Artist Statement

“Remembrance of things past is not necessarily the remembrance of things as they were.”  Marcel Proust

I am interested in art as inquiry into the formal and conceptual issues surrounding memory, family, and mental illness.  We constantly create and re-create stories out of our changing perceptions of the past.  My memories of my childhood, and my more recent memories of my children’s childhood, are fluid.  Especially when my memories are intertwined with the emotional and physical realities of my mental illness, they take on new forms and meanings.  Working from life and from photographs, I create art that chronicles the present and draws from the past, telling and re-telling my own life as a personal, visual memoir. 

I spent my childhood drawing and painting on huge sheets of paper in my grandmother’s basement studio.  On Saturdays, I attended her art program at the local college.  During those years I explored various media: crayons, cray-pas, watercolor and tempera paint.  As I grew older I experimented with charcoal, pencils of various softness, and acrylic.

Later, at Yale University, my studies were oriented around working from observation.  I was told, “If you can learn to see, you can teach yourself to draw and paint.”  I looked at the figure, landscape, and still-life, ultimately creating a series of oil paintings of kitchen interiors as seen from the perspective of a child.  This was the beginning of my use of formal elements (perspective) to address conceptual issues (childhood).

After graduating, I took drawing and painting classes at the San Francisco Art Institute.  For a while, I continued to make kitchen paintings, and then switched media completely to explore collage.  I was interested in the Surrealist idea that the invisible is the “visible obscured” and my work reflected this in its focus on objects in spaces.

While pursuing my M.F.A., I began painting a series of still-life paintings with mirrors, Barbie dolls, and plaster masks of my face.  These images explored ideas about how I present myself to the world, and how I am reflected back to myself.  They were very dark, both in color and content, mirroring my growing depressions.  I moved from there to producing an assortment of work, some of which contained the germs of the concepts and images that would continue to compel me in the years to come:  my grandparents and great-grandparents; myself as a child;  limp rag-dolls;  my dead dog.  Memory, family, and mental illness.

I moved to the Philadelphia area after graduating and began the “Depression Paintings.” These works are painted both from life, using myself as a model, as well as from old family photographs.  They use tone, color and form to create a visual metaphor for the altered mental and physical state of depression, with which I was by now actively struggling, and with which members of my family have struggled.

Once I had children, my focus shifted from painting to drawing, as it was easier for me to work in short spells while they slept.  The one hundred “Baby Drawings” were made in the middle of the night over the course of five years. The delicate lines and gentle tonal shifts echo the fragility of my children, but there is another meaning embedded in those marks.  My then chronic wakefulness at night was a symptom of hypo-mania, common to those with bipolar 2 disorder.  These drawings, which were once immediate recordings of the present (both my children’s calm and my mania), have become a “remembrance of things past,” artifacts of a time gone by. 

Around this time, I also created the “Baby Paintings.”  They are based on photographs I took of my children sleeping, as well as on photographs I took of the Rhode Island beachscape, where I grew up.  They allude to the transitional space between ocean and shore, between the pre-natal world and the world of infancy, as well as to a connection between my own childhood and my children’s.

I am currently engaged in creating a new body of work, mixed media/collages.   These integrate painting with photos of me as a child taken by my parents, and photos of my children taken by me.  They are the next chapter in my visual memoir.