While pregnant with Thatcher Gray, I created a sculpture for The Cradle Project initiated by Naomi Natale of Albuquerque, New Mexico. Raising awareness of the conditions faced by children in sub-Saharan Africa, it was a poignant experience creating this while carrying my own child to fruition.
During a visit to Cuba in the winter of 2000, we had the opportunity to partake in a blessing performed by a Santaria Priest, just outside of Havana. We witnessed the sacrifice of a pure white chicken, the blood of which added to the layers caked upon his shrines, which added a deeply visceral quality to the forms sculpted by use over many years. The room was dark, lit only by a couple of small windows and candles that were nestled into the organic forms of the shrines. The practice largely grew from African traditions brought to the island during the forced migration of slaves. The materials that were used could be seen as common, yet they were imbued with significant symbolism which allowed them to be used as tools for prayer during these dynamic rituals. Chains represented enslavement and rusted railroad spikes carried the sleek energy of the rail as a passageway or path down which we may release our energy in the world. Tree branches were incorporated as representations of the transfer of energy between earth and sky. Home made dolls incorporated a human element into the mix. Eggs were incorporated within the act of the ritual as a powerful symbol of regeneration. Feathers used as symbols for freedom. It took many years for the experience to settle. Ultimately I created a series of mixed media works on paper integrating stone lithography, collage, rust stains and drawing with oil pastel, spraypaint, chalk and pencils. The largely abstract works are intended to capture the feeling of the space, and the shifting, almost swirling energy produced by the act of the ritual, which culminated in the representations of the shrines as fragmented. It’s as if the energy imbued in the symbols that made up the shrine were breaking apart to lend their energy to the acts performed within this space.
As a gift upon graduating high school, I was sent to Kenya on an Ouward Bound course to climb Mt Kilimanjaro. An extraordinary climb to the top of Africa, we had the opportunity to ascend on the Tanzanian side of the mountain, where we had the landscape to ourselves. Part of the journey included a visit to a Masai village, where I found and painted this pair of traditionally dressed tribal members in the company of Kenyan students in modern dress. Appearing ghost-like, as if fading into the background, the works question the stability of the nomadic cultures that call the Savannah home.
Employed by Botswana’s government to help assess diamond count in an attempt to quell the illicit funding of war in the greater region, our friend Christopher Campbell had the opportunity to spend some years in Botswana with his family. We visited in the summer after my high school graduation and took a road trip around the central region of southern Africa. A highlight was flying into the Okavango Delta to float around by dugout canoe as we sought out the copious amounts of wildlife. This is a series of portraits of our worthy guides, Ra Simone, Ra B and ‘Shorty’, who kept us from being eaten by lions or crocodiles. At one point during the week, we came across a fresh lion kill. Shorty helped himself to a hearty piece of meat while we edged away, nervous that the lion may be very close by since our guides seemed to think we had frightened him off (!!) For the next few days, the meat simmered over the campfire, feeding the guides with a hearty stew to accompany their feff. These works are oil on paper, 4″x5″ each