My narrative collage-paintings are an evolving, deeply personal reflection on my life and my family’s colorful history. I create two-dimensional vignettes made up of many layers. My paintings are created in oils on wood panel or canvas, but I often use a variety of processes and materials to achieve the finished work. I layer paint, cut-paper collage, different transparent tissues, vellums, fabrics, tin milagros and religious medals, even candy wrappers to create a dimensional and cohesive whole. Layering colors and textures, my aim is to create a shifting, dream-like atmosphere, a window into a different world.
My paintings often deal with the construction of identity; the way we gather items to ourselves-both sentimental ephemera, and the patchwork of memories, perceptions and vanities that we use to cobble together a sense of self. I often use scraps of ribbon and lace and broken bits of sentimental trinkets to embellish my paintings, or religious medals and tin milagros that speak to my Roman Catholic upbringing.
My work frequently explores issues of beauty, captivity, confinement and discomfort. The female figures that I paint are central to my work. Archetypal stand-ins, I wrap my characters in layers of tulle and lace. Frequently, I portray them entangled or framed in some kind of organic tangle of vegetative matter. There is an undercurrent of anxiety, and also purpose, to their actions. They are en route to mysterious destinations or engaged in inexplicable tasks. The viewer wonders about the role that these women play. The question of female sexual availability has always been one that interests me, and in my work I deliberately portray my characters in an undefined role, and as participants in a visual reality where they are the lone subjects.
The carnival is another predominant theme in my work. My great-grandfather owned a travelling carnival called Prudent’s Amusement Shows, which toured through the 1950s and 1960s. I have often heard my mother and grandmother tell vivid stories about the many seasons they worked there, and this has given me a life-long enthusiasm for carnival culture. There is a sense of transience and grit which undergirds the brightness of this world, and that sense of unease draws me to try to capture that dreamlike feeling, the sense of something half-remembered. I’m inspired by the dizzying whirl of the carnival- the lights at night, the glitter, the bright faded metal structures looming against the sky, promising danger and a giddy rush of adrenaline.
These themes are intertwined with many other inspirations- the changing colors of sea and sky through different lights and weather that I observe in my tiny coastal hometown. Old-fashioned children’s illustrations, and the way that they tell a straightforward narrative but inform the telling with such a grace and elegance; among my favorites are Tenniel, Arthur Rackham and Hilary Knight. Victorian stage sets, and the atmosphere of willful, beautiful artificiality that they create; the stacked two-dimensional layers that together, form a living environment of depth and harmony. All these disparate elements serve to inform a world of my own making that I seek to make visible one small window at a time.