observed world, internal/symbolic content and the formal demands of each painting. This fluidity mirrors the act of painting as a give and take between artistic intent and what emerges. I hope to engage the viewer in a journey of discovery that is analogous both to the journey of making a painting and the journey of transformation in life.
Over the past year, I have been focused on producing a body of work that reflects how I feel both as a woman and an American Indian living in the 21st Century. In this body of work, I have strived to illustrate how I feel about the ancient legacy of my heritage while at the same time acknowledging the modern day and age. Each piece reflects my understanding and interpretation of Caddo tribal culture and the fight to maintain a place for it in today’s world. With the election of a new president, climate change and social oppression, it is more important than ever before to have a unique voice, express it, and strive to make it heard. In my work I try to explore themes of “the other,” cultural appropriation and history. With my work, I hope to create awareness and address issues that affect people who share a similar story. Through my installations, I hope to tell a story both of how one understands self and culture, but also what defines these ideals in America today.
Art and Earth define us as human beings. The rupture of connection with either renders us senseless and therefore only brutal. The language of art is sensual. It can stir the heart. It can bypass rational, linear processes. Art can be a transformer. The idea that imagination begets empathy and is awakened by the senses has shaped all that I have attempted as a citizen artist.
Through my work, I am interested in building a vocabulary that will one day tell a new story: a new mythology that restores mystery, beauty, silence, and imagination as central to our co-existence. My visual language favors archetype and allusion. Like dreams, it is a code simultaneously familiar, layered, and elusive. The Koan, a Buddhist teaching tool that takes the form of a paradoxical question, is another model for my work. Insight follows contemplation and the willingness to lose what one knows.
The materials I use are both substance and symbol. As substance they are ordinary, simple, and sometimes found yet within them, there is beauty. As symbols, they do not comfortably stand for one thing. On the scent of something large, they dodge the straight line of equation. The exacting repetitive gestures associated with the crafting of much of my work make the process a meditation; however, the parallel thought flow, or its absence, that accompanies these gestures also infuses the work.
The record of time is evident though silent in my work. Slowly taking form through accretion, thousands of horsehairs are individually threaded through hundreds of holes drilled in vines or tiny dowels. In the White Luminous Room, each of the 1500 ten foot long strands are made by tying and gluing tiny bundles of hair to a long thread. The liquidity of plaster is recorded in its hard celestial surface. The flow of ink is remembered by the contraction of the washi paper in the drying. Every ring of ink on each of the 80 hammered lead pans is a record of the evaporation of that single pool — concentrated, diluted, rinsed, repeated — until the right mark is made.
The Anthropocene is now — the first epoch defined by the impact of one species — ours — on the planet and all the systems that have spawned and supported what we have named “life.” The Cantos are my witness and meditations on now.
from Pages from the Frozen Sea
The “pages” in Pages from the Frozen Sea are photographs of ordinary objects or materials suspended in ice, or artworks made by working with ice. This collaborative project is a celebration of the beauty and constantly changing nature of ice, and embraces an experimental, process-oriented approach to art-making. The project was inspired by a quote from Franz Kafka: “A book must be an axe for the frozen sea within us.” The images selected were done during the winter of 2017. The project will continue during the winter of 2018: it requires cold weather. This year Sarah Stengle and Eva Mantel hope to extend the scope of the project by inviting other artists to also contribute pages. The project can be followed on Facebook and Instagram.
My studio is both outside & inside. As I walk outward to soak in the place, to trod the fields and forests, my pockets fill with the landscape’s treasures — birch bark with its dots and dashes, unfurling hornet’s nests, fallen flowers & leaves, cast off feathers; at the same time, my mind undertakes the cataloguing of the daily changes — freshly sprouted spring ephemerals, the autumn return of the junco, the mint filled with feasting honeybees. Later, these findings and sitings become marks on both paper and cloth and imbue the interior with the spirit of the exterior. The acts of dyeing and stitching bring me back to the glimpsed lichen on the tree, the lines on the birch bark, the frozen ice on the pond and the sounds of the birds in the trees.
“Our eyes see what is outside in the landscape in the form of words on paper but inside, a slash or mark wells up from a deeper place where music before counting hails from.” Susan Howe, Debths (New Directions, 2017)
I am a conceptual mixed media artist, addressing issues of colorism and race. I seek to break stereotypes and address issues related to my life. My artwork is steeped in oral history and is an expression of the narrative. As a storyteller, I impart conceptualized stories about the “other” in society. I view myself as a vehicle for ancestral stories to transcend history and remain part of the historical record. The canvas of my artwork is fabric which I age and imbue with conceptualized images of a forgotten part of the American story. Using images and text, I embed the cloth with the hopes and visions of my ancestors, particularly those whose stories have remained invisible. Whether woven or stitched, every time my weft crosses the warp or my needle pierces the cloth, it reaches through another layer of scorched earth that slavery has left behind. In this way I attempt to reframe critical issues of race.