I recently discovered your newest body of work, Mythic Proportions, of paper-cut collages and acrylic paintings at South Main Gallery in Vancouver. You made reference to art history, current events and celebrity culture. What message were you hoping to communicate through this collection and where did you draw your inspiration from?
My work has always dealt with perception. And as we are seeing in the world today, the cultural and political framework that we are living in causes us to judge one another hastily on scant visual clues. The homeless, the refugee, the relics zealot etc. The complexity of the human experience is being reduced into quick, dismissive generalities which create ‘the other’, an enemy who is feared and demonized.
My paper collages which are studies for larger acrylic on canvas paintings, are my explorations into the cultural myths and archetypes that at one time assisted us to understand the world, but now are triggering political and social reactions which are creating violence against facts and worse, against other people.
By referencing art history I am utilizing familiar cultural imagery (and then turning them literally on their heads or sides) in order to trigger other related and hopefully puzzling thematic relationships that reference contemporary mythologies.
The imagery probes the tension between figuration and abstraction as well as between the dire and the ironic.
You have been an artist for over 20 years and have clearly seen a transformation in your work. Can you please tell me more about this transformation?
My work has developed as my curiosity about the human experience has grown and changed. Much of my art has been autobiographical.
My personal issues of surviving HIV/AIDS, liver cancer and other challenges, and the strength and wisdom that one garners with overcoming such obstacles has motivated me to create a lot of work and has taught me how I can use my work to keep my spirit strong. It has also enabled me to be less afraid of the world and to embrace change and new directions in my artistic practice.
You are clearly fearless when it comes to experimenting with various mediums. Do you have preferences for the materials you work with? What direction do you see your future work taking?
Traditionally I have always been a painter, in acrylics and oils but now working in paper collage has opened up a new world of possibilities for me. I have always been mindful of repurposing materials in my studio, of not just discarding things when I’m done with them, but incorporating them into my work. Therefore I have made paintings on medicine pill bottles and syringes etc, that have been the by-product of my health therapies. I’ve painted on paint brushes that are no longer useful. I’ve made canvas collage paintings where I cut up and reorganize old paintings into new compositions. I basically will make art out of whatever is available.
You draw inspiration from your observations of our society and go deeper into your work touching on what we can’t always see. Have you always been this observant and has this awareness had a major influence on your artistic journey?
I grew up as a single child and my chief pastime was drawing so I became rather visually acute early. I have always been observant. I knew I saw the world in a unique way and I grew to trust and explore my particular perspective with eagerness. I have always spent time wondering for example what colours I would mix to create the particular shade I’d see in a building’s shadow for example. Or the puzzling of perspective or how to render volume or how to describe emotion with colour.
You were the featured biographical subject of Cue The Muse, an Emmy-nominated documentary series that focuses on artistic freethinkers and creative rebels. Can you tell me more about this experience and what you believe led to you being featured?
I was approached by 2 film-makers who wanted to feature me somehow.
As our discussions progressed over the months I suggested that my experience was very different form artists in other disciplines, so I suggested approaching Alexis Fletcher a friend and extremely gifted dancer in Ballet British Columbia for her perspective as well. We then also engaged a singer and a musical instrument creator to see how their approach to inspiration was complimentary and different as well. I think the project was very successful.
What is next for you on your creative path? Do you have any upcoming projects you are looking forward to?
Next, I’m working on a couple of shows at public galleries as well as executing a large mural on an outdoor Vancouver wall. I’ll probably have my next exhibition in a commercial gallery in the autumn.