Makers in my family go back generations — mother, grandmother, great-grandmother. They tatted, sewed, knitted, crocheted, baked and cooked. There was always making, and domestic ritual around the making; meals, garments, table linens, among other things. My mother baking is the first material process I found moving and inspirational. Each year she baked taiglach, a Jewish dessert made with honey caramel. It is shiny and burning hot when it comes out of the pot, and she spread it with her hands that she had dipped in ice water first. It was a dramatic and dangerous act to me as a child and gorgeous in color and sheen. It reminds me now of the painting glazes I use. Later in life, I worked in restaurants as a baker to support my art career. In addition, my father was a photographer and built his own darkroom in our basement. He taught me how to take photographs and develop them myself.
My family visited the boardwalk often. The candy makers awed me —fudge spread thick on its enormous marble slab, the taffy makers stretching huge columns of striped taffy, the cotton candy machine that swirled up an enormous cloud of hot pink candy on a paper cone. I also remember my mother’s and grandmother’s hairdressers teasing their hair into huge, sculptural beehives in the sixties, and then dousing them with hairspray. My grandmother in particular drew on her lips with bright red lipstick because her lips were thin. She didn’t hide the fact that she did this; watching her taught me that you could reinvent yourself with art, change an underlying shape by drawing over it. Equally instructive was that my family saw through her deception and found great humor in it. Later it spoke to me about intention: once the work is finished, it’s not in the artist’s control how it is perceived.
My work is concept driven and varied in intent, style, and medium to address questions of uncertainty and transience. No matter what my essential question is – for instance, “What Can a Portrait Be?” – I’m interested in the expanded definitions of things. The 2012-2013 installation of fifteen four-inch square panels is about the way I perceive my own life as a sequence of small, intimate, non-linear but inter-related moments. It’s about wanting to hold and understand the infinite by containing it in a palm-sized space. All of my work, and especially this installation, have a strong connection to poetry. I’m interested in the way that a poem resists the reader, creating multiple layers of meaning. I like a poem’s economy of language, and the way a poem’s meaning evolves for the reader as the reader evolves. For this reason, the installation is comprised of a sequence rather than a series of images; instead of variations of a single image, the panels depict inter-related unique images intended for reading like lines in a poem.
I use the multi-layered glazing technique of the Flemish Old Masters to create illusionistic space that is as much about its reflective surface as it is about its content. My images are containers for metaphor rather than literal things of the world. The strict definition of dimension and placement of panels is used to address ideas about mathematical precision, the measured, mapped, and ordered and its complex relationship with the immeasurable aspects of fluid time. Each four-inch square panel is placed exactly four and one half inches apart in a horizontal line sixty inches above the floor; no design elements like a grid compete with the intended reading of one panel at a time. What I know about the images as the artist is not a definitive reading, however, as each viewer is invited to create his or her own narrative. Though my work is often titled for lines from poems such as Jorie Graham’s 2012 poem “Of Inner Experience,” the work is not an illustration for the poem, nor does the poem directly point to any intended meaning for the artwork. Instead the title stands for my invitation to the viewer to seek out the poem for its own sake.