I grew up in a village of immigrants. People behaved in a seemingly polite and normal way but there were always dark echoes, hints of a different existence into which the figures and the stories that weren’t talked about were thrust. And we as children could not ask, lest the cracks gape open and the seething figures from the world below leap out and pursue us.
Many years later, when I went back to my family photos I was surprised to see how amiable and smiling they were, how different from my experience as a child, how false.
The raw materials of my art are the family photos with their outwardly charming appearance– and things that were never admitted into the photos. I examine mythologies, canonical stories, family stories. I excavate, classify and uncover the archaeological levels, the scenes that were deposited. Then I use them to construct new levels. At first glance, the top level is deceptive: normative and familiar, but the subterranean traces peek out. Therefore the works are dense and very detailed and include much of what was hidden.
“Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” has long been an inspiration for my art. I made a series of etchings, installations and performance events, all of them dark. Most of the works that have been inspired by Lewis Carroll’s book have imprinted on the public consciousness an image of Wonderland as a desirable and magical place – but it is not. I excavate Wonderland and I find there the helplessness and distress experienced by Alice and the creatures she meets. The search for ways to express the contradiction between the order in the surface world and the irrationality and frustration in the subterranean world led me to create performances. I work with a video camera overhead and create a projected “theater of things,” draw and construct images, erase them and rip them out. I collaborate with performance artists to share with the audience the movement between expectation and frustration, building scenes and destroying them.
“The Scapegoat,” a series of etchings bound in an artist’s book, conducts a dialogue with Goya’s Los Caprichos depictions of social injustices, and to accompany the series I constructed a large-scale sculpture of the goat as it tumbles down to its death and is crushed limb by limb. The goat, which does not come into the family photographs because his presence conjured up repressed transgressions, is humanized in this series in a lifespan that begins in a meadow. In the images, he makes friends along the way as he carries the sins of others into the wilderness but his inward humanity is invisible to those for whose sins he is the atonement.
My work processes are lengthy and move back and forth between construction and erosion, doing and erasing. The process always begins with a series of etchings. This technique of printmaking and the choice of repeated actions of burning with acid and erosion enable my thoughts to roll forward and take shape, as I become acquainted with the characters and seek the alternative narrative. In the final prints, traces of images from the layers that have been hidden will peek through. After completing the etchings, I move into other media: three-dimensional objects, video, performance and womanly crafts like sewing and embroidery or a new technique I will learn for a given exploration. Always, however, I will choose a technique that will enable me to move between construction and destruction.
The goal of acknowledging and knowing the repressed darkness and giving it expression, as well as eradicating it, nourishes my work – and me of course – and opens a door to a reality where it is easier to exist.