Broken in Two

When I decided to leave an unhappy marriage over a year ago, I never thought I would feel so free. I was overwhelmed by the sense that I would never again have to do or not do what my ex told me. I finally talked to friends I had been forcibly separated from, repaired things in the house, bought myself something new to wear, and laughed out loud with the enemy. At first, my ex took responsibility for everything. He smiled and said he was sorry after every story I re-told to him; ways he hurt or controlled me. I ended each recounting with the same phrase, “Does that sound like something nice to do to your wife?” He would shake his head no. I had stories for days and it seemed like he wanted to listen. I knew it was over for me but later I realized he only was trying to appease me. In fact, he had no intention of moving out or leaving the house to give me space. When I asked him to move out he replied that he would move out only when a judge ordered him to. The summer of 2015 was filled with rage and torment, threats and screaming. What initially began as an assertion of my rights to a happy life culminated in calling 911. My girls and I have never been so scared and I knew I had a long road ahead. Now, more than a year later, I have moved on in so many ways but he still has his grip around me. I feel like his venom is in my blood stream and I cannot remove the stinger of a dying insect still writhing, still fighting. Never wanting this fight, I tried to offer him a home and money to settle the divorce. But his behavior has been like a rabid animal who knows he will be tased upon approach but cannot stop himself to spare the pain.

After my last post, I had many women reach out to me with sympathy or stories of their own domestic violence or abuse. I’ve always known this issue was much larger than me. I’ve always known that others have suffered much worse abuse than I have and it made me think of how to address this in my art. I am working on collaborations with two of these women to share their stories and make beautiful the ugly ways of bullies.

On a positive note, I have several works on paper headed up to the Seattle Art Fair this month:

CliffDistortion,2016,16-22,15x18in

Cliff Distortion, 16-22, 2016, 15″ x 18″ea

This month my girls and I spent a week in the country at my father’s house visiting with siblings, their wives and children. Every morning I would sit out on the deck listening to the cicadas buzzing and watch the birds feeding. These moments alone were at once peaceful and tear-filled. I admired my sister-in-law tending to her three month old son and remembered my own girls being that age. The sleepless nights and constant care an infant requires was daunting but I remember rising to the occasion. We do what we have to do to and we don’t think it is above and beyond. We love unconditionally and that’s why we wake up to feed that infant during the night and change diapers with equal frequency. My health and weight have suffered under the strain of divorce and personal strife. The blisters (I recently found out are called a pressure ulcers) and bruises from being underweight hurt during the day and during the night. My sleep is interrupted by financial woes, maternal angst, and now a broken heart. But I try to put my life in perspective as I listen to the stories of the women who have suffered with even greater intensity and my friends suffering present pain. I sobbed with one friend on the phone at the news that his friend had killed himself. My heart broke when another friend told me through tears that she spent the entire day in the hospital as life support was removed to her friend’s week-old baby. We rise to the occasion because we have to. I will eat more and cry less because I am not the only one suffering. I will rise to the occasion.

This month’s music: Snakehips

The Year That Killed

The past 12 months were experienced with equal amount of tears and laughter. My latest painting deals with the turbulent time surrounding my divorce and on-going efforts to protect my children. Cluster Fail is about me trying to hold everything together in my life over the past year; the year that nearly killed me. Starting with a summer of torment, a domestic violence trial, and culminating with the judge revoking my ex’s visitation rights. His treatment of my daughters was so horrific that one of them threatened to stab herself in the leg to get away from him. She imagined that if she were sent to the emergency room, she wouldn’t have to see him. Listening to her testimony in court was one of the most painful experiences I’ve ever endured. This painting is about my failure to keep a healthy weight, my failure to protect my children from trauma, and the failure of the system to protect all three of us.

