The Ophelia Project is a story.
It is a mysterious story,
perhaps a sad story,
and the end of the story may not be clear.
It could be any woman's story.
This exhibition represents a new kind of storytelling. The stories are a complex, mutable array of parables, memoirs, invented or examined lives, and curious narratives. The meaning of these stories is new for each individual who chooses to spend time with them.
The Ophelia Project is about discovering and understanding female power, shame, and authenticity in a male-dominated world. It is about the compromises and conformities women commit in order to stay alive, advance their lives, and do what they need to do as women.
The Ophelia Project is a performance piece and an interactive installation. It is comprised of ten elaborate drawings with mixed media on handmade paper, video, sound, as well as evocative and tactile objects.
This work is rooted in my training in sculpture and my insatiable urge to communicate. My work is always an investigation of a story needing to be told, but the form that best tells, insinuates, inculcates, or whispers that story always has the last word.
Desire is a multimedia installation creating a quasi historical, many layered narrative of sexual awakening, fecundity, relationship, sorrow and aging. Using drawing, photography, printing, collage, assemblage, light and sound. I is a beautiful, problematic environment that conflates the private experience of sexuality with public discourse and ultimately engages the existential question of how we manage to live alone in the prison of our bodies.
This piece began developing during the year 2003 before I moved to Minnesota…
I had just finished a mammoth installation, entitled Kristallnacht: the bystanders, about the concept of holocaust, about the ways in which we humans can kill and maim members of our own species, and how we good people could stand by and not act
I was wounded and exhausted by the work that went into that piece. Years of living in the study and knowledge of death and destruction, of human evil had taken its toll. It took about six months to return to normal. I asked myself, ”What should I do next? What frontier did I have left to explore? What was the opposite of death and destruction?” I determined to investigate sexuality and aging.
WHAT IF... An interactive thinking environment. An invitation into a zone of pure creativity. A full room installation that people entered wearing surgical booties. They were surrounded by very bright, white light, zen like sound and invited to answer hypothetical questions on the light boxes and in the chest of drawers.
WHAT IF... was born of an under slept mind one sleepy Friday morning in the late 1990's. Arising to get my son ready for school, I rubbed my eyes and wondered, "What if my name wasn't Susan?" I giggled and began to collect rhetorical questions.
These are the questions:
What if you were raised by Martians?
What if your name is not your own?
What if you were just hatched?
What if you chose religion over science?
What if the walls contained an alternate universe?
What if the drain was clogged with silverfish?
What if you chose science over religion?
What if your eyes changed color spontaneously?
What if your dreams were reality?
What if you covet experience more than things?
What if you found a gold doubloon?
What if you won the lottery?
What if you lost all your money?
What if you grew to be 8 feet tall?
What if the Tower of Babel was built in your neighbor’s yard?
What if the leaning tower of Pisa did not lean?
What if you could live forever?
What if you could not die?
What if men could become pregnant?
What if human beings reproduced asexually?
What if cows were carnivores?
What if dogs ruled the world?
What if your breasts were mashed potatoes?
What if your teeth all fell out in the night?
What if you forgot to cut your toenails for 10 years?
What if you forgot everything you ever knew?
What if you saw God?
What if you ate a watermelon seed?
What if you never grew up?
What if you were born large and grew smaller as you aged?
What if you walked on the moon
What if you never had teeth?
What if you were maimed?
What if you were married?
What if you were not married?
What if you forgot to dress?
What if aliens stole your brain?
What if your friends could not save you?
What if you tripped on stage?
What if you broke your leg?
What if your jaw was wired shut?
What if one mushroom made you smaller and the other made you larger?
What if the Queen of Hearts yelled, “Off with her head!”?
What if you could fly like Peter Pan?
What if you could fly like Icarus?
What if you could fly like Pegasus?
What if you could fly like a falcon?
What if you could fly like an eagle?
What if you could fly like a gryphon?
What if you could fly like Hermes?
What if you could float like a butterfly and sting like a bee?
What if the cat inherited your grandfather’s money?
What if you inherited your grandfather’s personality?
What if you saw a ghost?
What if were reincarnated as a bird?
What if were reincarnated as a dog?
What if were reincarnated as a man?
What if were reincarnated as a woman?
What if were reincarnated as a world ruler?
What if were reincarnated as a despot?
What if were reincarnated as a worm?
What if were reincarnated as an executioner?
What if were reincarnated as an ant?
What if were reincarnated as a spider?
What if were reincarnated as a fish?
What if were reincarnated as a whale?
What if were reincarnated as a cat?
What if were reincarnated as grass?
What if Las Vegas was in Saskatchewan?
What if Canada declared war on the U.S.?
What if Quebec did secede from Canada?
What if you owned Pandora’s box?
What if you had the Midas Touch? What if you could escape?
What if you wore a hat?
What if lost your gloves?
What if your big toe stuck out through your socks?
What if never cut your fingernails?
