I have been constructing a painted universe where control, power, otherness, sex and violence are reoccurring themes. The construction of “the other” within any given society is the core of my investigation. I have been connecting the events and characters from the 1692 Salem Witch Trials to my own growth, development and family history within the same town over 300 years after. Reenactments, mass media entertainment, spectacular or shocking displays and the blurring of reality and representation are indelibly present in my work.
Recently my figures have been trying to figure out where they are and how they relate to one another. In time, I would like for them to show how to bridge divides and to highlight the good of humanity. The colonial mindset and its inherent concepts, including race and otherness, are ever present today and reach into my work. By superimposing symbols, memories, reinventions, representations and artifacts of other eras and peoples onto contemporary ones and vice versa, I am often staging people and objects like props on a set.
I question what is permissible to paint. This has become a challenging question when applied to our post-colonial world. There are no carefully balanced compositions, no coherent narratives in my fragmented and disrupted universe. I paint glimpses of cruelty and tenderness, whimsical commentaries, impotent acts, useless rituals, theatrics and fire.
Ongoing photographic series beginning in 1990. The artist continues to revisit the archeological site of Samuel Parris (Salem Village minister during the Witch Trials of 1692/1693). Located 1.7 miles from the artists' childhood home.
When a house is torn down and nothing is built over the original site, the only evidence that remains is a trace scar in the earth, the foundations: a square ditch in the ground.
The home is the woman’s country although she does not rule it and may not even be able to protect her offspring, especially of the same sex, from the violence of men. Often, their home is a prison. Perhaps women are the internal enemy of the men’s group, and interned, just as any raced, sexed, gendered, classed, other is the internal enemy of the men’s state. There is no women’s country with a women’s army to defend it. The notion makes men and their female apologists grin or cringe. They need not take it seriously. Perhaps the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. Most women are ultimately homeless and hopeless.
Only through another can I know myself as an individual (other). Only through another can I know myself as human (same). When I look into the mirror both are reflected. The mirror I show is my artwork. Only through creating sameness can society perpetuate itself. Only through creating otherness can it create sameness. When it looks into the mirror, expecting to see reflected the boundaries between ‘us’ and ‘them’, the desired and the despised, the owners and the owned, the mirror cracks. The cracks between fields and the fault lines within them are potential for change. As an artist, I can choose to stay ‘same’, conform and confirm. I can move toward the edge of my field and meet ‘other’, confront and consider. I can even move into and out of another field and ‘become other’, challenge and change.
“In a universe suddenly divested of illusions and lights, man feels an alien, a stranger. His exile is without remedy since he is deprived of the memory of a lost home or the hope of a promised land.”
‘Hope’ is a dwelling surrounded by arable land surrounded by wasteland, often a marsh. Do these concentric circles have permeable boundaries? Do they allow for a creative gathering in one of these circles and release into another one? Assume there is a woman in this house, painting. What would she paint other than the raced, classed, gendered metaphors her inscribed body-mind generates quasi-automatically? If so, her body will be rendered absent and her mind marginalized. If she were to creatively confront her potentially maternal body-mind, linked today to technologically mediated processes of creation and procreation, production and reproduction, would her ‘female gaze’ become ‘masculinized’? Could she learn to look at distance while still embodying touch? Would her paintings reflect the outside in a two- dimensional flat mirror or the inside in a three-dimensional curved speculum? Is not her bodily unity as fabricated as another's identity has been? How fixed are the scars of the inscriptions she bears - and adorns? Has she internalized them to a degree that makes empathy and solidarity with others impossible? Does she find continuity in the split between her body and her body of work? Is her discontinuous body of work representative of her fragmented being? Does this woman even have a place to be and something to paint? If so, does she have to die (figuratively, but literally is helpful, too), so that her work may be valued? Will her body as being, feedback and path have to be buried like an afterbirth?
The personal pronoun ‘she’ stands, as far as I know, never for both sexes in any language.
May she give birth to sons but never represent men? Can she paint herself? If not, can she paint any other? What should she paint in the house that is not hers and a body-mind that is not hers, either? What could she paint when her self-desired agency is subsumed under other - desired instrumentality? If she is means of production and also (self-)alienated labor, controlled and conforming, what may she produce other than images that reflect her being as denied?
A woman painter who competes as a singular artist is far from unique: she has internalized inscriptions to the point of defending the segregation of all life into binary user/used code. Her use of the other is not different from that of the society she lives in: Identification with the other ends in avoidance of radical self-change. Her art will show this. Her art will be privilege and seek privilege. The public killing of the witch was once the locus of one spectacle wherein society celebrates its order on its old terms by destroying the body of the inscribed used other. It did so again lynching African-descended Americans, and still does so in its pornographized productions of racial profiling, sex and war. The focus of denying life to the body of another is denying the other the potential of change on the other’s terms.
A female artist who tears down the house she languished in and builds a house to live in through her painter’s practice, may find that cooperation is the female equivalent of male competition. She may also realize that the polarity between otherness and sameness is constructed to reduce life itself to an abstraction not representative of life, but of the shallowness of virtual reality, the square ditch in the ground, the mass grave where passionate being and its passionate representation is laid to rest. When I reflect on my art practice, it changes. In the house this painter builds, otherness shall live as likeness.
 Friedman, Maurice. The Confirmation of Otherness. The Pilgrim Press, 1983. Pg. 66 (Camus, Albert. The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays, trans. Justin O’Brien (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1955), pg. 6