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My paintings, drawings, prints and sculpture are part of a continuing and overlapping series exploring topics that deeply interest me; Radium, Marie Curie, History, Fairy Tales and Pope Joan. I am fascinated with meaning, how people make meaning and how that meaning works it's way into our lives. At its core my art deals with the relationships between memory, written and oral histories, nostalgia, misinformation, cover ups and lies and how this complex web plays out socially, politically and emotionally through the stories that I focus on.

 

The work in the Radium series revolves around the concept of mapping stories. The way stories are remembered and passed on, the way they become lost, hidden, changed through time and sometimes forgotten. The artwork is composed from three main narrative components. The first is that of the Radium Girls’ experience. At the beginning of the twentieth century, young women were employed in factories to paint watch dials and other instruments with radium-laced luminous paint.  In the process, the women swallowed radium, which produced negative effects on their health and in many cases, resulted in their deaths.  The second narrative element comes from a trip I made to Poland, where I visited the home of Maria Sklodowska-Curie, the woman who along with her husband discovered radium.  And the third narrative component is informed from the experience of my relatives, who made their livings working in factories, as well as my own experience as a factory worker, making the inside parts for pacemakers.

 

I layer my paintings with images that have meaning to me, they often include references to literary, science, social theories, cultural icons, personal memories and everyday occurrences. I do not set out to represent what is believed to be the truth, I consider my viewpoint as well as the many different lenses that include popular beliefs, rumors, assumptions, stories, fact and fiction as well as what history tells us. Stories and myths help us to understand who we are and help us to find meaningful relationships.  These paintings, drawings and prints are partially told and evolving narratives, in each part of a story I am interested in what is included and what is concealed from our view.  I like how in art we are able to say things from multiple perspectives at once, stories that would otherwise remain untold and sometimes seam unspeakable are told.

 

A few years ago, after teaching studio art for many years, I began to also teach art history. I have always been interested in history, but now my relationship and reflection on history has changed, I have a role and a responsibility in the telling of it. The questions I think about in the making of my art are the same ones that I consider in the classroom. What is a historical fact? What is history's relationship to legend or myth? Who gathers and reports the facts upon which history is assembled, and labels them as truth? History is full of examples of stories that are emphasized or suppressed by the writers of that history. In our everyday interactions with others we may frame a story in a way that leads the listener to more fully understand our perspective or with a slight shift, to a false conclusion.   We all know that the victors of any conflict are most often the ones that write the final story. What happens when someone else tells the story? What happens when I tell the story? The confusion and contradictions, are interesting to me, I try to include them in my work.

 

The story I have been exploring lately is that of Pope Joan. Pope Joan is believed by some to be a female Pope who, reigned for a few years some time in the 9th Century. The story was widely believed for centuries, though modern historians and religious scholars now believe that the story has no merit. The basics of the story go like this: she was an exceptionally intelligent religious woman who disguised herself as a man so she could get an education. She rose through the church hierarchy, eventually was chosen as Pope. However, while attempting to mount a horse, she was kicked by the horse, causing her to go into premature labor, which forced her secret, that she was a woman and also pregnant, to be revealed. In most versions of the story she is then killed by an angry mob and her memory is shunned by the church. No one knows for sure if Pope Joan, or Pope John Anglicus as she called herself, really existed. I am interested in the meaning behind why this story has survived, the contradictions within it and how it got here. In my work I am drawn to flesh and blood heroes like Marie Curie, as well as heroes like Pope Joan, who may or may not have existed. I am always interested in those rare heroes whose strength of vision enables them to ignore the almost overpowering messages of their own historical periods.