In the autumn of 2018 I embarked on a documentary project with my friend and documentary director Karin Grand. The purpose was to capture and redefine where I was at at that moment in time. The film deals with a crossroads in my life where The Recycling Space Project, begun before my husband’s passing, assumed a new significance in light of this event. As a result my outlook towards the future shifted radically, and determined for me how to go forward by activating and awakening all of my resources as an artist.
Six months after the production of the video “Where to go”, I decided to continue the process of exploring my work through film. As a part of this project, I returned to a past series, the “Bestiary”, begun in the early nineties, packed up and out of sight for more than 25 years. Unpacking and re-finding these pieces was in some ways a revelation. It touched upon a long period in my past adult life and denoted a personal evolution.
In “Where to Go”, The Recycling focuses on the here and now of my work – how it intertwines with recent personal events. Here the actors leave earth without their bodies, and all that remains of the physical are their heads and consequently their minds. On the other hand, the Bestiary emphasizes the inside and outside of the body and how it mirrors what is happening within the mind.
I produced the series while being a very busy mother with an often absent, touring musician husband. During this period of production I worked where and whenever I could. My bedroom was my studio. The ensuing works needed to emerge no matter the circumstances.
The animals came first as an expression of a state of mind and a play on forms – all in dry pastel and oils in classical painting techniques. Then came the women and animals together. Here the animals were the externalization of the person’s inner life. At the end of a period of 4 years on this project, it culminated in the pastel drawing of the “Dumb Vampire” which you can see in the following video. For me, she became the ultimate expression of our archaic parts: needy, greedy, fighting and biting. She is “dumb” and dulled in her thinking process by her infantile impulses, where one acts out as opposed to elaborating one’s emotions.
My great surprise was to witness the visceral reactions, either totally negative, or totally positive to this series. I had created it with a definite sense of humor and maybe a little pathos – sometimes a bit dark and with a medieval touch of the symbolic. To see how strongly the public received these images in the late 1990’s remained a mystery to me, especially as I saw and still continue to see many colleagues depict far grimmer and disturbing works than these represent. I am curious now to reintroduce this series 30 years later.
The next video deals with the grim reality of our times, both past and present. It includes the Twin Tower series and the Holocaust. Reviewing these works reminds me of the futility of organised religion and its incapacity to save us from ourselves. As much as the “Dumb Vampire” is prey to her own inner workings, the enormity of war and persecution on a vast world level shows the complete lack of control and understanding of human beings to face and handle their inner demons. In the Bestiary I deal with the individual on an intimate level, whereas in Human Tragedy I work on the concept of collective madness where all thought disappears.
The following video is an artist’s book in which I explore my love of science. On a trip to London I wandered into a large market and found a stand covered, literally, with hundreds of exotic insects preserved in resin originally from the London Museum of Natural Science. I was immediately attracted to their shapes and colours and brought as many as I could afford back to Florence.
This book was produced in my home, outside the studio. The project being miniature and graphic in nature, meant I could work anywhere, keeping connected to my work flow no matter what.
The following artist book video is based on my mother, her life story and the slow deterioration of her mind over a period of thirteen years. I made four books about the evolution of her illness, punctuating the different stages as a way for me to deal with the pain. I had made the books with a certain technical naiveté, using gold leaf for the first time with no prior experience nor instruction. Going through the works brought back memories of how I had felt during the process; I was reminded of her undaunted spirit, her great American immigrant’s tale of survival. Her courage gave me the courage to face the past and it saddened me that she was deprived of enjoying the fruits of her labor in the last years of her life. The books were a tribute to her humanity and how she supported and influenced my life and path as an artist.
The Title “I came upon some tiny words” was a poem I had written a couple of years before using it in the context of this very tiny artist book. It was inspired by an argument between my upstairs neighbours. I used an extremely small dictionary that had followed my family everywhere, through every country and every move. I spent two months on its incredibly meticulous production, with gold and silver leaf and tempera paint.
In ” A talk about technique” I briefly touch upon academic technical training as a necessary means for the artist to reach full freedom of expression in conveying his/her ideas. Nevertheless it should never overrule the vision expressed through the composition of space, form and color. Taking ultimate risks is a “hit and win” or a “hit and miss” undertaking. Only experience enables an artist to control the outcome. The excitement lies precisely in the fact that one never completely controls what emerges from the piece. The challenge is to play with this and shape the unexpected, initiating the spectator into a sense of mystery.