ClusterFail,2016,72x48in

Cluster Fail, 2016, acrylic on canvas, 72″ x 48″

I explore this initial failure of the justice system in my piece Cluster (Collapse). As I recalled in a previous post, this piece is about the night I called the police after a domestic violence incident in my home. After we were separated and during the time he refused to move out, my ex grabbed my wrist during a violent outburst terrifying myself and my children. When the police arrived, they failed to include the physical violence in their report. A few days later, my request for a restraining order was denied partly due to this omission. I first collapsed in the bathroom of the court house unable to compose myself or even walk to my car. After drying up my tears, I managed to make it to the car park where I collapsed again on the grass outside the entrance. The clump or mass of pill-like, capsule shapes in this painting represent how in spite of my best efforts to keep it together and hold my life intact, the explosion of events was out of my control.

Cluster(Collapse)2016,37x48in

Cluster (Collapse), 2016, acrylic on panel, 37″ x 48″, with chair installation

I had two chairs upholstered in a fabric I designed of my ex grabbing my wrist. These chairs represent the support that did not exist for me that day; a symbolic representation of catching that falling woman. Installed facing each other, the chairs act as a vehicle for viewers to sit across from another person forcing a dialogue about domestic violence.

Cluster(Collapse)ChairDetail

Cluster (Collapse), detail of chair fabric

Cluster (Silent Sobbing) reflects the moment I learned that my ex was planning to take me to court for full custody of my girls after he was ordered removed from the house. Even though I had obtained a restraining order, was awarded temporary full custody and I knew it was impossible that my children would be taken away from me, the intense shock of the moment was acute. This painting is about that moment and the agonizing but silent sobbing of catching my breath. The plush sculpture below is fabric I designed based on the IKEA step stool that my younger daughter insisted on taking with us as we were fleeing our home the night of the 911 call. The panic of the moment forced me to rely on my young girls to pack their own bags with essentials as I waited for the police to arrive. In my haste, I did not check the luggage until we arrived at my friend’s house. As we unpacked, I realized that in addition to the IKEA stool, my younger daughter’s suitcase was mostly filled with her beloved stuffed animals.

Cluster(Silentsobbing)2016,40x120in(PanelSize)

Cluster (Silent Sobbing), 2016, acrylic on panel, 40″ x 120″ (panel size), with plush sculpture installation

The sculpture is rendered in large pillow-like shapes to reflect the moment I had to flee my home and leave behind any sense of normalcy I or my children had of domestic happiness. This included being in our own home in our own beds; a basic comfort children depend on for security. The plush sculpture also represents the emotional need to go to sleep for a long duration of time.

DetailOfStoolPlushSculpture

Cluster (Silent Sobbing), detail of IKEA step stool fabric

First I spray painted white a dozen or so IKEA step stools then stacked them in a pyramid. After photographing the stools, I digitally created a mirror image and printed the design on upholstery fabric. I sewed the 10 yards of fabric into two 15 foot elongated, pillow-like shapes. Like the chair installation, I hope to encourage viewers to touch, lie down, or even change the shape of the sculpture.

This work for me has become more than just the painting and sculpture of the past. This work has become something deeper; something bigger than just making art. I was reading an article in the New Yorker and an excerpt resonated not only a rare truth in the game of buying and selling work but also the importance of valuing art devoid of gimmicks:

“In the past decade, the prices for postwar works have sometimes exceeded those for early-twentieth-century masterpieces. “We would always say, ‘Warhol is the Picasso of our time,’ and then at some point you realized that Warhol was more expensive than Picasso,” Gouzer told me. “In French, we have this expression—‘You have to put the church back in the middle of the town.’ In our world, everything articulates somehow around Picasso, so I started thinking we should bring Picasso back into the middle of the town.”

While I know this curator’s job is to sell work for the highest price, the quote hit a nerve. I hope to get my work back into the middle of the town. Otherwise I might have to move.

This month’s music: Sam Wills

 

 

It’s About to Get 3D

Making sculpture and sculptural installations for the first time since I was in art school feels really good as the pieces finally come to fruition. Below is a studio shot of all the work in progress as well as two of the fabric samples I designed to create the upholstered and plush sculptures. By next month the pieces will all come together. The large painting on canvas is still in progress and the paintings on wood are complete. I’m looking forward to a busy summer of productive art making to follow the momentum of exhibiting at the art fair, Art Market San Francisco.

