That’s a good question. I think it’s still evolving, so I’m not going to be able to be very clear because some of it is too personal. Being able to express things that I am unable to put into words. Sometimes I look back and I’m like “oh, that’s what I was thinking about.” (Laughs.) “Isn’t that amazing.” It becomes clear to me, where I am with certain thoughts and certain things. A lot of it is personal. The clearest thing to say is, I love the details in life. And so, in making sculpture, there’s no way to imitate life. Life is just so amazing. That in making things and making sculpture and manipulating, it’s my way of making what I see and maybe trying to imitate it a little bit. Create a texture that resonates for me. A lot of times I’m surprised by what comes out.
For example, I’m working on a big piece now. I started with a small drawing—it was maybe six inches. It’s turning into a hybrid of a lifesaver, that you throwout from a boat that just floats, and a ship’s anchor, which is also stabilizing and helpful, but sinks. So this piece is a hybrid of those two things, which are opposite, but have similar purposes. So that’s the kind of thing where I’m like, “oh. Isn’t that interesting.” So, often it becomes clear to me afterwards.
What does your work aim to say about grief?
Thank you. Thanks for your question. I guess I started [Mourning Morning] the first time I was really dealing with grief directly through therapy and grief groups. I realized that it’s a huge gift and there’s a lot of insight that comes with it. I had a blank book and I would ask people I know, when somebody dies, how do you feel? There were a lot of responses. With Mourning Morning, I guess it shows how grief is such a mixed bag of intense feelings. Sometimes it’s pain. Sometimes it’s “oh, how fragile things are.” Sometimes it’s, “oh, I’m so small.” Sometimes it’s, “I’m a piece of this big picture.” So, birds flying is a lot of freedom.
Especially in the morning, hearing birds chirp at 5 AM. And then the red string, with the birds tied to it. Those don’t have a lot of freedom. They’re bound to something. The mirror reflection of the tree leaves and the silhouettes give dimension. You can see yourself in the reflective surfaces. And in the shadow surfaces, sometimes things aren’t obvious because they’re covered. It’s a shadow. Sometimes feelings can be overwhelming. There is a positivity to it—there is kind of a release to it. And then sculptural pieces are actually done by another sculptor in South Africa, who I tried to contact but she never got back to me. But they remind me of funeral pyres or flames. Sometimes fire is a cleanser. Or even Three Mile Island. Reminds me of the nuclear towers. There’s possible loss there. Overall it’s just a big combination of what life presents. Positive, openness, darkness, pain, release.
That’s really interesting that the piece evolved from so many different sources. Did your experience at the Wendt Center inform the piece?
Yes. Especially because I had it at the end of a short hallway in my home. I knew the piece was about grief, but the more I did here [at the Wendt Center], the more I realized it’s not all bad. Sometimes grief is like—like a bowl of spaghetti and each piece you have to separate. It’s not just a bowl of spaghetti. It’s [made up of] individual pieces. Each feeling is an individual feeling but sometimes they get associated with other feelings. The Wendt Center helped me a lot seeing that it’s not just one big mess but to separate out feelings from fact from what makes sense.
I came [to the Wendt Center] with a lot of issues of distrust. [They taught me] to step back, breath and understand how I feel about it.
What is your main inspiration as an artist?
I would say life. How I experience it, obviously, because I’m in my own skin. Sometimes I’m in awe of how people respond. For example, the Wendt Center is so gentle and calm and that is something new to me. I’m not used to that. Maybe the Board meeting of my building. Board members are talking about difficult subjects and residents are complaining and the Board members are able to keep their cool. That amazes me. What people make. The red string with the birds on it [from Mourning Morning], somebody made that. It’s kind of interesting because I would never think to attach a bird from a string, it’s kind of neat. The way people look. The ways people do things. Nature. I guess I rely on my eyesight a lot I realize because I’m doing work now I realize with other people and other estates—virtual work. We’re on phone calls and I don’t see them. So, I rely on my eyesight a lot.
When people view Mourning Morning or some of your other work, what would you like them to take away?
Thanks for that question. The reason why I want my art to be shown, because I make art for me, is because sometimes I will make something and think, “Oh my gosh, I didn’t know that’s what I was thinking about.” And I’ve seen other people’s art where I’ve been like, “Oh my gosh, look at that.” When I see somebody else’s art, I can’t put it into words, but something happens to me and I see a clarity about something. So with my art, I would like to help people answer any questions they might have. Or have a straighter road to what they’re doing. Get a sense of peace. Or get a question answered. Have some kind of insight or see something they didn’t see about themselves. To find acceptance and love for themselves. Basically higher awareness—more awareness.
That’s my aim. (Laughs.)
How has your time at the Wendt Center influenced your other work, if at all?
Oh, it has. It has enabled me to work. It has enabled me to step back when I hear something. To work as a colleague with people and contribute. To not be so defensive. I came [to the Wendt Center] with a lot of issues of distrust. [They taught me] to step back, breath and understand how I feel about it. Do I just need to listen and make up my mind later about something? To just really be a human among humans. You know, some of us are sometimes having a good time and some of us are going through difficulties. We all get to go on that path.
So, that was my last question. Is there anything else you’d like us to know?
I guess for people to trust their own instincts. If they like something. I’m a volunteer at a museum to be a docent—to translate and guide people through art. And sometimes people are like, I don’t see it and I don’t trust myself. If somebody doesn’t like something, it doesn’t speak to them. Art, to me, is like a language that the artist creates. So, a society has Chinese or Russian. I don’t understand the first thing about it but I have to learn a little so I can understand artists more. And even when I learn, I don’t always like every artist’s work. So I would say for the art viewer to trust themselves. And to just ask or tell someone about it because often synergy among people and their ideas helps people see things more clearly. It’s not like a library where you have to be quiet. A museum or where art is is to be discussed or talked about or laughed about or whatever they want to do. And just trust their senses. And if they don’t get it, that’s fine. I’m sure they have other pieces that they like to look at.