Rather than build a portfolio arranged by medium or date I have organized my work by content. Themes that fascinate – memory, landscape, self-orientation, and language– are catalysts for chosen forms. Inevitably, these subjects interrelate and have produced hybrids and variations over the past forty plus years.
Much of my studio practice has stemmed from an ardent interest in illuminated manuscripts. In the 1980’s, along with with a decision to concentrate on intimate page-sized works, I began a modest project of eight small paintings based on the canonical divisions of time in Medieval Books of Hours*. Imagery from these pictures including recurring references to optical devices that have now woven through almost 100 works. My ongoing interest in tools for looking, especially telescopes and microscopes, pervades the section named Observatory/Orbit.
Themes of illumination and vision are bridges into other groupings here as well. Perhaps the most enduring insight for me concerning illuminated pages has been the reanimation of an ideal that paintings themselves are and are meant to be tools for passage. Calibrated visual language creates as much of a threshold as any ‘Once upon a time’. These thresholds comprise subjective lines drawn between secular and sacred or public and private and drive both motive and curiosity in the sections Carpet/Gate and Forest/Garden.
This is not to say however, that text is not its own gateway. Politically, books themselves have become especially relevant in the past decades. Despite the popular idea that books are becoming irrelevant in a context where we consume vastly greater chunks of digital information, books are indeed the subjects of important new scholarship. Literacy, ownership, gender, the dissemination of information, and even the physical engineering of books are all issues being looked at with fresh eyes. Some of the most surprising and creative shifts in theories of brain science relate to reading and echo back to sources proposed in medieval cosmologies.
Within my own work, books and the written word are of central importance. The several series represented under the heading Page/Script use literary forms or containers as content. Fields of sound, silence and syncopation continually assert pressure on meaning– especially in the accordion books. My collaborations with writers have sharpened my hearing and shape many of these works. Through this process, I am becoming more aware that my imagination can be barricaded by my native tongue. As descriptive vocabularies shrink alongside texting, handwriting and calligraphy have become more potent.
*The term ‘the hours’ refers to an eight-part cycle of prayer and/or chant still practiced in some monasteries and abbeys today. The eponymous schedule was prescribed for home use and coincidentally removed the mediation of personal prayer by the clergy. Completely handmade and painted at first, after the invention of the printing press, Books of Hours became Europe’s first best sellers. They have been credited with creating new and powerful role models for women as well as with the rise of literacy in a burgeoning middle class.