This expression is a legacy of the Medieval world. At the Getty Center is an exhibit and a book titled: “Book of Beasts: The Bestiary in the Medieval World”. Curated by Elizabeth Morrison and Larisa Grollemond, this exhibit highlights how people in the Middle Ages perceived animals and explores the intersection of the animal and human worlds. Animals, both real and fantasy, were thought to have moral characteristics of good and evil. Hence, foxes were thought to be cunning in their pursuit of food, which included raiding hen houses of farmers. We also see the legacy of this visualization of animals in ours lives in the Harry Potter books and in the series “Game of Thrones”.
I pair the human world with animals to highlight the fragility of our current connection with nature. The human and the fox in this work here are united in their desire for the protection of the forest.
Recently I found a goose feather and as I walked, with the feather in my hand, I noticed how the feather responded to the wind. I felt how a bird feels as it flies.
At the Cooper Hewitt in New York City, there is an exhibit titled “Rebeca Mendez Selects” which highlights the fate of the Aztec ruler’s, Moctezuma II’s, private aviary at the hands of the Spanish conquerors. The Spanish set fire to his aviary and killed all the birds, which had come from all over the Americas. That this act demonstrates the destructive powers inherent in colonialism; it also illustrates the tensions arising from our conflicting impulses towards nature. This exhibit shows birds as sources of art, design and science and also discusses the effects of climate change and human avarice.
In the spring of 2017, my work was part of the exhibition “Tattooed New-York” at The New-York Historical Society. This exhibition traced the history of tattooing in New York starting with the native peoples to our times. It was curated by Cristian Petru Panaite.
My piece, “Hands Fly”, was exhibited with work that expands tattooing from the personal into art.
Tattooing was and is a part of human cultures globally.
My work is often inspired by the close relationship between tattoos and the honoring of plants and animals by other cultures, both past and present.
At the Brooklyn Museum is a small exhibition of jewelry, pottery, hunting tools and other objects of the indigenous peoples of the Americas in the Pre-Columbian time. One of the objects is a gold Chiriqui pendant of a spider whose legs end in human hands. This pendant served as an active extension of its owner, like tattoos, and a communicator of awe for a creature of nature.
An artist whose work includes spiders is Louise Bourgeois who saw spiders as elegant, fearsome and protective.
My work is a combination of experimental photographic techniques and hand-applied color. To make the photographic base image, I collage negatives of photographed tattoos with negatives of flora and fauna. For the tattoos, I photograph people’s tattoos with a 4X5″ camera and enlarge the negatives onto larger film in the darkroom. The negatives I use for my imagery of flora and fauna are camera-free. In the darkroom, I project a small object — a flower or a piece of seaweed, for example — onto negative film with my enlarger. I try to allow the shapes to take form in an organic process of discovery, working with various degrees of focus in the final image.
I then combine multiple negatives of tattoos with negatives of flora and fauna. Next, I paint palladium emulsion on handmade translucent Japanese gampi paper. Once the emulsion has dried, I place the negatives on it and top with glass and expose the image outdoors in the sun. It can take mere minutes in the summer or even hours in the winter for the image to form.
Depending on my ideas for each work, I may expose the work again with other negatives or paint it with water colors. Each unique work is process driven. At each stage I decide how the work is communicating.