Marie Antoinette Visits The Border was created in response to a call for entries for an exhibition entitled Fashion: We Are What We Wear?, sponsored by the Women’s and Gender Studies Department at Oakton Community College in Des Plaines, Illinois. I thought about the use of clothing and fabric as a source of comfort and protection, and how real a need it is for small children.
All over the world, including the cages at our southern U.S. border, refugees and immigrants are given mylar “shock” blankets, which offer thermal insulation but little comfort in over-air-conditioned cement holding pens. I imagine that small children, removed from the comforting touch of their parents and even soft surfaces of their familiar possesions, are further traumatized by mylar sheets on concrete floors. I chose this material, a high-tech by-product of our sophisticated space program, to fashion a gown in the style of Marie Antoinette, who is known for being clueless and privileged.
Hidden Message was an installation that was created for Expressions of Defiance, a group exhibit by the Jewish Artists Collective Chicago at Northern Illinois University to complement a performance of the Defiant Requiem, an oratorio with orchestra that was performed to a sold-out audience at Boutell Concert Hall. The Defiant Requiem was created to honor the memory of the prisoners in Terezín during World War II, who, despite monumental suffering, disease, and the constant presence of death, found hope and inspiration in the arts and humanities, and performed the Verdi Requiem from a single smuggled score.
At Terezin, the Nazi-created Jewish ghetto near Prague, there was a hidden synagogue in a windowless shed built into a wall. The walls of the secret space were ornamented with prayers, the type of Hebrew calligraphy typically found in traditional European synagogues. It was re-discovered in 1989 and restored.
I visited Terezin in 2005. It was stunning to walk through a grassy courtyard, open what appeared to be a shed door, and enter this secret, sacred space. The first thing my eyes lit upon was a Hebrew inscription which I was able to translate: “And with all this, we have not forgotten Your name. Please, do not forsake us!” The tragic plaintiveness of this prayer inscribed itself on my heart.
This memory came to mind when I toured this gallery space in advance of our exhibition. The curator opened the door to this storage closet, and as I walked in, I was immediately reminded of the small, dark space at Terezin, where Jews gathered to connect with holiness.
My rendition of the Terezin prayer is presented with a translation into English. For the type face, I chose a font that was modeled on German typewriter letters from the early 20th century, echoing bureaucratic documents of the Nazi state which circumscribed the identity and fate of its victims. My woodblock print, Tied To Life, hung adjacent to the installation.
Hidden Message was also exhibited at The Art Center, HIghland Park, Illinois.
Transcendance of Loss (Tagasode Byobu) was a live-painting performance during a master’s thesis recital at Northwestern University’s Alice Millar Chapel by soprano Chelsea Betz. Ms. Betz performed elegaic music in memory of her mother, who had succumbed to cancer when Chelsea was a teenager. The concert was a benefit and silent auction, and portions of art sales (there were three artists total) were donated to the American Cancer Society.
Tagasode Byobu is a Japanese painting tradition. The death of a loved one is depicted by portraying their clothing, draped and unoccupied, over a screen or piece of furniture. It is a poetic and subtle way to suggest absence.
Voices and Visions: Standing on the Bridge Between Health and Despair, 2011-12, juried art exhibitions at The Art Center, Highland Park, Illinois
The Art Center commissioned me to create a representation of the titular “Bridge”, using the hot pink color associated with breast cancer. In 2012, in addition to the bridge, I created an interactive work for the lobby, called Hope Nest. Viewers were invited to enter the pink “nest” and use hanging Sharpie markers to inscribe their hopes for someone who is ill on one of the hanging strips. This gave them a moment of privacy and contemplation before they entered the exhibit.
Shelter, Chicago Fringe Artists’ Networking Night, February 6, 2010, produced by Red Tape Theatre.
Shelter was an interactive installation work that was created in collaboration with Brooke Borg, a MFA student in Barcelona.
Brooke was working on a film and installation about family relationships. She was expanding the idea of the Jewish marriage contract (ketubah) and wondering what would it happen if people could write contracts for troubled relationships. She contacted me as a ketubah “expert”, and I agreed to help her if she would share her concept and collaborate with me on Shelter. We communicated through email and phone, and I developed Shelter as sort of an inversion of the Jewish marriage canopy (huppah), which is open on all sides but covered on top, symbolizing the shelter of a new home.
For Shelter at CFANN, I made a sort of “tent” of hand-painted and digitally printed silk. It was suspended from the high ceiling of the event space and lit from within, creating a sort of Chinese lantern appearance in the darkened space. It was embellished with digital prints of my ketubahs, and Brooke’s contractes familiares, as well as family photos. Viewers were provided with slips of paper on a clipboard, with the prompt: “What is your troubled relationship? How do you wish it could be resolved? Write your wish on a slip of yellow paper, and place it in the coal.”
Almost immediately, participants began to circle back, to see what others had written.
The Owing Project, Chicago Fringe Artists’ Networking Night, April 9, 2011, produced by Red Tape Theatre.
The Owing Project explored our national predicament of debt, unemployment and insecurity and how it contrasts with our traditional American virtue of hard work combined with the intoxicating promise of rags-to-riches in the promised land. Shame is epidemic in a society that loves a winner and collectively, is losing luster by the minute. A large component of shame is secrecy, and I hoped that a public display of our collective defaults and deficits will help us find ennoblement (and grim humor) in our common struggle to keep our heads above water financially, professionally and socially.
I interviewed participants at the CFANN, and asked them how they felt about debt. As they talked with me, I painted their words and faces on butcher paper on the wall. Additionally, they were invited to enter a private “booth” and write answers to one or more of the questions: “Do you have debts of any kind? How do your debts make you feel about yourself? What do people in a society owe each other?”
The Owing Project was exhibited in a solo show at ARC Gallery, Chicago in 2010 and at The Art Center, Highland Park in 2011.