What if you had a hole in your shoe?
What if Liberace was your best friend?
What if you wore a toe ring?
What if you wore a nose ring?
What if you could do anything?
What if you could buy anything?
What if things were the opposite of what they seem?
What if Hannibal had not crossed the Alps?
What if Cleopatra never met the asp?
What if Rome had not fallen?
What if Marco Polo never made it to China?
What if Chaucer never wrote?
What if man never discovered fire?
What if Darwin had not sailed on the Beagle?
What if the Scopes trial had never occurred?
What if the American Civil War had not occurred?
What if the American Revolutionary War had not occurred?
What if Canada conquered the United States?
What if we spent as much money on art as we do on the armed forces?
What if there were no airplanes?
What if there were no telephones?
What if there wee no computers?
What if there were no televisions?
(Her)suit is a multimedia installation that questions the role of gender in the context of power, class, and cultural expectations. Class, gender and power are all demonstrated through our choice in clothing and the various uniforms we have agreed to wear.
For the past ten years, I have been interested in the concept of uniforms. Uniforms have the power to communicate not only one's place in the world, but society's expectations of the wearer, particularly when it comes to gender. While I was examining the uniform of the pinstriped suit, it became apparent to me that the suit is not unlike an African power object. The suit is a masquerade, a symbol, and a repository of power as well as oppression. Like the aforementioned power objects, the suit acts as a container for the symbolic power that inhabits it. Following this logic, whoever dons a "power suit" inherits the power associated with it.
The suit also occupies a unique and liminal space in the context of gender. The suit is typically a masculine representation of power, but that representation is complicated when a woman wears a suit. Upon further examination, the suit also displays similarities to both sexes' reproductive organs. The lapels open much like labia, while the rest of the suit, specifically the vertical trajectory of the tie and pants, are decidedly phallic. The power suit is built to quietly emphasize masculine power by broadening the shoulders and exaggerating height, creating a long, uninterrupted line from head to toe. It is simple, practical, and does not prevent the wearer from springing into action without disturbing the essentials of the suit. When a woman dons this uniform, her newfound androgyny disrupts the stereotypically masculine power of the suit.
When suits are the chosen uniform of corporate, patriarchal power, questions are raised about their effect on the people who wear them. When women wear this uniform, do they gain the suit's inherent power or are they simply performing the masculinity associated with the suit and corporate professionalism as a whole? Can a woman own herself while wearing a suit, or does the suit begin to own her?
Just looking is an installation with soundscape and interactive realtime video. It was built from hundreds of daily self portraits, a script written based on a national survey, the voices of four performers, the videography of John Hensel.
Art has a way of making the invisible visible. It can be a spiritual endeavor, a political statement, a sociological construct. Art is a visual way of asking questions, creating sensate memory of seeing and being seen, of looking.
Looking is powerful
I am watching you like a surveillance camera in a dressing room.
I am watching you like a voyeur.
I am watching you from my invisible status as an aging woman.
Looking can empower or diminish.
The eyes are the first and essential means of communication between the mother and the baby in her arms, between friends, lovers, enemies. We read one another by looking each other in the eye. We may hear words spoken, but we see the truth in the depth of the eyes.
And yet, in all of western art history, the default gaze is exclusively male. In this piece, the tables are turned. It is the woman whose eyes assault, invade and capture the viewer in a singular moment. If the woman is not in power, is otherwise invisible, unseen, unheard…here she is taking back control. She returns the gaze with force, with repetition, demanding again and again to be seen… asking again and again how it feels to be caught looking… demanding again and again how it feels to be the unexpected recipient of the female gaze. She dissolves the wall between the art and the viewer, capturing the lookers and absorbing them into the artwork against their will. She is demanding.
Open your eyes.
PORTRAITS OF LONGING
Portraits of vulnerability, uncommonly captured in wistful cotton. They are Madonnas, lost girls, older men and women stuck in their youth, young women old beyond years. Their sexuality is hemmed in by fine Victorian handwork , but within their boudoirs, they are free
We often think of portraits as true and memory as relatively inviolate . We own our own image and memories and see them as accurate. But it seems to me that when we are depicted by another, possibilities other than accurate fact are possible.
As I age, the stories of my childhood blur and are sentimentally remembered as someone else’s life. I remember my Mother’s story as if it were my own. I remember my story as hers, though she died long before I began to forget the string of the narrative. Even my Father’s stories morph across gender and become mine. It seems that the stories of families can never totally expire.
As the older generation of my family dies, I am increasingly drawn to the detritus of others. I find shreds of story in the closets and trunks of attics , basements and op-shops. Some items hold the stories of their former owners: the archetypes of a life shrouded in mystery.
This brings me back to portraits. What happens when the creator of the portrait embeds the image in someone else’s story?
In this installation the detritus is false, a re-creation of over the top Victorian handwork. By sewing, gluing, dying, painting and placing these items with one another, I hope to open up a shared human story of longing.