StudioShot

As part of my thesis project in 1993 when I was a senior in the painting department at RISD, I created some plush installations. I knew that after leaving the sculpture department a couple years earlier I would still want to make what I called a 3D painting. I had envisioned a painting coming to life in similar materials, spilling on the floor or throughout the studio or exhibition space. The original realization of this idea was crude at best but the idea never left my consciousness. In this first attempt I painted on pre-designed fabric. I carved a stamp out of a lino block for one image and cut out round black faux fur for the other. This time around I have designed my own fabric from which I’ll make the sculpture. I found this old photograph of a detail shot of the piece which was originally about a 12 foot by 12 foot painting with an installation along the base:

InstallationDetail1993

As a 22 year old artist, I didn’t have many life experiences from which to draw content for my work. While the struggle of being a female artist in a male-dominated sculpture department posed its challenges, it wasn’t really real life pain. The work I made was mostly based on the premise that ugly was beautiful. My work now draws on years of life experience both in my improving skill as an artist as well being informed by recent traumatic life events.

What a nice surprise to see a fantastic shot of my esteemed colleague Hampton Terry’s studio in Valencia, Spain. All the sweeter was spotting one of my paintings hanging in the middle of his beautiful fauvist-inspired landscapes. I think our paintings complement one another so well in spite of our obvious disparate styles:

HamptonTerry'sStudio1

I met Hampton at an art opening of his the first month I moved to Spain. He immediately started introducing me around as “a real artist” which was a generous compliment coming from him. He was good friend and supporter during my three-year life in Spain. Before I moved back to The States, we made a point to exchange art. How lovely he framed and hanged my painting on paper.

This month’s music: Kaytranada

 

Landscapes are for Lovers

As I continue to work on my new series of paintings, my gallery in Dallas asked me to make some smaller paintings to take to the art fair, Art Market San Francisco. I made a couple of small paintings based on my larger Cluster work for the fair which took place from April 27th-May 1st:

NoSmallcluster1,2016,16x20inNo Small Cluster 1, 2016,  acrylic on birch panel, 16″ x 20″

The title continues the Cluster theme and basically expresses the idea that there is no small breakdown, no small heartache, no small “falling apart”. To that end I titled these pieces No Small Cluster.

NoSmallCluster2,2016,16x20inNo Small Cluster 2, 2016, 16″ x 20″, acrylic on birch panel

I also finished the first Cluster Painting which is comprised of four panels with an overall dimension of 36″ x 48″. The installation which will accompany the painting is still in progress. I have designed and ordered the fabric from which I will construct the installation. Here is the painting:

Cluster201636x48in

The second Cluster painting is in progress and the fabric for the installation is currently being designed. Here is the four panel piece in progress with a working title of Cluster 2. The title may change to reflect the emotions of the moment I learned that my ex was going to take me to court for full custody of my girls after he was ordered removed from the house. While I knew it was impossible that my children would be taken away from me, the intense shock of the moment was acute. This painting is about that moment and the agonizing but silent sobbing of catching my breath:

Cluster2InProgress

My paintings have often been compared to virtual landscapes. Some may see the lines as horizons or ripples of water and others have described the colors as relating to nature. So I guess it was a logical next step to design an actual landscape. Beautifully shot by photographer Felicia Lasala, my landscape design really came to life as she used the lily pads in a playful homage to the movie Mon Oncle. The shoot was styled to be vintage yet futuristic. Here is a link to behind the scenes as the shoot came together for the newest edition of WOMN Magazine.

