Feminist Artist Statement
My feminist orientation solidified while an undergraduate student at Smith College. In January of 1979 I assisted at the Smith College Museum's panel discussion and exhibition, "Contemporary Women in the Visual Arts." Specifically, I helped Hannah Wilke with the installation of her work. My payment took the form of one of her gum sculptures in a plastic box for which she had me chew 3 different flavors of gum. I watched as she then formed them into the iconic shape that distinguishes that period of her work. That event preceded a brief but unforgettable relationship with Hannah, which left an indelible impression on my aesthetic development.
As a "third wave" feminist, I had found the previous generation's strident approach somewhat alienating. Rather than risking an antagonistic reaction to the work, I chose to provoke the viewer's empathic responses with humor. This strategy, I found, can directly engage the viewer in the conversation and cause him/her to look more closely at uncomfortable images than (s)he might otherwise do. Engagement became one of the fundamental and most satisfying objectives of my work.
My artistic approach has its origin in experience -- so being a woman, and specifically a woman in American culture, has guided my practice from the outset. This begins and ends with the body as subject matter. I initially decontextualized body images, breaking them down and presenting them in an isolated way in order to raise new questions. As my process has evolved, I continue to explore subtle psychological issues, and use them to investigate the paradoxes inherent in contemporary culture.