Not Random Art - Page 66



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Hello Norma and welcome to NotRandomArt. The current issue is revolving around the problem of communication and identity. Is there any particular way you would describe your identity as an artist but also as a human being in dynamically changing, unstable times? In particular, does your cultural substratum/identity form your aesthetics?

I “came of age’ in the 1950’s a time when home and family were the core of a woman’s reality. I had an intense need to connect with the world outside of domesticity and express independent ideas.

Art was the vehicle for communicating my identity and understanding myself as a woman.

This interview comes at a moment when I am keenly aware of change in my life and the world around me. To the extent that I live in a city where even the very air seems effected by world events, it’s important to be able to hit the “pause button”. My studio is the one place where I give myself permission to shut out the noise and listen to my own voice.

Would you like to tell us something about your artistic as well as life background? What inspired you to be in this artistic point in your life when you are now?

I was always fascinated by color -some of my earliest memories are the colors of a house I lived in –I must have been just three years old. My grandfather had a paint store in Brooklyn and I could spend the day

playing with the brushes and paint chip samples. The store had a big sign in the window of the “Little Dutch Boy” (logo for Dutch Boy Paint) I would pretend he was my best friend, I loved his mop of golden hair and blue overalls! My early exposure to art was through illustrations in magazines and books—Norman Rockwell, Coby Whitmore, James Bingham and others. The thing that really stuck with me was the narrative and drama in these illustrations-the way shadows and light and dark told a story. I discovered the Brooklyn Museum and Saturday art classes for children and then classes at Pratt Institute when I was a little older.

A graduate degree and Fine Arts major at Hunter College put me on the express track to teaching -the usual option for a woman in those days.

I was newly married and happy to have a teaching position on Long Island but very little time for my art. Soon I was raising two kids-and felt like I needed to reclaim my identity. So after the kids were in bed I started making art on my dining room table, at first it was small work on paper and then large mixed media paintings with metal that referenced the figure.

Reflecting on that time, the need to fill my domestic world with strong personal statements certainly inspired the work.

Could you identify a specific artwork that has influenced your artistic practice or has impacted the way you think about your identity as a participant of the visual culture?

Robert Motherwell who was one of my teachers in College, had a huge influence on my art. His influence and the doctrine of the Abstract Expressionists made it especially hard me to find my own vision.

I spent many years questioning the concept of “high” vs. “low” art. This was a period when I made abstract paintings and constructions using metal and found materials, I was investigating media of all kinds.

So I studied photography and color printing at ICP (International Center of Photography), made documentaries for public access TV, learned bookbinding, papermaking, batik, marbling, encaustic, silversmithing, metal sculpture and Plexiglas construction and-- marketed these skills.Then one day I found a book that changed my artistic vision; “Bay Area Figurative Art” 1950-1960 by Carolyn Jones.

I discovered David Park, Nathan Oliveira and Richard Diebenkorn. Diebenkorn paints objects in a way that suggest human presence. The paintings are representational yet the abstract handling of the background emphasizes the canvas edges.

Seeing this work was a revelation-his color,surface and line technique were unlike other painters I’d seen. Diebenkorn remains an enduring inspiration to this day.

Many of your works ask questions about the emotional, metaphorical, physical and metaphorical difference between public and private. You state: “My paintings of voluptuous pillows, flowing fabrics and luxurious beds are metaphors for the figure and self portrait.” Since you transform your experiences into your artwork, we are curious, what is the role of memory in your artistic productions? We are particularly interested if you try to achieve a faithful translation of your previous experiences or if you rather use memory as starting point to create.

My goal is to create visually interesting abstract landscapes. Though my dreams inspire these paintings, I like viewers to see their own "stories" in the images. When I talk to others about my work, I love hearing all the different renditions of what they see when they look at it. Only then will I share my inspiration behind the work. I think a good painting emerges for the viewer over time, as their life experiences can create new connects and open up deeper meanings in the artwork for them.

Before leaving this conversation, we would like to pose a question about the nature of the relationship of your art with your audience. Do you consider the issue of audience reception as being a crucial component of your decision-making process, regarding what type of language is used in a particular context?

Until others see it, artwork is not truly finished. A dialog about a painting brings it to life for both the artist and the viewer. These conversations allow me to see more deeply into the work, to realize the subconscious elements I may have added. For instance, I painted a barren gray landscape with strange, colorful plants growing in clumps on the surface. I thought it was just a scene from a dream. But, my husband looked at it and said it reminded him of middle school. As soon as he told me, I could see it too, the image resonating so much stronger for me than a simple alien-scape. I can remember that day, at eleven years old, starting at a new school, feeling so alone and alien in a gray world, while the other kids huddled together in their social groups.

Each person who looks at "Middle School Cliques" will have a different reaction to it, a personal story or experience that describes the painting for them. I don't want to define it for them, but instead, have each of us share our ideas with the other.

ht one. Once I have the pose that strikes me (YES!) I take it from there, drawing up a rough sketch adding patterns and geometrical shapes which contrast the lines of the main silhouette.

From there I sketch my plan on to a blank canvas (always making changes and additions to the new layout). Once I am happy with that I start to add colour. My fine lines are all executed without masking; using a small brush, even hand, and steadfast concentration. Then I apply layer upon layer of colour until I achieve beautiful unyielding saturation and impeccable print-like quality.

