Physika kai Mystika, translated as Natural and Secret Things, is a text from the Corpus Alchemicum Graecum, some of the earliest alchemical writings. These fragmentary writings are from the origins of alchemy in Alexandria, a time in which artisans, the forerunners of the alchemists, were focused not on making gold, but on making excellent facsimiles of gold (as well as silver, gems, and expensive dyes). By contrasting materials of natural history, painting history, and craft history all within the same container, this sculptural piece raises questions about the relationships between philosophy and science, nature and humans, and art and craft.
The installation at the Friedman Gallery at Maine College of Artwas constructed in and around a vitrine. Inside are stacked two primed birch boards with three open jars waiting for viewers to discover and interpret them.
The first jar holds a faint pink liquid with gold flecks, the second contains birch bark in murky water, the third contains lengths of copper pipe sitting in an unlabeled blue liquid. A white curtain is draped on top of the vitrine, partially obscuring and framing the view of the objects inside, forcing viewers to sit, lean, or crouch to see inside. On top of the curtain sits a tin box filled with black iridescent forms. On the opposite wall from the vitrine are three black panels joined as one with iron oxide forming a blurry horizontal line reminiscent of fire, landscape, or an unknown event.
Vitrine: 60” x 30” x 45”
Drawing: 81” x 19”
Materia prima (2018)
This series emanates from the mythical substance thought to turn into gold at the hands of the alchemists: Materia prima, or first matter, a sort of building block of early chemistry. Alchemists throughout the ages sought this material, not knowing if it was something mundane or obscure, they began to attempt to turn anything and everything they could think of into gold.
Alchemy is often described as a process of relearning or rediscovering what the ancient masters knew. There are four women in the history of alchemy credited with the successful transmutation of the Materia prima into the Philosopher’s stone. These paintings represent what these women would have passed on to their prodigies had their voices not been lost to history.
The Materia prima in these works is iron, a substance that bonds women with the land. These paintings are crafted with oil and acrylic paint, raw iron oxide, wax, shells, bedsheets, and rice. This series uses illusion within the picture plane as well as outside of the picture plane, the result being a conflation of painting and sculpture and a conflict of near and far. With the help of a more-is-more aesthetic, they force the viewer to confront the mirrored methods of oppression of women and the landscape.
Early alchemist Zosimos of Panpolis wrote about his discoveries in the form of allegory. His texts read as mythic stories of visitations and dreams, a tool used to conceal his work from the masses while revealing the secrets of alchemy to those who could decipher his elaborate stories and the symbols within them. Contemporary scholars debate the meaning of his words today.
Works in the Visions series blur the line between allegorical and spiritual, providing rich emotional images of salt mashes to those wiling to decipher them, and only a distant horizon or concealed form to others. Playing with our mind’s ability to see image in abstraction, these small works on paper use graphite and crushed shell from the landscape around us to conjure images of landscapes imagined and unidentified.
The Nocturnes series is composed of four bodies of work, each exploring a different approach to visual play in depicting the human eye’s perception as it develops night vision in the coastal Maine landscape. The series consists of drawings on paper and small paintings on birch board, materials include charcoal, graphite, homemade and purchased dyes, inks, and beeswax.
These pieces manipulate the viewer into moving through space and examining and re-examining. Although darkness at times arouses fear and uncertainty, these landscapes’ obscurity is a blanket for the viewer, enveloping them in the comfort of solitary space. The use of the term Nocturnes is a nod to James Abbott McNeill Whistler, another New England artist, who popularized the term when he began naming his paintings with musical terminology.
Documentation: Etchings (2017)
These soft-ground etchings allow me to explore arbitrary notations of time and place. By elevating specific moments and places to the form of copper plate etchings, I privilege incidental moments within an otherwise methodical practice of phenological observation. By elevating the mundane, these works remind the viewer that there is wonder in the everyday.
First edition and hand-painted prints are available from this series upon request.
Working plein air is a wonderful combination of my favorite things, painting and being outside. I consider these more traditional works to be the foundation of my practice, direct observation of and experience in the world around us being essential to who I am as a maker. My more conceptual projects would simply not exist without this soul-feeding, eye-training practice.
Pastels are great for the exceptionally high pigment load they are able to achieve, creating vibrant colors and unique hybrids of drawing and painting. Pastels are a new medium for me, I’ve been exploring toothed pastel paper as well as sanded papers and a variety of pastel manufactures and techniques. Here are some of the works I’m most excited about.