In 1969, just after my second child was born, I began to make batik paintings. I waxed and dyed them part-time while raising daughter & son and working in the just-beginning “second wave” of the women’s movement, co-authoring the women’s health book “Our Bodies, Ourselves.”
From 1983 on I batiked full-time. But in1986 the process no longer felt alive and came to a standstill, though I had lists of ideas – sayings, poems, dreams. I began to question the safety of using napthol dyes and breathing the steam from melting wax in a double boiler.
Oddly, remembering a TV program about Romare Bearden, an African-American artist, that I’d seen on TV a few years before, I was lucky enough to find an exhibit of his work in New York City, one of his last before he died (though I did not know that then). Grounded in the places and stories of his life in African-American communities, magical, and with incandescent colors, his collages pierced me right through my heart. I felt the ground opening under my feet, the world widening and deepening around me. He expanded my vision of what was possible. I wept tears of joy!
I began my own painting/collages. Freed from the confines of waxing and dyeing, of having to work from light to darker colors, I discovered crayons, watercolors, acrylics, cut & torn paper, pen, pencil, pastels, oils — separately and in combination.
This new way of working was sharp, instantly immediate, compared to the lengthy layering process of batik. Sometimes I had an image or thought in mind, easy to develop. Or it took days to discover what the subject or theme will be, then hours to find the right shape, color, pattern, texture, mood. It became a treasure hunt. As for colors, acrylic paint, so forgiving, is always changeable: I could quickly layer, scratch through, blur, intensify, lighten, darken.
In 1991 I entered Vermont College’s MFA Program in Visual Arts, originated by Roy Levin (and now part of the Vermont College of Fine Arts). Five residency periods offered a wealth of talks and critiques by artists and art historians — a two-year feast.
Afterwards, over these past 28 years, up until now, I have created a series of Houses, Political Statements, Magic Women, Birds, Myths, Abstracts, and Tributes for people I love. I may begin with a poem, an image, a myth, an idea or a memory, even with a sense of outrage. Some painting/collages draw me in right away at the start. Others take a lot of time and preliminary work to reach that magic time when they require me to do their bidding. Each painting makes it clear that only certain colors or shapes will fit in certain places. I have to pay attention to what they tell me, look very hard, wait for the answers. When the making of them finally flows and time disappears — these are moments of amazing grace.
To you, the viewers: My paintings tell stories — sometimes I know what they are about and sometimes I haven’t a clue. I love it when you invent your own.