The unifying theme of my body of work has been a focus on the energized interior space that is the requisite characteristic of both architecture and the traditional ceramic vessel.
Over the past 25 years I have developed and honed the technique of “weaving” clay coils, a process defined by textile designer, Jack Lenor Larsen, as “both a concept and a system.” I work exclusively with plastic clay coils to create my “space nets,” organic constructions that are enclosed, seamlessly, with no obvious evidence of where they begin or end. The naturally occurring window-like openings between the coil grids allow visual access into the interior and give the illusion that I am constructing a form with voids.
Although it is multi-referential, with connections to nature, the work of women, animal architecture and the patterns that are formed when disparate elements become knitted together into a greater whole, my process of interlacing clay coils was never derivative of textiles or fabric construction. Rather, interlacing enables me to reflect on the space enclosed within the porous walls to convey the idea of containment, at the same time, blurring the boundaries between in and out. And volume, the emptiness between things, is at the heart of my work. My space nets are reflections on the “white space” that defines the tangible. The open appearance of my work has led to a description by one artist and critic, Richard Zakin, as “containing more air than space.”
The Vortex Series: Constructing with Voids
Since 2005 I have been working on a series of interlaced double-walled structures. In the Vortex Series it is possible to see through the outer wall to the inner wall, thus, illustrating an inward looking theme of world-within-worlds. Without indication of a beginning or end these structures relate to the mysterious nature of the vortex and the possibilities of the infinite.
My original inspiration for this series was Native American pottery of the Early and Middle Woodland periods (1000 BCE – 1000 CE). Gradually my work evolved from the symmetry of Woodland pottery to a more fluid organic presence, in some pieces, alluding to the architecture of Frank Gehry. However, the Vortex Series retains the minimalist Japanese philosophy of “ma,” the “emptiness between things,” or, as Claude Debussey called it, “the space between the notes.” It is the nothingness, the vacuum that gives substance to space and activates the expression of the whole.
The Architecture of Light Series
The Architecture of Light Series began in 2012 as an experiment in translucence. The seed of an idea has been percolating since I attended a 2010 residency and invitational symposium at the International Ceramic Studio in Kecskemét, Hungary. While there I worked with especially pure porcelain clay from the Herend Porcelain Manufactory. The work I produced from the high fired (1450°C), non-porous, white clay was translucent in the areas where I laid thin slabs over my coil structure. A breakthrough came during a residency at the Women’s Studio Workshop in Rosendale, NY. I replaced the thin clay slab with a paper “skin” that acts as a veneer over the clay infrastructure.
The final result communicates an enigmatic relationship between architectural elements of interior and exterior, and conveys the quality of a mysterious visual sanctuary that exudes light from within. The visual impact of the light on the diaphanous paper changes the appearance of the work dramatically.
Visual stimuli and immersion in new cultures and environments through artist residencies have resulted in an on-going body of work. The Eco Series makes connections between my interlaced forms and the environment, both natural and manmade. In each unique residency experience I take an architectonic approach that explores the concept of living structures through temporary site-specific installations that are infused with a sense of place.
Originally designed as an interactive project for my Residency at the Museum of Arts and Design, New York City, The Penelope Project is, visually, a radical departure from previous work. By inviting visitors to the Museum's Open Studios to carve their names and nationalities into the leather-hard clay arches, I brought the idea of interlacing to the forefront by focusing on the concept of weaving as a means of interconnectedness. It underscores a connected approach to life in which different threads are integrated into one tapestry.
Individual arches that comprise the threads of Penelope are insignificant forms. It is the gestalt, the wholeness of the units, that become more than the sum of its parts, each simple arch contributing to the strength and beauty of the tapestry as a whole.
The title, The Penelope Project, was taken from Greek mythology. Penelope, whose name literally means weaver, used a successful stalling tactic to avoid remarriage while she waited for her husband, Odysseus, to return from the Trojan War. She promised to wed again only after she finished weaving a burial shroud for her father-in-law. Weaving all day, Penelope secretly unraveled part of her work by night.
The story of Penelope, the unweaving weaver, appeals to me because it celebrates and elevates the process of creating over the end result of creating. The rhythms of making and unmaking mirror the cycles of life, birth and death, growth, decay and re-growth.