Here is one of the photos I shot of the behind the scenes action:
BehindtheScenesWOMNmag

For this month’s music, I cannot help but reflect on how Prince shaped my life and especially my adolescence. I have been reading accounts written by friends on social media about their favorite Prince songs and what they meant at pivotal times in each of their lives including a great tribute written by Questlove of The Roots for Rolling Stone Magazine. Reflecting back to my earliest memory of knowing who Prince was as an artist and the first song I remember loving, I started to trace my life as a fan. My earliest recollection has to be practicing walking in my first pair of heels in front of the mirror to “When Doves Cry“. I had recently had my braces removed and the ugly duckling image was beginning to shed. That was a song that could be played endlessly. I never grew tired of hearing it and it only got better with each play. Soon after, I played “Kiss” over and over on the juke box at our local pizza place (Raffallos on Highland). But definitely one of my favorite Prince songs during high school was “Raspberry Beret“. Prince was the soundtrack to a lot of firsts for a lot of fans discovering their own beauty in the mirror. I was fascinated by how he looked and sounded and the music that resonated with me can be measured by my coming of age more than the subtext and underlying meanings to the lyrics. Was he gender identified as male or female? Was his sexual orientation gay or straight? It just didn’t matter, he was Prince. I’m grateful to have grown up in a time where Prince espoused tolerance, individuality, and the fact that he could not be pigeon-holed into a sexual genre. He was the champion of the “different” and that was huge. In 1990 as a sophomore in college I had four cassette tapes in heavy rotation on my Walkman: The Pixies, Sade, Nirvana, and Prince. And of course when it was 1999, you can imagine what the song of the year was. We, the kids of the 80’s, all mourn the loss of an artist who helped shape our musical vernacular but more importantly an artist who taught us that being an individual was not just to be tolerated but celebrated.

My favorite Prince tribute by far is this beautiful poem by OT Pasha:

he talked 2 me about my own sexuality
before I hit puberty
+ said being different is a gift
he showed me that being an artist came with the divine responsibility 2 uplift
he screamed at me 2 find my god
but my god
my god was him
I felt like I was his only disciple
+ he my light when days were dim
he showed me how 2 love myself
+ take the world in my own hand
he taught me how 2 talk 2 a girl
+ show her I understand
he was supposed 2 live forever
beyond my future, present + past
but he told me once upon a time
that “all good things never last”
I loved him so for so many years
assuming there would always be more
but now I’m confused
full of tears + rattled 2 the core
the whole fabric of my reality now
simply feels untrue
because I never had rose-colored glasses on
my glasses were Purple in hue

Working Titles

I felt lost in the task to translate the night that changed my life. The enormity of the event seemed to dictate a large scale painting. But I realized the moment of feeling completely alone and solely responsible for my two young children didn’t have to be rendered in physical size. The intimate scale of these small panels convey the message exactly. The frenetic palette and multi-layered composition communicate the moment of panic and disbelief. So, the 911 Call painting is completed and awaiting the sculpture installation I’m currently working on to accompany it. I’m relieved the series has begun. Now I can continue the cathartic exploration in the next panels each with their own installation.

911Call In Progress

The next piece in progress currently titled Cluster is about my first appearance in court just a few days after calling 911. My request for a restraining order was denied partly due to an omission in the Police report. I first collapsed in the bathroom of the court house unable to compose myself or even walk to my car. After drying up my tears, I managed to make it to the car park where I collapsed again on the grass outside the entrance. As people passed, I could not compose myself yet nobody stopped. I was relieved by their indifference because even in my public display of grief, I did not want to be bothered. The clump or mass of pill-like, capsule shapes in this painting represent how in spite of my best efforts to keep it together and hold my life intact, the explosion of events was out of my control. A couple of weeks later, armed with a lawyer and properly worded paper-work, the court granted my kick-out and restraining orders and my children and I were able to move back into our house. This piece will also have an installation below the painting dealing with catching that woman falling to the ground. Cluster, in progress below, will be installed as a quad when completed:

Cluster In Progress

Womn Magazine released a few more teaser images ahead of their Spring issue from the photo shoot in my garden and studio last month. Here is an image of the second model from the shoot also through my studio door:


Womnmag1

Still no photos with my garden but here is the same model where the photographer cleverly used bits of my driveway:

