After years of expressing and defining my artistic voice through community and public art commissions, I have created thirteen new studio works on paper. These works continue my exploration of identity by focusing upon clothing and body language and connect my history with drawing to a childhood fascination with paper dolls.
To date, fourteen women aged 6–94 from an array of racial, ethnic and economic backgrounds have acted as my models. With each model, I began by photographing her at home; asking her to wear clothing that she particularly enjoyed wearing and that expressed something about her self. Later, after completing a color pencil drawing based on the photos, I invited each woman back to the studio to write on the back of her drawing with the understanding that it may or may not ever be seen. The drawing was then soaked in a mix of water and paper sizing, pinned to the model, shaped to her figure and dried. Since the linen paper (produced by Dieu Donne Papermill) shrinks 10% after wetting, the process resulted in a softly cast shape referencing the posed figure. Hand sewing and notions were sometimes added.
As companions to the clothing drawings, I have created silhouette images of each woman in her original pose. The silhouettes were rendered on large sheets of Arches paper with color built up through surface priming, and augmented by the artist's notations and marks made simultaneously with the drawing of the clothing. Covered with charcoal and fixed, the paper was then sanded lightly to reveal bits of the undersurface. The outline was further enhanced through the use of a leather punch to create a pattern of holes along the silhouette and allowing light to pass through. While alluding to the inner and outer life of each person, the patterned holes also relate to a childhood reverie with sewing cards. The reverse side of each silhouette sheet was surfaced with a combination of ground sidewalk chalk, pressed face powder and blush. A simple statement excerpted from personal transcriptions stands against this color ground.
Five artist books were also created. HELGA, JENNIFER, WILLA, JULEE, and RACHEL were each inspired by the larger works. Fabricated with handmade paper, machine stitching, letterpress and inkjet printing, each is an edition of 35, and each incorporates the subject's clothing drawing, silhouette and writing. Dieu Donne Papermill produced the paper for these books. Pyramid Atlantic Center for Book Arts provided fabrication support. The established reputation of MAC Cosmetics among women of all colors prompted my choice of their blush powders, pressed powders and eye shadows (matched to each woman and her particular outfit) to serve as the color palettes for the handmade papers, text and threads that compose each book. Each book comes with a book sleeve matched to the selected eye shadow color. Boxed sets are also available.
Since the experience of audience is central to exploring the narrative qualities of my work, a series of Sunday afternoon salons were presented to introduce the work within an installation setting. Two Thursday evening forums: "An Evening of Conversation: BODIES" and "An Evening of Conversation: CLOTHES" which included presenters such as Robin Givhan, Fashion Editor of the Washington Post; Liz Lerman, choreographer, dancer and Macarthur Fellowship winner; and Ellen Wessel, founder of Moving Comfort women's clothing, provided additional opportunities for the exploration of ideas and discourse.