My artwork is based on my personal experience and understanding of the world. I use my own life as source material because I want to explore the topics first hand and have experiences that transform the issues for me. In particular I am attracted to examining themes of oppression and liberation because they allow me to use art to explain and contribute to society. But each artwork also has specific goals related to their topic.
When developing an artwork I ask myself open questions such as “What if I _____? What would that be like?
In 1987 I created Mouthpiece, a performance about stuttering to answer the question “What would it look like if I tried to stutter instead of hide it?” I created a performance where I was a lounge singer and stand up comedian. Perversely, since I set up a context where stuttering was expected, I suddenly did not stutter and ended up pretending to stutter. My goals were to challenge the taboo against talking openly about stuttering.
I wrote Strong Hearts, Inspired Minds: 21 artists who are mothers tell their stories, when I was a mother of a small child. I wanted to meet women trying to maintain both roles and learn from them. But it also reflected the larger issue of sexism within the art world and parenting. The 2-year process included reaching out to locate and chose women, interviewing them, and writing their stories.
The installation I Am My White Ancestors: Claiming the Legacy of Oppression emerged within the context of racism and my curiosity about the source of that institution. I asked myself What if I claimed my white identity fully? What would that look like? Again, the internal process of researching ancestors, adopting their personas through costuming and photography, and giving voice to their characters allowed me to understand my historic role in oppressions such as colonization, genocide, racism, and classism. I want to credit the influence of Reevaluation Counseling, an international peer counseling organization that emphasizes the elimination of all oppressions, specifically racism and classism.
Values that shape my artwork
- The more personal my work is, the more universal it becomes.
- Knowing our histories is essential to moving and growing.
- The unknown is our trusted friend.
- Listening can transform and create new ideas
- Human beings can emotionally heal themselves.
- Appreciations build relationships.
- Connections with other people are essential to me as an artist.
- There are many solutions to any issue.