Working in a number of media, the subject matters I explore focus on individuals and groups of people on the periphery of dominant culture and I enter their contexts to work from a position of inclusion that approaches, as closely as possible, the residing dynamics of social and psychological forces. My projects includeThe Bathers, Mirror Series, Missing Women: Disappearing Acts, Selling Venus/Vénus au miroir, Projections, Les Filles de la Croix, Pilgrims, Erlking, Strangers to Ourselves, and Self as Other.
Selling Venus/Vénus au miroir originated in a striptease club in Osaka, Japan and took me to the Crazy Horse in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Using photography and video, I recorded back-room rituals of beautification to explore the female gaze as it divides inwardly and outwardly in the frame of a make-up mirror. Selling Venus/Vénus au miroir investigates the process of subjectivity as it simultaneously coalesces and fragments in gesture and ritual, calling attention to the performative acts of self-transformation that women enact every day.
Les Filles de la Croix is a multidisciplinary artwork that proposes to unveil the hidden and profound lives of a disappearing order of nuns. In this work, I am interested in creating an atmosphere where stillness and temporality become tangible; a meditation on the texture of slowness, the nature of listening, and the relationship between attention and time. I collaborated with the Sisters of the Cross in the creation of this ten year-long project in Canada, Brazil, Argentina, and France. There I spent extensive periods of time in their convents where I painted portraits of the nuns, conducted one on one interviews, and photographed and videotaped the physical spaces in which they have spent most of their lives. My ongoing artistic concerns are further explored in this work by allowing me to create stages for female subjects that counter those that gender, race, and class stereotypes have relegated them to.
Throughout my artistic practice, I have been fascinated by the representation of the “other” — a figure both real and imagined — and the ways in which this figure embodies our deepest fears, our suppressed longings, and the infinite complexities of human life. The oil paintings, watercolours, and ink drawings in Pilgrims, explore notions of the “unbeautiful” and how the unbeautiful becomes permissible, and even desirable, under the guise of performance and public display. The work draws primarily from the sideshows of the early twentieth century and 1950’s burlesque. The performance group The Abzurbs, of which I am a founding member, also informs these paintings. Our collective merges burlesque, performance, music, and visual art, evoking the grotesque through absurd and purposeless play.
My fascination with the representation and embodiment of the other, the marginal figure, plunges inward in my newest projects Erlking, Strangers to Ourselves, and Self as Other to explore the unconscious other within.
The name Erlking is derived from the German Erlkönig, a fable of a malevolent creature that awaits the unsuspecting traveler in the depths of the wilderness, calling him to his fate. I have appropriated the Erlking as a manifestation of the self as other, whose beguiling power pulls us inextricably in; a reckoning of one’s own indeterminate self. In these photographs and videos I transform my physical self, using a wide array of props and materials, in order to explore and confront the other within. The mask and the act of performance play important roles in Erlking as vehicles of self-transformation and self-definition. By transforming my physical self, the personas evoked in Erlking are unfettered by the weight of the familiar and free to inhabit, albeit temporarily, ambiguous subjectivities. The performances are enacted in desolate landscapes, such as abandoned gold mines, frozen lakes, and barren woods. These remote locations are analogous to the deep recesses of nature where the Erlking is said to reside.
Images from the Erlking performances have become the foundation for the collage works Strangers to Ourselves where the figurative elements are deconstructed to further extremes. This process remains fluid by not fixing the collage to paper, which allows me to play with shifting compositions, the multiple iterations of which are documented throughout. The method used to document the collages exaggerates the shadow play between the heterogeneous photographic parts, paradoxically merging and pulling apart these hybrid forms and the fantastical environments they find themselves in.
The Self as Other video works broaden my exploration of the unconscious other within using contemporary dance and ballet. Merging or collapsing, stilled or erratic, at times hostile and others forgiving, the movements in each dance are intended to express the internal conflict of the self and the other, the ego and the unconscious, and the ambiguous subjectivities therein.
These new projects stem from a desire to dive into the unconscious where I and the other become mixed, disordered, divested and dislodged. My innate curiosity of the psychic territory of the subject compels me towards a deeper investigation of extreme expressions of selfhood as both a strategy for celebrating alterity and as a metaphor of the vast continuum of potentialities that exist within each of us.
To worry or to smile, such is the choice when we are assailed by the strange; our decision depends on how familiar we are with our ghosts. (Julia Kristeva)