To be a maker of art objects at a time when our visual media are increasingly presented in virtual forms, without a tangible body; in a place where artists are becoming increasingly more cramped for space; I am more careful and mindful each time I use my creativity to bring another object into the world. “What purpose will this artwork serve in my life, and what purpose do I want it to serve for my viewer?” These are the types of questions I ask myself as I construct my cut paper pieces. In this body of work, the choice to make paintings in a physical form rather than digital is more than a technical preference but a way for me to explore why a still, one-of-a-kind image deserves to occupy space in our lives.
I grew into my identity as a painter because I realized my need to create is linked to my mental health. In my early work, expression was everything to me: My work’s primary purpose was to construct a visual language to communicate my identity to the world and I thought very little about what would happen to my work once it was completed. However, in recent years, I find myself needing my artwork to be more than an expression of my identity but also an ingredient for my legacy, and an emblem for my spiritual path
In my research for the body of work presented in Unearthed, Unveiled, I studied abstract paintings by Lee Krasner and Arthur Dove and the Oceanic Arts collection at the DeYoung Museum in San Francisco. I’m fascinated how artworks made on opposite ends of the globe from each other all use mark-making (carved marks, brushstrokes and drawn marks) as a storytelling tool. In Lee Kranser’s series Night Journeys, she created works that used wild, gestural arcs as a conduit to work through her marriage strife and her insomnia. A few decades earlier, Arthur Dove used paint to transform the random rhythms found in nature into spiritual and sensual symbols. Artists in Papua New Guinea and Northern Australia use patterns, geometric forms and cross-hatching to form a personal visual language to describe real events, but also dreamed experiences in bark paintings and polychromed sculpture. In tandem with the artists I described above, I, too am energized by the rhythms in nature; the cathartic quality of the painterly gesture and the idea of art-making as a spiritual practice.
Over the past four years, I have been exploring the possibilities of using cut paper as a means to develop my own visual language. Within these works, I’m interested in displaying a sense of tension between opaque sharp-edged forms and the more diaphanous delicate forms. The systems I’ve developed to mix collage, painting and drawing provide me a formal structure for conveying this tension, and also a narrative stage. A rite of passage, a first attempt at communication, an excavation of something long hidden: These are the events portrayed on my narrative stage. The title Unearthed, Unveiled resonates because the essence of this work is about the revealing and examining of a hidden life-form…a latent intelligence that yearns to be given the chance to communicate.
In my quest to create artwork that goes beyond being autobiographical and identity-centric, I’ve started to think of my art practice as a way to form new icons—symbols that speak to a mixing of influences and the overlapping of cultures and belief systems that so enrich our community and my life. My hope is that these artworks create a grounding and iconic impact each time the viewer passes by, but also a layered visual that invites an ever-changing interpretation.