My Latest series, “Our Sheets,” was created during my Artist Residency in Motherhood (2016 - 2017), which began with examining unheralded “women’s work,” and the juxtaposition of the normally separate roles of parenting and art-making.
Spanning 186 nights of co-sleeping with my newborn, I merged my artistic practice with our negotiation of physical space, by placing 216 sheets of Kozo paper (formed of mulberry fibers) in our bed where the Kozo captured our rest and restlessness; recording the rhythms of waking, nursing, and sleeping again, absorbing many drops of milk and tears in the process. Seeing the bed as a place of transition, where dreams were made and interrupted, we tossed and turned atop the Kozo, the sheets becoming creased and torn, mapping the movements and interactions of our bodies. After a week, when the bed sheets were changed, the nine sheets of Kozo were harvested, folded and stacked.
Labor-intensive and painstaking in the process, the creation of this work mirrored the gestation, labor, and the work of mothering a family, in which it was based. In the studio, the sense of liberation and mindfulness which grew from creating the large-scale collage -- built to a 1:1 scale of my 80” x 60” queen size bed -- bled back into my life, inviting attentiveness to the simple tasks of home.
Transforming the stacks of paper into a “sheet” nods to the oft-invisibility of my labor, and moving from the intimate space of the bedroom into the public sphere expanded the work to an exploration of women’s roles as person, partner, parent, pauper, and pensioner. The work also forced growth in my paradigm of parenting and art-making as work to include a felt sense of the fruitful creativity in the everyday tasks that comprise a life. And in using materials from my daily life -- dyes made from foods in my kitchen, soothing and stimulating substances such as wine, coffee, and chocolate, vegan finger paint used for play with my kids, and discarded protest signs made of cardboard -- I discovered how the incorporation of those materials imbued the pieces with their meanings.
Each sheet became, as Harold Rosenberg described, “an arena within to act,” where chance played a leading role. Responding to the surfaces of the sheets, I then brought intention back into the work with drawing and painting, using traditional tools (graphite, pastel, charcoal, ink) and staining with natural dyes like watercolor using (blueberry juice, beet juice and elderberry juice), and mapping lines with the gratifying snap of a contractor’s chalk reel. Through a pointedly minimalist language, the essence of the work became a lived and documented experience of the intersections of our stories and the way we tell them.