I am an interdisciplinary artist rooted in painting. History, spiritual practice, and human connection feed my artistic practice. I use history to frame contemporary concerns. I’m fueled by feminism, and the cultural politics of spirituality, as they encounter the authority of canonical art historical works.
I have primarily based my work on Renaissance portraits, and the histories and collections that contextualize them. My paintings seek to critique and expand accepted art-historical narratives by asserting authority of a different kind. In order to do so, I employ a shamanic drumming practice that I grew up learning from a shaman in order to alter the paintings. Following these drum journeys, I have reproduced Renaissance portraits with the addition of integrated animal spirit guides. I am now also working with living people, historic paintings and their shared spirit animals. The shamanic and historic narrative also form audio pieces; trance-inducing epic poems in art historical language.
My recent paintings have focused on reproducing and altering familiar portraits from the 15th to mid-19th century; I have also altered 18th to 19th century exisitng copies of earlier masterpieces, usually in colaboration with a collector. While the paintings appear straightforward, they develop out of a complex historical and conceptual practice. To begin, I research the female sitters as well as the artists, the context of the commission, and and other historical context of the portraits. I then embark upon a drum journey, working with this knowledge of the sitter to discover their spirit guide. I then paint spirit-animals into the composition, which is intended to reveal suppressed expressions of the sitter, the woman under gaze. The animal’s demeanor fills in missing information regarding the sitter’s own suppressed identity, her relationship to the painter, the process of the portrait, and the collector, who is often the sitter's husband or father.
I curate groups of source paintings and craft historical fictions, based on the journeys and the animals, that connect the sitters across time and space. The portraits are painted in the pristine, lush fashion of master workshops, and the fictions are listened to in with audio-guide technology. The fictions have also been displayed as long, narrative titles, and included in audio guides, gallery talks, performances, and video. This narrative component provides many avenues for engagement with methods of representing history, as well as questions about social and cultural power.
Within current artistic dialogues, I connect contemporary life to the suppressed voices of these women sitters, to produce an artifact that honors the affected transformation. Among Feminism’s various iterations, I view the necessity of this continued dialogue to be based in the non-linear, sacred, and feminine, regardless of gender. This view is extant with the cultural zeitgeist; viewers are drawn in to the process. Though there are objects displayed in galleries, the work is rooted in relationships, interactions, connection, and resulting transmutations.
The processes involved have taken on a number of forms. I have begun to work directly with sitters, of any gender, taking them through the drum journey process, and investigating their possible spirit guides. The shaman, like the art historian, is an authority figure; I tap into this power in order to introduce multi-layered, incongruous “truths,” producing cognitive dissonance and, at the limit, inducing a trance - like state which provides new windows into interrogating accepted ideas of authority and authorship of one’s experience. I’m currently developing sound pieces for existing galleries in permanent museum collections at The Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia and the Doria Pamphilj Gallery in Rome, and have similar sound pieces which accompany groupings of my paintings for gallery exhibitions. These sound pieces offer varying levels of access to the work, and encourage new perspectives on the history and practice of painting.