Artist Statement (for GALLERY scroll down)
I am thinking of intimacy, frailty and aversion. Vulnerabilities in the body from which we turn away. As if we are separate. Planets. And the autumn leaves we take home and press between those of a book. Is a kiss a breach? Failing to, what dis-ease festers?
This project began contemplating the idea of breaches. I observed breaches that harm and breaches that save. A whistle- blower may breach institutional policy in order to stop a greater injustice. A door or window may be broken to save a person trapped within. Very recently my father, otherwise quite healthy, underwent emergency bypass surgery. Despite the intent, all of these breaches constitute acts of violence.
The function of these disposable masks is to protect the wearer and/or those around her; the masks are also symbolic indicators of vulnerability, leakage, and—depending on who is wearing the mask—a demarcation of power, frailty or danger. Finally, such masks obscure the part of the body by which we most easily recognize one another as individuals.
Meanwhile, October. Trees changing color, dropping their skirts. The falling leaves are an outward sign of an internal shift as the tree prepares for sleep. They indicate a time when the tree can no longer prepare food. Unlike the autumn foliage, humans often avoid humans when they show signs of frailty. I have been guilty of this. Perhaps this has to do with a discomfort with our mortality. Perhaps this has to do with a commercial aesthetic that glorifies youth and health over other equally natural (and beautiful) states of being. Our aversion to frailty, vulnerability, aging, dying can lead prematurely to perhaps the greatest loss—that of intimacy.
While the outsides of my masks thickened with scabs of glue and gauze and leaves in various stages of decomposition, I wanted the interiors to hold something private-- intimate but similarly fragmented. I discovered a stack of discarded books. I tore leaves from those texts, and excised language that felt intimate or seductive, that would reward the viewer who leaned in for a closer look.
The current embodiments of this exploration are an art installation and 10 accordion bound books. Five books fold flat and maybe displayed horizontally. Five are designed to be suspended from the ceiling. For the installation, masks are suspended from nylon thread at varying heights approximating adult heads. Suspension from a single point allows the masks to twist in the air suggesting both leaves mid-flight and missing persons.
It is my hope that the space created by the unoccupied masks invites the viewer to lean in and consider their own relationship to frailty, aging and mortality, to become gentler with themselves and to foster greater intimacy with others.
Assemblage: disposable surgical masks, mod podge, trace amounts wax paper, acrylic paint, discarded texts, oil pastel, chalk, charcoal, ink, deciduous leaves, gauze, embroidery floss.
Graves, Robert. Wife to Mr. Milton: The Story of Marie Powell. Middlesex, England: Penguin, 1954. First published: Cassell, 1942.
Lahr, John and Jonathan Price. Life Show: How to See Theater in Life and Life in Theatre. New York: The Viking Press, 1973.
Musical Instruments Through The Ages. Ed. Anthony Baines. Baltimore: Pelican Books, 1961.
Smiley, Jane. At Paradise Gate. Advance uncorrected proofs. New York: Simon and Shuster, 1981.