Photo by Janet Ikeda.
What were any early influences on your work? Where do you live now?
I grew up in New York City and went to public schools in Greenwich Village and Chelsea. My parents often took me to museums and their friends were artists, actors, painters, dancers, architects, etc., so the arts always felt like a normal part of everyday life. Though my tastes have changed and widened the art I loved as a child has stayed with me as well. The first painting I remember really being struck by was Ingres’ Princesse de Broglie at the Metropolitan Museum—the colors, composition, and softness of the forms still speak to me even though I have perhaps outgrown my fascination with Princesses. And I am sure the origami Christmas tree at the Museum of Natural History influenced my long-standing interest with paper folding and Japanese paper.
Now I live in Massachusetts, close to Mount Holyoke College where I am teaching in the art department. There are beautiful walks around here, and I visit family in New York regularly so I still get to the museums that I loved as a kid.
|La Pérouse’s Last Letters. Handmade kozo paper with|
cotton pulp painting, indigo dyed hemp, thread. 2011.
Did you receive any formal art training? If yes where and what did you major in?
I studied printmaking with Kris Philipps at Sarah Lawrence College, and it opened up a whole approach to art making for me. I also took my first papermaking class with her. I think everything I make relates to printmaking and paper. Whether working spatially on an installation or in a small drawing I am constantly thinking in layers. When I started college I thought I wanted to work in stage design, but printmaking gave me a way to have a collaborative approach to working alone, just through the interaction with materials. I think that is at the heart of my work.
Later I studied papermaking and book arts at the University of Iowa Center for the Book, and then went to Japan on a Fulbright to research traditional methods of dyeing paper with natural dyes. Eventually I did an MFA at the University of California Santa Barbara, and worked with Harry and Sandra Reese who make artists books. So I have had many different forms of training and, although it was a long process, all of it was invaluable.
|La Pérouse’s Last Letters. Installation |
view at Open Square, Holyoke Mass.
Handmade kozo paper with cotton pulp painting,
indigo dyed hemp, thread. 2011.
I have always been interested in making art, but it took a long time for me to think of myself as primarily an artist, especially because I have such an appreciation of craft. I don’t remember a particular tipping point, but Japan had a big influence. There isn’t such a strong distinction between craft and art there, and that allowed me to feel that I could fuse the two in my own way.
What is your media?
Hand papermaking, particularly Japanese-style, printmaking (in a wide sense, from intaglio to digital), artists’ books, and installations that incorporate all of these.
What is your current work about?
My current work is about macro and microcosms and the relationship between natural patterns on a large and small scale. The search to expand the known world and natural history inspire me, and I am interested in both historical and contemporary voyages of exploration. So I get ideas from new satellite imagery, as well as the journals of eighteenth century sea captains. Earlier this year I installed a piece called La Pérouse’s Last Letters, about the French explorer whose two ships disappeared mysteriously in 1788, leaving behind only the letters sent homeward.
Right now I am working at home and have relatively little studio space compared to other moments. In some ways that is hard, but it forces me to be creative in looking for places where I can make things. Site specific projects, such as one I am working on now for the greenhouse on the Mount Holyoke campus, are great because I make components at home and then put them together in an environment that already has its own life and a history. That feels healthier to me than making things in one white walled space and hanging them up in another. I have also been doing more drawing (which can be done almost anywhere), and going to residencies, such as one in Kökar, Finland last summer, to give myself different spaces and new environments.
How do you develop a sense of community with other artists, and how do you support your art colleagues?
Since most of the people I feel close to creatively are spread out all over the world, I try to keep in contact through sharing what I am making, and finding occasions to meet them. Sometimes that means sharing a room at a conference, or giving a lecture in their area, but working collaboratively has been the most fulfilling. Collaborations with friends who are far flung—working separately but coming together to install and show—has been a wonderful way to deepen our connections despite distance.
Do you ever get stuck with your work and how do you remedy this?
Like everyone else I hate feeling stuck, but I try to remind myself that sometimes frustration is good because that can be the moment when you recognize that you need to grow in a new direction. Long walks and wandering through the stacks in the library are what help me most. My two main sources of inspiration are the natural world and books. Maybe that is why I am particularly interested in stories of great explorers, going out to discover and deepen knowledge of the natural world.
Do you have particular habits that you think support your art practice?
Walking everywhere. If you walk rather than drive you see things slowly and notice subtle changes in your environment. Walking clears my head and sharpens my senses so that I both think better, and go beyond thinking to absorbing, feeling, and just being. I tend to over analyze, so I need that.
I teach full time in the art dept at Mount Holyoke College. While this takes up a lot of my time, teaching also keeps the process of discovery alive. The students keep me in touch with the initial enthusiasm of the process while I deepen my own ideas.
|La Pérouse’s Last Letters.Handmade kozo paper with cotton pulp painting, |
indigo dyed hemp, thread. 2011.
Where would you like to be in 5 years as far as your art making?
Lately I tend to chew on projects for a long time, working through them in different formats and iterations. I think this is good for me, because different mediums feel appropriate for different parts of what I want to convey. So now I am working on an installation and an artist’s book, an ongoing series of drawings, flat prints that relate to dimensional objects, etc. I hope to develop this further, and take on bigger, more sustained projects.
Do you have any upcoming shows that you'd like to mention?
The Verne Gallery is showing some of my prints and 3D paper objects at the New York IFPDA print fair at the Armory from November 3rd to 6th, 2011. And the installation in the greenhouse at Mount Holyoke College will be on display from February to June 2012