Can you share a your personal story and how it connects to your artistic work?
I am a native Phoenician - and my mother also was a native of this area, born in Tempe, Arizona. My upbringing was submerged in white privilege with little awareness of the indigenous people surrounding me in my home state. Although my household was liberal in its thinking, it would not be until the jolt of 09/11 when my intuition about the status quo would be fully awakened.
I had been practicing as a graphic designer for nearly 35 years, when I was inspired to return to ASU to explore further education. As a result of a semester’s study of Apartheid and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s work after Nelson Mandela’s rise to power, I found myself in South Africa for two summers. Restless after these intense, and life-changing experiences in South Africa, I was drawn to seriously develop an artistic practice as a means to respond and voice my frustrations with US policies in the global neighborhood. The material basis of my work employs fiber-based techniques, which, given my 1950’s white female upbringing, offers a unique conceptual underpinning. I seek to exploit the soft connotations of these traditional house-making “crafts” to convey hard truths of the social issues of our time. Further, my professional practice as a graphic designer emerges to combine aspects of typographical messaging and digital imagery with the natural mechanics of textile structures.
What themes or topics do you address in your artistic and cultural work?
Thru the filter of my own experience as a white female born in1950's America, I explore themes of assumed entitlements, homogenization, marginalization, and human obsolescence - social divides we’ve come to accept as normal cultural paradigms. In questioning this acceptance, I recognize the insignificant - marginalized found objects and disenfranchised people. Driven by a desire to make right, the work I do reflects my own handwork, but also orchestrates handwork of people experiencing homelessness or interested community members through public interventions that seek to socially engage the hands of many to create a larger whole. My work exploits traditional fiber techniques as conceptual tools for aesthetic, social communication to examine a society of which we are all a part - as bystanders, participants, victims and perpetrators.
Why is artistic and creative expression important to social justice organizing and movements?
Humans are drawn to “the spectacle”. The artistic spectacle - whether visual, audible, or performance - offers the opportunity to upset the norm, to expose new or previously hidden perspectives on social issues through meaningful, and often visceral experiences. Artists work within (or without) parameters of their own making, and have the power to awaken empathy and connect common lives to large ideas through commonalities we all possess. It is through these non-tangible connections that hearts and minds are affected, changed and activated to live with more careful intention.
What new directions can we expect to see in your work and what is on the horizon for you?
At this point in time, having just come off of a few large efforts to make tangible work, the focus of my practice is in the absorption of new information in order to develop meaningful ways to deliver teaching experiences to a various of student types. In addition to my teaching practice on the ASU campus and at Paradise Community College, I was selected as one of eight cohorts to participate in the inaugural Creative Aging Institute organized by the Arizona Commission on the Arts. The aging population is an important group that is often marginalized and “warehoused” in our society so focused on youth culture. I’m interested in exploring ways to connect and invigorate aging participants through meaningful artistic experiences.
In addition, I have been selected as one of two artists by the City of Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture for a residency at the 27th Avenue Waste Treatment Facility. We have free reign to create work from our experiences and through the materials available at this facility. I am hoping to combine object making with exposing the cycle of our waste - with a focus on the people whose job it is to deal with the cast-offs of our daily lives. This will be an exciting opportunity to learn and create the work that will emerge from this residency.
What is special or uniquely powerful about Arizona artists and aesthetics?
Arizona is a border state with Mexico, and in the crosshairs of one of the most contentious political issues of this election season - immigration reform. Maricopa County is strapped with one of the most vocal and abusive perpetrators upon the incarcerated population, - Sherriff Joe Arpaio - his department under federal investigation for the practice of racial profiling and abuse of undocumented people. Our state legislature has a history of racial inequities in its voting record, passing SB 1070, and refusing to recognize the MLK holiday until the economic impacts of this decision came to bear - to name only a few. In addition, there are over 20 different native tribes on Arizona soil, with over 1/4 of the state designated as reservation land. Arizona has the second largest Native American population of any state in the US.
Yes, Arizona itself is a political spectacle - fertile ground for the artistic spectacle.
In addition to the political rhetoric, traditional imagery and artistic practices of indigenous peoples offer a legacy of artistic expression borne of Arizona - with its particular flora, fauna and mythologies. There are so many brilliant artistic voices working in Arizona, with a story to tell, experience to enlighten, awareness to incite. In making artistic work that speaks to their particular experience, Arizona artists have the opportunity and power to craft messages that are meaningful in the broader context of social justice discourse.