Art as Activism
I am a visual storyteller. My art, even when ostensibly abstract, holds a narrative. I am updating my ABOUT statement during the fourth month of the California COVID-19 shelter-in-place mandate so I am deeply impacted by the devastation of this experience. Some people note that without the schedule of a job or school, the nature of time loses its driving force; isolation is boring. Not for me. Along with most artists, I crave solitude to create. As for the nature of time, art-making follows its own rhythm. I am not unique in my need to create order out of chaos; we all must make sense of our complex world. I do it through the physical process of making art where my choosing materials and arranging marks and objects in a composition integrates with my organization of ideas into a completed tangible statement.
My art pursuit became an emergency with the 2016 election and the Trump administration’s assault on perceived enemies. His list doesn’t stop until he “wins” and consequently, imperils our democracy, climate change, environmental protections, the rule of law, immigrants, people of color, women, children and anyone who disagrees with him. My visual story telling turns to warning shouts with the appeal to restore order and decency.
“The Host of Plagues” (left & home page), from my “Women Warriors” series was created when I first sheltered-at-home. A plague must have a host to survive. The Black Plague of the mid-1300s swept through Europe because no one understood science; the blame fell on the infidels. The president and his followers choose to politicize the coronavirus rather than embrace science. “The Host of Plagues” has a double thrust: 1) Each plague must have a host to thrive. 2) The human host has the tools of science to conquer this plague. Mask process (clockwise, from lower left) 1. Glue wood bowl face onto background 2. Select materials 3. Paint wood snake, COVID knots, critters 4. Glue painted flowers, COVIDs, critters onto wood shield.
The environment and social issues have been the subject of my art for many years. My hydraulics engineer father taught me to respect the earth. Ecology was a term used in our family long before it was popularized. Science is not a fringe belief but evidence-based reality. (Try defying gravity and see what it gets you: broken limbs.) Both of my parents, from immigrant families who fled Jewish programs in Romania and Russia, taught us to respect our Constitution and Bill of Rights; to strive for equality, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all. When we resided in pre-civil rights Jacksonville Beach, Florida, my father led me to the back of the bus—the only place where blacks were allowed to sit—because he wanted his young daughter to never forget the wrong and indignity of racism.
“Bed of Roses” (left & home page) expresses my solidarity with Black Lives Matter. The roses and leaves are created from fragments of newspaper articles reporting the protests against racist police brutality. The messages aren’t always visible in the finished rose, so I also created leaves. Mask Process (rows top to bottom/left to right) 1. Inspiration of cat mummy wrapping 2. Paper mâché face coated with paint 3. Mask on shield with primed sword and butterfly wings 4. Mask coated with fragments of paper grocery bags 5. Newspaper selection 5. Demonstration of rose construction 6. Basic pieces for roses 7. Three completed newspaper roses
As you wind your way through my website, you will see that I use the medium most suitable to make my statement: painting, drawing, clay, assemblage, site art. Defining my art by materials is limiting; I define it by subject matter. I will periodically update this page with examples of my art process.