The first piece in this series was created in 1966 in Paris. I could not afford the paint to create large works on canvas. Walking through a public park, I hit upon the idea of tying small (and free-for-the-taking) twigs onto unprimed canvas. After stitching hundreds of them into long, multiple rows, they began to suggest the French approach to designing with trees. This was my first work in fiber.
I expanded on my original approach in revisiting the format in 2014, using the twigs remaining from Paris — stored for more than 40 years — together with newly harvested twigs from my garden in Kansas City.
The ongoing “Descendants” series was inspired by the flickering movement of aspen leaves. Other sources of inspiration are Alexander Calder’s mobiles and garments drying on clothes lines. In our universe, at cosmic and atomic levels, everything rotates.
Decades were spent making works that used the wall as a support. Now I am enthralled by dance-like motion and shifting shadows.
I started with small individual collages suspended by wire and thread.The current ceiling-to-floor versions rotate around their axes. The collection of parts combine to form unique personas.
The Descendants stand in for our frames of mind, from playful and joyful to serene and reflective.
I dance and teach tango, which is completely about connection. In all of my work I feel that there is a dialogue amongst the shapes, either maybe two prominent shapes that have a relationship, or many shapes that are in a sort of dance or connection with one another. Joan Miró was once asked at what point did he become an abstract artist. He answered that he didn’t understand the question, meaning that for him each of the shapes had a very distinct personality and character, not abstract at all. The shapes that I use have for me a life of their own. I could almost speak of their characteristics the way I would of people and pets.
Others see us from our surface, and how we present ourselves to the world. We see ourselves from inside our heads, who we believe ourselves to be.
There is of course a deeper reality that we cannot fathom: how we, during a lifetime, undergo an ongoing transformation—not just in appearance but in our experience of time and events—before we cross the bridge into the matter of the universe.
The Windows have an outer ‘skin’; a flap revealing the back side—what is usually hidden; and the opening, a view into the mystery that atoms decide to take shape, stick around for a while, and disappear.
Traveling through India, Burma, Tibet and Haiti, I was captivated by the many vibrant prayer flags created to convey joy, happiness and compassion. A more commonplace sight struck me in Italy and Cuba: lines of laundry stretching from building to building. The color, movement and domestic ritual speak to our shared human experience.
The life force embodied in cloth moving with the wind inspired my Spirit Flag series. I am reminded of a Korean saying: "We cannot direct the wind, but we can control the sails."
Visiting New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art as a child, I was fascinated by its collection of painted Coptic Egyptian mummy portraits. Six decades later, I returned to those lifelike encaustic paintings as inspiration for this series, creating upwards of 200 images and referring to them as “Prophets,” visionaries who see beyond the veil of illusion.
While recovering from multiple back surgeries, I could stand only by leaning on walls for support. When I wanted to work again, I felt I had to make something with structure that had a kind of vertical independence. I turned from fabric to the solidity of wood, creating a series of figures I saw as silent sentinels.