A R T I S T 'S S T A T E M E N T
As people travel around the world, they bring their traditions and knowledge with them, mixing their culture with those of new ones. My own migrations are important in shaping both my personal identity and the art I produce: landscapes both real and imagined, such as in Jerusalem, the Sudan and Tuscany.
While attending Bryn Mawr College, I studied at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. From my narrow terrace in Abu Tor, I looked out on the Old City, with its rays of light shifting and refracting on the golden dome of the Mosque of Omar, and on the rock-hewn elevations set among pastoral olive trees in the Kidron Valley. Colors, dimensions and shapes, entirely new to me, still inform my work. The golden light has influenced my use of the values and textures of gold marker, paint and leaf.
2. The Sudan
Many years ago, I found myself transforming an idiosyncratic doodle into fine ink designs rendered with a rapidograph pen, creating an intricate negative space as in "Dinka Drummer". A chance invitation brought a son of the Dinka chief of the Southern Sudan to my living room where my designs were displayed. Tall and majestic, (the Dinka are the tallest males in the world) Francis Deng was collecting stories handed down for generations by the Dinka. Every evening, he told me, the Dinka would move their sofas outdoors, and a storyteller would relate these ancient stories until each person—and sometimes the storyteller himself! —was asleep. Upon viewing my ink drawings, he asked me if I were part Dinka and if I would illustrate his collection of folk tales.
"African Folktales, Stories from the Sudan" ( Holmes and Meier, Africana Press ) with five of my illustrations, was published in 1974. The Dinkas were animists, worshipping animals, plants, and the elements, freeing me to use strokes and shapes, as in the pulsating " Dinka Drummer", "Spearing the Fish" and "Talk to the Sun", to form an aesthetic unity between man and nature. In other designs, birds are simple shapes that acquire personality and even a strut.
A sojourn in Tuscany reinforced my appreciation of ancient setting and form, in particular, the rhythms of Romanesque semicircular arches of buildings divided by massive stone walls. At Lucca, an imposing ring of buildings surrounding the central market square followed an elliptical shape.
At midday, I lost my group when I lingered at the sight of the ancient ruins at Piazza dell'Anfiteatro. I panicked. We were to meet the tour bus outside of one of four gateways that led to the center of the square. A cross that served as my compass was carved into the central tile of the square with arms pointing to the four gateways. I had to negotiate no more than four walkways, at the end of one of which I would find my companions and my bus. The ingenious design components of earliest Tuscany allowed me to regain my bearings. They continue to inform my use of geometric relationships at once logical, inventive and whimsical.