“I am curious about what comes next.”
Henry Viscardi, Jr., 1912-2004
Depictions of heaven and hell were ubiquitous in my parochial school education, and subsequent Art History classes as well as countless visits to museums, cathedrals and churches reinforced the doctrines and didactic imagery that formed my impression of the afterlife.
My own beliefs have evolved beyond my early religious indoctrination, but the imagined euphoria of heaven and torments of hell remain indelibly lodged in my psyche. Here and Hereafter, a series of mixed media works, is part of the memento mori tradition dating back to Socrates, early Christianity, and the Netherland’s 17th century still-life vanitas paintings meant to remind us of our mortality.
The paintings are divided into three realms: heaven, earth, and hell. They include oil and acrylic paint, metallic paper mounted to canvas, collage, found hand-crafted textiles, and fabric. I often use fabric and textiles in my work as they are reminiscent of domesticity and security, and collage elements that include familiar photographic imagery. In Here and Hereafter, the textiles and collage counter the mystery of the unknown. The works on paper are depictions of heaven above earth.
Children inherit their parents’ beliefs. At an early age, I was taught to appreciate handmade objects of all kinds, both refined and elegant antiques and cruder folk crafts from many cultures.
My assemblage wall reliefs are informed by jewelry, both precious metal and gemstone Victorian era, and cheap colorful pieces - what my female elders disparagingly referred to as “costume pieces” - along with folk crafts, patterns, flowers, textiles, and needlework of every variety including the cheesiest. Jewelry is one of the oldest of archeological artifacts. It is made from beads, shells, teeth, feathers, diamonds, platinum, and gold. In most cultures, jewelry can be used as a means of self-expression, as a status symbol for its material properties, and appreciated for its patterns, rarity, meaningful symbols, or sentimentality. “Bling” is a term popularized by American rap musicians, often taking the form of jewelry. While it may be big and expensive, it is often cheap, intended to give the impression of wealth.
I combine carved elements with fabric, wood, metal, and found objects to create sculptures that address the subjective perspective of what makes something desirable, beautiful, and valuable. All cultures seek beauty, surrounding themselves whenever possible with things that please the eye and mind. The adage, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” remains rooted in human individualism and culture.
In a court of law, relying solely on memory is highly unreliable. I was drawn to these discarded trial documentation photographs of wrecked cars with the same fascination and queasiness an actual accident elicits. I use the car crashes to embody catastrophe or any painful past or present adversity imbedded in the psyche. I obscure but never fully obliterate the image with mixed media, carved lines and collage. The layered altered images represent how we tackle unbearable memories to make them tolerable and find resolution.
“When we are young we are a jungle of complications.”
The Quiet American by Graham Greene
The complexity of memory, particularly the potency of earliest experiences and how these inform adult identity, is a primary focus of my mixed media work. Childhood is innocent and benign yet often fraught with fear and anxiety. The physiology of memory lies at the center of our identity, determining who we are and who we become.
Additionally, I am interested in the complex relationship between humans and animals and our connection to our instinctive animal nature. Depending on cultural heritage and convictions, certain animals are exalted, revered, protected, feared, reviled, or loved as family members while others are thought of as commodities to be used for food, man’s bidding for labor or scientific research.
My mother died in 2015 evoking strong memories. These were further rekindled in discovering my childhood stuffed animals that she had packed away. Compelled to act upon the formidable feelings that my mother’s death and finding these objects aroused in me, I combined the found toys with some of my own childhood drawings to make a new body of works on paper, Childworks. This new work continues an ongoing investigation into memory, childhood and our human/animal nature.
The Recollections explores the complexity of memory, particularly the potency of earliest experiences and how these inform adult identity. Childhood is innocent and benign yet often fraught with fear and anxiety. The interiors and outdoor places of youth - the arenas where our impressionable young lives played out - exist now only as fragmented memories, and these I recreate as visual memoir.
The chalkboard Adages stem from the thrill of drawing on the blackboard as a young Catholic school student. It was a privilege to get to decorate the blackboard perimeter with a few colored chalk lines of poetry written in perfect penmanship and to add a little flair by including a small drawing of a bird or flower.