In order to make physical, emotional, and conceptual space for worlds governed by understanding, acceptance, and love, I use my art to 1) celebrate ambiguity, complexity, and nuance; 2) encourage playful and critical examination of oppressive cultural assumptions and practices; and 3) evoke emotion as a necessary starting point for such (re)examinations.
My purpose directly informs my methods. My original digital art prints begin with impressionistic and/or abstract ink drawings meant to capture a particular emotional experience with a kinetic logic translating mood into movement. I then digitize and manipulate these drawings via a technique I call digital printmaking, which involves arranging and layering multiples of the original/source drawing(s) next to and onto one other.
Achieving the critical mass of a completed digital piece involves a semiotic logic transforming my use of high contrast, texture, impressionistic and abstract forms into visual expressions of antistasis* that juxtapose otherwise categorically separate cultural conventions such as performative distinctions among races, classes, genders, sexualities, ages, abilities, and nationalities.
My fiber art always starts with two hooks, the one I use to crochet and a clever title for what I hope will be an attention-grabbing remix of a beloved cultural icon or iconic reference (e.g. Sharon Stitches is a crocheted action figure remix of drag queen Sharon Needles). Once I identify my source material, I experiment with fiber color, content, and weight; gauge; and dimensions to create an adaptation that balances source-specific detail with amigurumi-style cuteness.
My current work, both digital and fiber, explores the role narrative plays in enabling physical, psychic, and generational traumas at intersections of racism, classism, sexism, and heterosexism. My What Lies series, for example, uses titles; semi-transparent, lace-like top layers; simultaneously humanoid skull and eye shapes underneath; and contrasting, monochromatic backgrounds to highlight the deceptive narrative of progress used to rationalize genocide, stolen land cultivation, cultural appropriation, and historical revision.
My latest fiber figure, Vote Meow, remixes Hello Kitty as an early 20th century suffragette of color, calling attention to U.S. white liberal feminism’s erasure of the fundamental roles women of color play in social change like the 19th amendment’s ratification. Some of Vote Meow’s significant characteristics include a mouth (Hello Kitty famously doesn’t have one); plum-colored yarn for the cat body (Hello Kitty is, hello, white); dark purple yarn for hair; and turn-of-the-century-style attire in lilac and lavender-colored yarn (referencing Alice Walker’s explanation that “Womanism is to feminism as purple is to lavender” in her first nonfiction collection, In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens: Womanist Prose.)
Though not formally trained as an artist, my current art practice has developed over several years during which I used higher education to investigate meaning embedded in and with which we imbue visual culture – earning a B.A. in English and Psychology, an M.A. in Gender Studies, and a Ph.D. in English. My doctoral research examined intersections of visual culture, feminist theory and rhetoric, comics studies, and critical pedagogy, making the argument that effective visual analysis requires visual composition and that visual meaning-making techniques can be generatively applied to and employed in other communicative contexts.
I applied this perspective on the relationships between image/ word and analysis/composition to the curriculum I developed as an English/Writing Studies professor, giving first-year composition students opportunities to work in multiple material and digital media and to consider what they wanted to say in relation to the various ways in which they could say it.
In advanced undergraduate courses, I continued to foster students developing their own aesthetically and ethically critical perspectives by challenging their understanding of and belief in the value of a disciplinary distinction between fine art and writing.
Over time, my scholarship tipped increasingly toward visual composition over analysis, including the publication of an abstract comic as scholarship and the visual design of a model methodology for understanding students’ writing struggles.
Ultimately, I decided to focus on my art practice full time — I am exhilarated by the new lease on life this decision has given me.
*Antistasis is a linguistic rhetorical trope comprised of a word or phrase being repeated in an atypical or conflicting context. The desired chain reaction catalyzed by an encounter with antistasis is surprise, scrutiny/critical thought, then new/nuanced understanding.