My work is inspired by the ancient and complex relationship of plants and animals to human cultures, both past and present. When nature and culture were in harmony, people had an understanding of humankind’s unity with all of earth’s organisms. For me, this is apparent in a small exhibition of jewelry, pottery, hunting tools and other objects of the first peoples of the Americas at the Brooklyn Museum: one of the objects, from present-day Costa Rica, is a gold Chiriqui pendant of a spider whose legs end in human hands that hold a double-headed snake. There is an awareness of cross-species solidarity communicating power and awe.
Similarly, in my photo-based works, I combine tattoos with flora and fauna. I see tattoos as gateways to merge our humanity with the larger world of animals and plants. I look for correspondences between living flora and fauna and tattoos of natural imagery, such as animals, serpents, insects, flowers, butterflies and mythological iconography. I use palladium brushed on translucent gampi paper. In its sensuality, gampi paper is like our skin and the membranes we share with all animate beings. My intention is that the resulting poetic narratives embrace our identity with the earth in this time of climate warming, ocean levels rising and biodiversity extinctions.
I believe in imagery that uses the power of its materials and its immediacy to give form, beauty, and illumination to our relationship to the earth. I paint palladium emulsion on Japanese gampi paper, handmade from the fibers of a wild plant. This paper has the quality of silk.
The darks of palladium, a metal 35 times more rare than gold, reflect light. Palladium produces tonal distinctions of extreme subtlety. Brushing the palladium on translucent, hand-made, plant based paper and using the sun for exposure gives spontaneity to each unique work. Painting with Kremer pearl luster watercolor, which refracts light, heightens the drama.
I photograph people’s tattoos with a 4X5” camera. Word of mouth through friends and tattoo artists has provided a steady stream of tattoo enthusiasts who model for this project. In gratitude for participating and sharing their tattoos, each person receives two 8X10” professional gelatin silver prints of his/her tattoos.