If there is no spoon in the saltcellar: a subversion of Emily Post's On Entertaining

Lies Drawing Flies

Deer Goddesses, Weirdlings, and Dreamlings: My Paper Dolls

Field Notes on Pain and Memory

Artist Statement and Project Descriptions

            I am a mixed-media artist and writer living just outside the town of Joshua Tree where I was born. A child of two houses, each set in its own strange desert microclimate, I had to learn to appreciate how nature could (and would) all of a sudden rearrange our yards, our roads, our lives. My father’s house in Joshua Tree was nestled in a small, paved neighborhood just a stone’s throw from the west entrance of the national park. A collector of rusted desert treasures, his property was a collage of artifacts. My second home was in the neighboring town of Landers (population less than 1,000 at the time) known for the Integratron (a cell rejuvenation and alien contact dome) and a 7.6 earthquake that cast doublewides from their foundations in June of 1992. Halfway down a rutted dirt road called Starshine, the Lander’s house was not far from the county landfill and just two hundred yards from a neighbor who terrorized us when I was small. My stepfather made a menagerie of the house and surrounding five-acre parcel with carvings of eagles, vultures, bears, and withered faces he received as rent from a local chainsaw artist. Everything had eyes that followed. In the big earthquake, the cabinets and shelves emptied themselves of every color and texture of antique glass. Marauders, wind, floods, aftershocks, freezing temperatures, and the sun regularly defaced what we held precious. There were also plenty of days when everything was eerily still under an impossible stretch of blue sky. Naturally I became attracted to the risk, disappointment, and surprise of mixed media. I like the mess. The shards. The cracks in the molding. The faces hidden in the walls and bushes. The times, too, when a piece doesn’t move for days and I stare and stare, waiting to learn what it wants to become. 

           "If there is no spoon in the saltcellar": a subversion of Emily Post's On Entertaining began with a roiling sense of irony during March and April’s quarantine: most of us would not be entertaining anyone except ourselves and failing even at that. Despite our gadgets and 24-7 streaming, many of us would feel lonelier than we have felt before, especially those of us who live alone or are trapped in unhappy relationships. The decorum of playing host or holding functions or having to appear in public went out the finger-smudged window (why bother to clean it or anything—who is going to see?). And after a month or so even wearing pants or a bra or sitting down to eat began to feel like posturing. Lingering at my bookshelf to find what was left to read, my brain snagged on the word “entertaining” and thought that’s hilarious. 

 

            The book came from my paternal grandmother (born 1925) who followed many of Post’s “guidelines” on etiquette especially when it came to dining and hosting. I’ve put to use an array of tactics to upset (tousle, upend, and befuddle) the text and make it new—erasure, blackout, collage, scraping, scratching, ripping, needling, layering, transferring, defacing, etc. Many of the images come from vintage Life Magazines dating as far back as 1931. I find much of Post’s micromanaging (a term as foreign to my grandmother’s generation as “mansplaining” though she would know exactly what I was talking about as soon as I gave examples) to be darkly funny: “If there is no spoon in the saltcellar, use your fingers to take a pinch of the salt.” Oh, my dear! It’s a good thing Emily had advice for that precarious situation—how many people did she save from humiliation? It can be fun to poke at social practices of the past that now appear neurotic and oppressive, and I certainly am having fun doing so. But I also can’t help but see the darkness of any text that seeks to regulate and normalize behavior, especially the behavior of women—and I can’t help but acknowledge that the pandemic (and obvs the lingering sick-cloud of 45) have set feminism back to 1950’s standards in every aspect. And so viewers may find “If there is no spoon in the saltcellar” tonally complex or perhaps tonally uneven, which is unavoidable, I think, when trying to dissect and pin all parts of the organism. 

            Many of the pieces in my project use erasure to create small poems or mantras that lift female-identifying persons up out of the mire of stereotypical domestic captivity and reaffirm their individuality and potency. Others are still-life collages of a time that seems at once vintage and disquietingly present. The project is a celebration of women’s advancement and also a recognition of the progress that still needs to be made. I know that my grandmother, who was a feminist and “the hostess with the mostess” would be proud. 

             I had already been exploring the usage of insects in my collage work, but seeing that fly sit on Mike Pence's head for two minutes while he spewed lies and promised to take away the healthcare of millions of Americans and abolish a woman's right to choose, I decided to double-down and begin a series called "Lies Drawing Flies." I love moths, crickets, dragonflies, spiders, ants, and all that crawls and flies--even flies. Insects are the messengers, pollinators, and garbage collectors that make human life possible. They remind us  that perfection is an illusion, that even in our fancy suits and dresses, we are walking bags of blood and bile. They show up when our egos would rather they did not. They help us keep it real. They call us on our shit. 

             I've also been laboring over some paper dolls that I call "Deer Goddesses" and "Ghost Deers." The initial catalyst was my love for Jennifer K. Sweeney's poem, "Antlers." These dolls, like much of my work, are ephemeral--reflective of our brief and often absurd time as living creatures. It is also my intention that the pieces are imbued with feminine strength and resilience, the “I have been here forever and will remain despite the thousand cuts,” gaze. My heart breaks for the wildlife lost to California's wildfires. 

 

            And because I am the kind of artist who works in a symphony of ideas, I’m also engaged with a slow-going project on pain and memory, specifically the pain of endometriosis, the memory of the body. Maybe it’s slow because crystals and cactus are at the center of the project, their spikes and surfaces bursting at a molecular crawl through female abdomens and heads. 

           Thank you for your interest in my art and website. If you are a gallery owner or art magazine editor and would like to feature my work, please reach me through this site. An online shop for my artwork is coming soon! 

What They Don't Tell You

Mixed Media, 11" x 14"