My best artwork comes from a place inside of me that is full of spontaneity. That place is neither too intellectual nor overly emotional. It is a place where I am fully in the moment, able to see possibility and to respond with joy to what my senses are perceiving. Such is the case with the work pictured here.
This is a breakthrough piece, and it has led to a deep wellspring of artistic inspiration. I didn’t plan that this piece would be so important to me. In fact, it was accidental. I had been working for several weeks with unusual materials, including Styrofoam and pantyhose. I wanted to make my work large but light in weight. I had been carving Styrofoam, stuffing pantyhose with pillow stuffing, manipulating papier-mâché, and testing light weight sculptural materials
As part of that exploration, I had crafted the forms in the piece above and arranged them on a very large sheet of Styrofoam. I had spent several days re-configuring the elements and trying to find both imagery and composition that were pleasing to me. Thematically, I had been exploring the dark side of power and trying to comprehend the impact of generational violence on women. I had made gruesome Raggedy Ann dolls from pantyhose and grotesque clown figures from colored tights.
As I worked, I had many associations with pantyhose, as most women do. Pantyhose are uncomfortable. They are confining. They make women bulge out in unattractive places. The wearing of pantyhose emerges from a set of cultural expectations that have restricted and defined women for decades. Stuffing pantyhose was enjoyable because it allowed me to be somewhat counter-cultural. I could make figures that were wild and unruly. Lots of emotions started to bubble to the surface. The stuffed pantyhose readily became body parts. It easily formed facial expressions and inner organs. The material was fragile yet very fluid. My hands enjoyed the texture and flexibility.
The precursor to the work pictured above was the sixth or seventh piece that I had created from pantyhose. However, I didn’t like the final state of the precursor piece, and I disassembled it, intending to discard the elements. When I held the soft, stuffed forms, I couldn’t quite bring myself to toss them into the trash, however. They were so interesting and squeezable. Spontaneously, I decided to keep the forms for possible use later, and I started to weave them in and out of the grid on the wall of my studio because I couldn’t figure out where else to store them.
Quickly, I realized that I had invented a unique process. I could actually push the stuffed pantyhose through the metal grid and create evocative imagery. When I arrived at what felt like a complete statement, I grabbed a frame and hung it on the grid to surround the stuffed forms.
Shortly thereafter, the piece took on a life of its own in my imagination. Humor and possibility began to replace the darkness of the gruesome and grotesque figures I had been creating. It seemed like creative floodgates opened in the right side of my brain as I acquired mastery of the new imagery. I realized that I did not need to be literal; I could be visually figurative. This was a breakthrough piece because it enabled me to develop a visual language that was in my voice. In fact, the breakthrough piece helped me find a voice that I did not know that I had.
Ironically, unless the steel grid is sawed off, the piece can never be moved. It is woven permanently in place, a fitting metaphor for an epiphany.