Womnmag2

This month’s music: Anderson . Paak

Commission Accomplished

When a collector of mine commissioned me to make a companion piece for a painting they already owned, I was nervous to take on the challenge. I’m used to making work and if a collector likes the piece, they buy it. I’ve never been asked to do anything quite like this before. So I decided to make eight paintings on paper and allow the collector to choose one. I had no idea if they would like any of the work and/or if they would deem any of them a worthy companion piece for the art they already owned. Luckily they did love all the work and here is the one they chose:

CliffDistortion23,2016,15x18in

 Cliff Distortion 23, 2016, acrylic on paper, 15″ x 18″

I made the work the same size and composition and I tried to mix colors I thought would complement my client’s existing work. But color is so subjective and the visceral experience of my work is unique to each individual viewer. What they loved about the piece they bought may not have applied to the new pieces I made. But I love to work and nothing gives me greater satisfaction than the reward of a client loving my art. Click here to see all eight paintings.

I’ve had a few false starts and stops on my new painting, 911 Call. Being in and out of court has taken its toll on me emotionally and I find that even when I have time to paint, I am unable. Protecting my children has been my priority but I’m hopeful that this ongoing trauma will inform the work even more.

911CallInProgress

I have decided to reduce the panels from 5 across to four. It seemed that the line drawing from the recording of my re-enactment of the 911 call divided well into four sections. At first I projected the actual sound wave onto the panels but I found the line to be too frenetic and busy. This led me to freehand the line drawing as I have done in my previous work. I have also minimized the size of the image to create a floating rectangle in the center of the panel rather than fill in the entire space. This conveys an element of privacy and aims to illustrate the personal battle I have had to wage with the painted sound wave more intimately rendered.

Here is a sneak peak at a photo shoot which took place in my newly designed landscape. There were two models photographed in and around the pool, the garden, and the playhouse. This image was shot just using the door to my studio:

WomnMagShoot

The publication is called WOMNMAGAZINE, Where Old Meets New.Fashion.Living.Destination. The edition featuring my garden will be out in April for their Spring issue. I’ll share behind the scenes photos and unpublished final images from photographer Felicia Lasala.

This month’s music: Fat Freddy’s Drop

Wounds and Injury

Over the summer, I managed to finish the diptych entitled Frequency Distortion 1. There were many interruptions, stops and starts hindered by powerful, emotional circumstances in my life at the time. When I finally managed to complete the piece, my daughter remarked that she thought the painting looked like sound waves. This not only gave me the title of Frequency Distortion, it also informed the idea for my subsequent body of work, Wound Frequency.

FrequencyDistortion1,2015,63x40in

Frequency Distortion 1, 2015, acrylic on birch panel, 63″ x 40″

It’s hard to understand why happiness is so elusive. Or, maybe it is easy. We leave an unhappy marriage but that does not equate peace. We try to find happiness in other places, but we fall short. Maybe there is really no true happiness. Maybe we just take the good with the bad and hope tomorrow will be bearable. We measure our lives by the passing of painful events. These events are pictures in our heads and create memories of images to reflect on. What if we measured these life events by the sound they created? What if the auditory memory served as the more poignant? This is what I will explore in my new series of work.

911callPanels

Wound Frequency will grapple with interpretations from recollections of recent events in my life. The paintings will be from recordings of frequencies from the audible crying, the begging, as well as the silent sobbing of catching my breath. The first five panel piece will be entitled “911 call” and is a painting of my voice recorded as a memory of the night I had to call the police to protect myself and my girls. I am not usually one to air my personal life publicly but I feel compelled to record this history in my work and hopefully the power of the moment will be conveyed successfully. Maybe the creation of this body of work will allow tomorrow to be a bearable day.

In gallery news, I recently received this image from Galleri Urbane of some of my works on paper installed at the Tailwater Corporation:

TailwaterCorporateCollection

Cliff Distortion 3,7,11,15, 2014, acrylic on paper, 15″ x 18″ea

I’m also working on a commission for collectors of mine in Arkansas. The couple recently collected one of the work on paper series also purchased by the Tailwater Corporation. They wanted two to make it a diptych and since most of the series was sold out, I happily agreed to paint more for them to choose from. Here is the work in progress:

FrankBaileyCommission

This month’s music: Basecamp