At the age of six I read about systems of electricity and Nikola Tesla. At this time I was also curious about the demise of the RMS Titanic and the catastrophic geological processes of diamond formation. These interests evolved alongside a love of science fiction. The boundary between the scientific and the fantastic blurred in my young mind as I crouched in the corner of the family room and repeatedly placed hairpins into an outlet. My intention was to collect the sound generated by currents on my brother’s Panasonic cassette recorder. I had a sense that the rubber tip would function as an insulator and fortunately steel has low relative conductivity. I was taken with the process of creation and its abrupt subsequent absence. Sound and then silence. I had then and still possess an insatiable desire to harness and examine chaos.
To be attacked repeatedly with bombs or machine-gun fire from low-flying aircraft...or maybe a crow. This was unbelievably traumatizing...not that I imagined what the experience of having my skull squeezed by a crow might feel like let alone the emotional impact...but suffice it to say I am not going outside for a while. This phenomenon occurs in mid to late June when the young crow are leaving the nest but are not yet able to fly and are still vulnerable. The parents are watching over them and will attack anyone in the vicinity...
All my pretty ones?
Did you say all?—O hell-kite!—All?
What, all my pretty chickens, and their dam,
At one fell swoop?
Shakespeare employs the image of a bird of prey, a “hell-kite”, swooping to the ground to kill all his “pretty chickens”. The word he uses is “fell”. Though a common word, he is using a rather obscure sense of that word, meaning of terrible evil or ferocity.
So, “one fell swoop” originally meant a sudden, ferocious attack, although the sense of savagery in the phrase has been lost over the years and people now use it to mean, simply, all at once…
After living in a home infested with toxic mold I got sick. It took four years and many, many doctors to learn that a genetic anomaly prevents my system from detoxing from mold as one typically might. When a liver is overrun with toxins it releases them into the GI tract where they are reabsorbed by the body. This is particularly disastrous for people who lack key enzymes to detoxify and break them down thus creating a constant circulation unless the toxins are somehow sequestered. My immune system is trapped in a constant loop as it attempts to rid my body of this immortal invader.
Prometheus gave fire to the human race against the will of the Gods. Zeus punished him by chaining him to a rock where an eagle would swoop in and consume his liver. The liver regenerated because he was immortal and the eagle would gnaw it away day after day.
I faced thyroid and adrenal issues, food allergies, and debilitating fatigue, relentless episodes of tachycardia and convulsions and, most upsettingly, loss of cognitive ability. Eventually my health was so compromised that I was no longer able to teach. My art practice, a teaching career of 13 years and my health simply disappeared. In one fell swoop. And I mean it as Shakespeare did. In the most obscure sense of terrible ferocity. I never thought that I would make it to the other side of this massive interruption and now, six years later, I have learned how to deal with this on a day-to-day basis and am so relieved to be back in the studio.
It has been interesting to dig into my studio space and find scraps, shreds of ideas and false starts that have come and gone over the last six years. I feel so alienated…as if I am going through someone else’s things…but then there is a spark of something familiar and I feel a surge of energy in sketches of a crumbling cityscapes, decaying species of mold, mountains of garbage and bolts of electricity…I had been in the midst of researching the science of electricity and the space between curiosity, self-destruction and self-preservation. In 1771 Luigi Galvani observed the leg muscles of a dead frog convulse when touched by an electrical charge. Something that reacts when electrocuted is not necessarily alive and something that appears dead could be revived if subjected to electricity.
Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus written by Mary Shelley is about eccentric scientist Victor Frankenstein, who reanimates a constructed corpse in an unorthodox scientific experiment. The following is a quote from Mary Shelley:
“I busied myself to think of a story, - a story to rival those which had excited us to this task. One which would speak to the mysterious fears of our nature, and awaken thrilling horror -- one to make the reader dread to look round, to curdle the blood, and quicken the beatings of the heart…”
Mary Shelley gave birth, prematurely in 1815. The infant passed a few days later. In 1816, her son was born in January and her daughter in September. The boy lived three years and the girl one. After the death of her infant and while pregnant she began to write Frankenstein. She was tormented by the loss. A journal entry in 1815 reads, “Dream that my little baby came to life again; that it had only been cold, and that we rubbed it before the fire, and it lives.”
My work was left dangling, paused on the image of shocking something back to life. Now I have managed to plug in the leads – I just need an energy source…
This morning everything feels destroyed. I have been thinking about a visit to Sicily back in 2012. I was at the very beginning of the illness that came from toxic mold exposure. At that time I did not know what was wrong with me. I would break out in violent convulsions (only recently learned these were rigors) and was hypersensitive to everything. Doctors initially thought it might be food allergies but there was little rhyme or reason to what was triggering symptoms when...but I was not scared yet. Only confused and concerned. The fear of the unknown - the time bomb that was ticking inside of me...well the paralyzing fear came later...at this point things felt normal-ish - and at the end of our trip we climbed La Rocca di Cefalù. I still consider it one of my greatest moments...so today though things feel destroyed I am going to work on putting this mountain back together.
I became aware at a very early age that human life is very fragile. Our curiosity is always on the verge of killing us. My earliest inquiries came out of poolside PH tests, the ingredient list on hot dog packages, Kraft "cheese" and Jell-O. What were these things? I wondered how long would it take to create a diamond with a heating pad and stack of books and what effect hairpins might have on an electrical outlet. For the past six years images and ideas of life and death have been swirling around my head and historically I have dealt with ideas by making artwork. But this mold. This water + sheet rock. It stopped me and I thought and thought and thought (and thought and thought and thought). I still cannot quite grasp how something so simple can be so deadly. Water is the source of all life! But causes death in many different ways. So now I am studying deadly mold. There are hundreds of species of toxic mold and more and more are being discovered all the time...and I wonder how to make it right...
Artist residencies have been a very important part of my practice. Something magical happens when time and space are set aside for studio work. I have been blessed many times by these unique opportunities but right now I just cannot get away from home...yet DESPERATELY need a residency...SO I am doing my best to create one...with all efforts devoted to my current body of work: Magnificent Error: remember (that you have) to die. I have a solo show opening on August 6, 2017...deadlines are also magical. So today my cup is full and I am hoping it will not sink below the half way point during this process.