How do you see the relationship between emotional and intellectual perception of your work? In particular, how much do you consider the immersive nature of the viewing experience?

The emotional and intellectual relationship of my work always begin as two very seperate things. At first glance, my art may seem frivolously aesthetic .The colours are vibrant, and deliciously arresting. But then you look a little closer, even through the simplicity of the block colour and basic lines of geometry and pattern, there is always a story within… and that is when the emotional and intellectual perception of my art merge and the true beauty is discovered.

olted by the Thought of Known Places… Sweeney Astray” by Joan Jonas was one of the first performance installations that really made a huge impact on me. I was living in Paris during this time, in the early 90s, with a lot of influences from different cultures. It became the starting point of my own work. Joan Jonas practice has explored ways of seeing, the rhythms of ritual, and the authority of objects and gestures. Jonas continues to find new layers of meanings in themes and questions of gender and identity that have fueled her art for over thirty years. She is a great inspiration still today.

It is impossible to avoid the topic of body consciousness, embodied emotions and the image of body and personal identity that we see in your practice. What is the function of the identity appearing in your artworks – is it a canvas used to present your ideas or rather the subject of the art? What inspired you to use this as a theme in your practice?

I have been developing my visual imagery since I began studying art and film - from conceptual thinking, composition, using light and colour in different ways, through all the different techniques I've utilised over the years in my work and in my collaborations with stage artists such as dancers, musicians and actors. My approach is always developing through exploring these things. Visual imagery in essence is your way of experiencing what you see and transforming it. This is my world that I want to share and express through my art. The body consciousness, embodied emotions and the image of body and personal identity is part of this visual imagery, the emotional essence in my practice. Always present and always developing in different themes and projects.

Marina Abramovic stated: You see, what is my purpose of performance artist is to stage certain difficulties and stage the fear the primordial fear of pain, of dying, all of

which we have in our lives, and then stage them in front of audience and go through them and tell the audience, 'I'm your mirror; if I can do this in my life, you can do it in yours.'Can you relate anyhow to these words?

de-identify myself, by losing my roots, my culture, I would be very happy. Unfortunately the human being does'nt choose the place where he is born. He grows up in a society that automatically identifies, through education, culture, family... More than ever I think it's more important to go on a way of self-knowledge with the aim to meet “the other”.. This other without which we can not exist. It's the same for the artist. It is more important for me to be focused on my practice than to try to define it according to esthetic criteria of identification. It's probably the reason i like to remember the painter Matisse who said or wrote that an artist must never be prisoner of himself, prisoner of a style, prisoner of a reputation.

Would you like to tell us something about your background? Could you talk a little about experiences that has influence the way you currently relate yourself to your artworks?

All my way is influenced by encounterings.

It began by the meeting with my professor of literature at school. More than giving French or Literature classes, she brought us to discover texts, movies, plays, visual artworks and to think about on what we saw or read.. Thanks to her that I met Pierre Vincke, a theatredirector who was worjink in the tradition of Grotowski ... Both of them have led me to go to theater school. In this school I had meetings. Meetings with artists but also and especially human beings that made me discover. I always need o discover rather than to master a practice. It's probably the reason my encounter with Monica Klingler and Boris Nieslony was decisive for me and led me on the path of Performance Art which is a form still difficult to define. Each performance artist has a different definition of what it is...

Could you identify a specific artwork that has influenced your artistic practice or has impacted the way you think about race and ethnic identity in visual culture?

No I don't have a specific artwork that has influenced my artistic practise but many.

I'm influenced by some philsophers as well as poets or musicians or dancers or visual artists but also by some places or landscapes or atmospheres ... For some years, I was used for example to go to India where I was used to follow some traditionnal muscians or to learn bharatanatyam and practice vipassana meditation... Of course this experience has impacted my art work.... This brought me to think and work differently... My experience in India brought me to discover traditionnal strong art and paradoxally to the way of Performance Art. But there I see one common point: to make no separation between art and life and to be here and now, without projection on the future.

It's difficult for me to speak about race and ethnic identity. But I can say that today we miss more and more this notion of “to be here and now” which is more present in some cultures ... By practising Performance Art, it's my way to be connected to this way of thinking. And even in this field actually it's more and more difficult. The society and the art world brings us more and more to plan in advance, to define our work, more than to do. Just to do. To do what we deeply need.

And of course, my encountering with Black Market International and later the notion of Open Source or Open session via PAErsche have also a big impact on my work. When we go on that, each of us perform by sharing time and space but without trying to convince each other on some common way. This is for me a wonderfull way how we can meet each other, regardless of our origin, our race or our “identity”...

Many of your works carry an autobiographical message. Since you transform your experiences into your artwork, we are curious, what is the role of memory in your artistic productions? We are particularly interested if you try to achieve a faithful translation of your previous experiences or if you rather use memory as starting point to create.

My memory is clearly a starting point to create. I don't have any autobiographical message. I use my personnal experience ( what I feel , what I see, what I learn, what I ear...) to work. It's a motor or a material. I'm not able to paint, so I can't do something with red or white or yellow or black colors. All I have is life, a body alive. And I need to do something with that...

My sensation about life sometimes is too intense then I need to transform this intensity in some action. Some artistic action... If people can take something from this action this is great... but I don't want to give them “a specific message” or to control the translation of my experience.