Concepts of good/ evil, victim/ aggressor change through time, but are somehow always mediated over the territory of the female body. My work reimagines archetypes and stories that come out of that mediation and have followed women all the way into contemporary culture.
From riding a motorcycle for the past thirty years to using body paint as a means of engaging racial issues and gender norms, my recent work comes out of an art practice developed over decades, one in which I lived the subject without filter and that at times has extended my studio practice beyond it’s walls.
Being a biker is part of my practice. Motorcycles are traditionally associated with men, sexuality, rebellion, freedom and danger. A woman riding a motorcycle is a cyborg: genderless, body-machine. My series, Naked Bike, begins when the ride ends and the woman walks into female.
I have been body painting myself and friends since the early 80’s—turning white men black, black men white, white women black, and black women white-
we made and make impromptu performances of glued on fur, hair, raw meat- adding industrial materials, tubes sticking out of various orifices becoming golems, with armature wire we become queens, running roughshod through the boundaries of self and other.
Ultimately, my performances and artworks are a physical expression of a life lived while simultaneously engaging the viewer and myself on questions of beauty, race, gender and who gets to talk about the what, why, how and when in America.
UNCANNY LADY M
With my series of large-scale photographs and paintings titled ‘The Uncanny Lady M’, I’ve combined a science fiction landscape with a revisionist narrative for the significant, exciting leading ladies who enter a storyline only to be become the main male character’s trophy, quietly ushered off stage when no longer needed.
Shakespeare’s Lady Macbeth, the leading lady of ‘Macbeth’, whose gender thwarts the ferocity of her ambitions, mouths ”Come, you spirits that tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here…” in Act I, Scene 5. By Act 5, she’s sleepwalking out of the story.
Lady Macbeth’s story was desperately ripe for revision, so I re-imagined her as a cyborg queen, a post-human machine without the constraints of morality, class, race or gender.
Pre-production involved sculpting face and body coverings, abstracted ‘crowns’ for Lady M’s queen takeover. Fashioned from skin pricking wire mesh, mylar and plastic tubing, all of which serve to enhance, obscure and, at times restrain the body in provocative ways.
For the initial photo shoot, I asked invited women to imagine themselves as the badass beauty wearing only the sculpted crown and to interact with a distorted image of themselves formulated via a sheet of reflective mylar.
Ultimately, the individual performer’s sense of identity merges with the physical parameters of the set. The actual woman and her misrepresentation become one.
Disquieting beauties of pain and pleasure, these women are fiercely themselves, becoming the elements in a non-verbal alphabet within the poetry of the re-imagined body.
IS THE ROOM
In 2013 I was asked by Debra DiBlasi of Jaded Ibis Press to make a visual interpretation of Rosetta Ballew Jenkin’ first published book of poems, “IS THE ROOM”.
In Rosetta's poem 'As if she were something opened', there is a sentence "she lines the walls with herself". The 'she' "Is The Room". The walls are the space between her unconscious mind and hard edge reality. Her perceived acts, relationships, her life's past, present and future are now projected onto the walls of this one dream room.
I am exploring that metaphor of 'the wall' or the space between the 'realness' of our subconscious and what can be the subjective fantasies of reality.
In giving visual form to this idea, I invited a group of friends to my studio for a portrait session--not of themselves, but a portrait/performance of the space surrounding them, the outline that defines their relationships to themselves, each other, and to myself as recorder.
My set is very simple--light,a white wall and some studio materials. Mylar for its 'distorted' images and glassine- a transparent drawing paper 'boundary' that can be punched, pummeled and ripped down.
Thus, the stage is set for what is turning out to be a series of very personal and surprising scenarios.