Writing an artist’s statement is very difficult.  I’ve been a studio artist for over 6 years now and I’m only just now beginning to understand what I’m doing.  I am not the kind of artist who knows what’s what and then paints about it.  I paint to find out what’s what.  And I don’t usually understand the what until long after I’m done.  Now that I have a rather extensive body of work (over 200 documented paintings) I’m finally beginning to hear my own voice and beginning to understand what my hands are trying to tell me.  Here is my latest version of an artist’s statement, to be submitted to the Rasmuson Foundation in less than a week:

Artist Statement

Although I identify myself only as a painter, and not by any demographic quality, I recently came across an essay that has helped me articulate my process and voice as an artist.  In 1977 Miriam Schapiro and Melissa Meyer wrote an essay, “Waste Not Want Not,” where they defined art created by women as “femmage;” an artistic mode of expression that is inherent to women and one that has specific, identifiable qualities.  As an artist who is a woman and as an artist interested in indigenous art forms, I found femmage to be a very awkward, political word and yet eerily descriptive of the methods I use in my work and the value I ascribe to my life as a painter.

A work is considered femmage if it is a work by a woman, and the theme has a woman-life context,

I am always creating within the framework of my life as a woman.  Many of the themes in my work (the family in Oracle Owls, sexual and cultural subjugation in “Besa de Maya,” peril and ritual in The Fool) are deeply rooted in my experience as a mother.

if the activities of saving and collecting are important ingredients, if scraps are essential to the process and recycled in the work, and if it contains photographs or other printed matter,

Most of my current work contains commercial scrapbooking papers and personal ephemera.  I often use patterns and design elements that recall the work of Gustav Klimt as well as the tradition of quilt making.  My process is about collecting—collecting motifs from many artistic traditions, combining the scraps of my manifold heritage, saving my life in Alaska from disappearing into forgetfulness.

if there is drawing and/or handwriting sewn into the work, if it contains silhouetted images which are fixed to other material, if abstract forms create a pattern, and it has elements of covert imagery,

Writing an essential part of my process and is often part of the works themselves.  I seek to use text not as an explanatory mode, but as an integral part of the composition.  Occasionally, text becomes pattern and covert imagery is essential in many of my pieces, especially if there are themes of secrecy or alienation afoot.  What is hidden, or partially hidden, is as important to me as what’s visible.

if it celebrates a private or public event, if a diarist’s point of view is reflected in the work, if recognizable images appear in narrative sequence, and it addresses itself to an audience of intimates.

All of my art is celebratory in some manner.  Color is the element I regularly use to express my love of the creative life.  Vibrant color reflects my Southern heritage, my appreciation for the folk arts, and the capacity for wonder.  My latest works all have a strong narrative element, which is related to my interest in indigenous modes of art and is fundamental to humanity.  Without storytelling—stories we tell ourselves, the ones we give our children, stories shared by a community—we lose our way and forget who we are.  There is a story behind and within every one of my paintings.  Sometimes they are intensely personal, yet my goal as an artist is to make even the most intimate of my stories known to the viewer, to make my story accessible so that something has been shared…communicated.

and if the work has a functional as well as an aesthetic life.

The function of my art is to allow people to live with beauty.  Its aesthetic life, like the lives of my children, is something I have high hopes for, but is ultimately not in my control.  Good art breathes on its own.