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Relic

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Relic, 2012

Intaglio, acrylic, and found object on carved wood

Relic pays homage to medieval reliquary box structures and embodies concepts from my current body of creative work. Through metaphor, I communicate how natural cycles correspond to life experience by representing stages of growth and renewal within an environment that exhibits elements of decomposition and decay. The ambiguous landscape serves as a metaphor for human experience – the elusiveness of life, of illness, and of death; while the gourd is a symbol of healing, and the resiliency of life.

In this piece, I used intaglio prints on thin Japanese paper as collage elements on a carved, wooden-box structure. I carved in relief and filled in areas with acrylic paint prior to adding collage elements.

Relic is the first work in which I have incorporated a found object – the gourd. I have used the gourd as a subject in three previous works, two mixed-media drawings, and one traditional intaglio multiple-color edition print. By using the gourd itself and the spiritual context of the reliquary box, I have further enhanced the representation of stages of growth and renewal that are prevalent in my current body of creative work.

The two prints below were inspired by Leeks, a poem by Abbot Cutler, published in the March/April 2011 edition of Orion Magazine. The imagery embodies concepts from my current body of creative work.

I take what I have learned from living with a chronic illness, and translate it into a more universal language through the use of metaphor. I communicate how natural cycles of the world around us correspond to our life experiences and focus on capturing different stages of growth and renewal within an environment that exhibits elements of decomposition and decay. Ambiguous landscape and flower imagery serve as metaphors for human experience – the elusiveness of life, of illness, wellness, and of death.

Cutler’s poem speaks of dormancy and renewal. It evokes images from my father’s garden. It resonates with my belief in a person’s interconnectedness with nature, resiliency, and ability to heal.

 

Leeks (above) is a 30” x 22,” intaglio print with chine colle. 
 
Leeks II
 
Leeks II (above) is a 15” x 17” multiple-color intaglio print on Japanese paper using chine colle. This is a three color-plate image. A  separate plate is used for print each color. The plates are printed together to achieve the final image. In my work, multiple color imagery allows for spatial shifts and layering of planes that is not possible in the single plate images.
 
The finished series achieves the right balance of dormancy and renewal. The images have a mysterious, underwater quality, yet retain a sense of beauty and resiliency of life.

Coma Dreams

 Desert Dreamscape II (above) is the second in a series of mixed-media drawings on monoprints. It represents the third theme that I wrote about in my last post. The work is inspired by memories/dreams that I had during the four weeks that I spent in the ICU in a comatose state.

An image of a gourd represents me – trying to breathe. It is being pulled, tangled, and held in place by the landscape that surrounds it. The ambiguous landscape and relationship to the object serves as a metaphor for the memories/dreams from my coma.

A New Journey

I am beginning my first sabbatical. My posts will document my process and creative journey.  I am exploring three different themes in my imagery, sometimes incorporating more than one into a single image.

One new emerging theme focuses on pattern, repetition, and variety – in nature and in the way we learn. I am looking at leaves and root systems as subjects – reflecting on time spent with my daughter, collecting leaves, rocks, and seeds. Also, I have been observing her cognitive development while drawing with her. At four she appears to have an innate visual understanding of pattern, repetition, and variety, which has inspired my own imagery.

   

Roots (above), a black and white edition print represents this theme. They are proofs printed at different stages in developing the image. Roots is still in progress. I intend to work back into it to bring out a greater range of value and more linear qualities.

  Falling Leaves (above), also represents this theme. The leaves are more abstracted than objects in my earlier work because of the emphasis on pattern. This print remains in progress as well.

The second theme revisits imagery I have worked with in the past, but with a different perspective. I am looking at x-rays of hands damaged by rheumatoid arthritis. This work comes directly from my personal experience with the illness. Recently, I had to come off of my medication for rheumatoid arthritis for an extended period of time. During this time, I lost mobility in my fingers. My inspiration comes from the process of relearning how to use my hands.

 Movement (above) represents this new theme. It is a black and white edition print that serves as an example of my success working with spit bitten aquatint. It demonstrates the control I am gaining as I continue to refine my process.

The third theme comes directly from my personal experience with illness as well. In 2007, I came down with a severe case of pneumonia due to rare complications I had from a medication I was taking for rheumatoid arthritis. The medication was Enbrel (Etanercept). It caused my immune system to fail rapidly. My right lung collapsed and I was given a four percent survival rate. I was in the ICU for five weeks, four of which I spent in a drug-induced, paralyzed, comatose state. More specifically, the work is inspired by memories/dreams that I have from the coma.

  This gourd (above) is my subject. It represents me, near death. I am placing it in ambiguous landscapes that serve as a metaphor for the memories from my coma.

  This unfinished, wooden box piece (above) represents this theme. The two images show the process of developing one of these pieces. I am combining printed (intaglio and liography)  imagery with painted imagery on carved wood, through the use of layering and collage.

 Desert Dreamscape (to the left) is a mixed-media drawing on top of a monoprint. It also represents this theme. I often use drawing as a means to figure out how to approach new imagery in edition prints.

 This unfinished print (to the left) represents my approach to this theme with the intaglio process. 

  

It took me years to gain enough perspective to make art that spoke of managing the chronic pain of rheumatoid arthritis. This print and the mixed media pieces represent the beginning of the struggle to do so. My first attempts were too cold, frozen and lifeless. They showed the darker side of the illness…the loss.

I was more interested in the dichotomy of illness and wellness. There is a beauty encompassed by deeper understanding, and intensified emotions that comes out of experiencing loss. I wanted to capture this beauty. The introduction of the flower was a movement towards something more hopeful.

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This is a beginning, a documentation of past experiences, a story of illness, surviving and the creative work that is the result of this journey. It will also serve as a record of a new journey – my first sabbatical.

So, I start with the past…

At 22, I believed that with sheer determination and strength of will, I could accomplish anything. My confidence was not that which comes from experience – failure, endurance, and ultimately survival – but, from well laid plans and having everything fall into place. I graduated magna cum laude from University of Michigan with a BFA in Printmaking and Ceramics. After a year off from school, I was accepted into the printmaking program at University of Iowa – my first choice for graduate studies.

A few weeks later the pain started. Soreness, stiffness in my hands and my feet. In the shower, the shampoo bottle became my nemesis – I won the battle by opening it with my teeth and pressing it with my forearm. The pain got worse – it spread to my knees and elbows. I knew what it was. I had seen it in my mother – rheumatoid arthritis. I was too scared to act. I denied it.

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