The Duality of Roses – Series

The rose is one of the reoccurring focal points in my work. My fascination with this flower dates back years before I moved to the Rose City. Maybe this is fate, since I did not know about the city's connection to the rose before I lived here.

While living in Texas I struggled with the blistering heat to keep the roses in my garden alive. Their aggressive nature constantly challenged my arms and legs, but their opulent beauty and divine scent rewarded me immeasurably.

My work examines the diverse stages of roses, highlighting their ephemeral quality as well as the metaphorical aspects of their paradoxical aggression and loveliness. In some of the pieces I incorporate rose petals in the handmade paper ("Questioning old Gertrud"). Others are drawings with thorns ("Thorn Blossom") or contain all the parts of the rose ("Transitoriness"). The "Rose Book" carries both, thorns and (velvet) petals. " La vie en rose" is a water marked, rose pigmented paper sheet. The watermarks show the Purkinje cell, which is a nerve cell, responsible for triggering mutual attraction." A Poem" is a reflection on violence, based on Goethe's "Heidenröslein". Goethe wrote this poem in the Romantic Era, using the literary style of that movement. However, it is a metaphor for rape.

Dainty rose petals have been plucked and arranged into a segmentation that mirrors the seven lines in each of the three verses of this haunting work. Each of the petals replicates a letter from this "romantic poem," conveying a painfully bittersweet message.

In most all of these works, including "Holocaust for Love Letters" handmade paper is an integral part.

In a Junction, West Texas junk store I came across an original sepia photo of a young Victorian woman. Instantly she triggered my imagination as I looked at her. Her austere posture and facial expression spoke of untold stories and a mysterious destiny. Victorian society's gender specific obstructions, oppressions, and limitations were written all over her.

To visualize what I saw and felt when I found this photo I was compelled to approach the rose theme with the contemporary technique of digital imaging. The result is a series of digitally manipulated prints, "Thorn Woman".

Water Under The Bridge
(The San Antonio River Project)

The inspiration for this work derives from an environment that is very personal to me. I once lived close to the spring of the San Antonio River, the " Blue Hole." Its deliciously pristine water filled the swimming pool on the University of the Incarnate Word campus.

Being involved with the university ballet company at the time I often had the privilege to enjoy this sparkling gem under the shade of huge live oaks. Unfortunately the swimming pool does not exist anymore. But my walks along the banks of the San Antonio River with my dogs continued on to nearby Brackenridge Park. So did the hikes in the meadows that flank the river out there where the Spanish missions are located. Meanwhile it was customary to take guests downtown to the famous River Walk and show off the King Williams area with its pampered banks and adjacent gardens. Clearly, it is the San Antonio River that puts this city on the map.

Like all rivers the San Antonio River can be a metaphor for human experience, which begins pristine but is surely contaminated by "pollutants" as life unfolds.

It was intriguing for me to follow the flow of the San Antonio River while combining the ancient craft of paper making with the contemporary medium of Digital Imaging Manipulation, leaning on science to (perhaps) have the last word.

Call & Response

"Call & Response" was used as a chant technique for laborers, often slaves, to enhance their work efficiency. Its inherent necessity for reaction is applicable to political issues and their consequences.

This work examines the justification for actions not in terms of their basis in truth, but rather their consequences, both intended and unintended. While the graves of Iraqi civilians caused by collateral damage do not go unnoticed, so, too, we see the white gravestones at our national military cemeteries become more numerous by the day.

"Call & Response," two trilogies made from handmade cotton/ abaca paper with black pigmented cotton pulp, 18" x 20" each sheet, are my response to this very sad chapter in world history.

Border Hyphens

Found objects continue to intrigue me. On the U.S.- Mexican border they even become more interesting, since they almost always derive from different cultures. The banks of the Rio Grande and the adjacent arid semi-desert brush land from Laredo to Cotulla offer an astonishing array of these objects.

Once I held them in my hands, their storytelling potential motivated me to create a series of twelve assemblages in shadow boxes. They tell of "mojados," lovers, rangers, soldiers, pioneers, gunslingers and mineworkers.

Using 16"x 22" handmade cotton paper sheets (cotton as a Texan icon), I placed the found objects into a folded recess and mounted them with wire. In the context of "Border Hyphens" they act as tools of association.

Then I positioned other objects I associated with the found objects at the inner lower edge of the shadow box as an invitation to spin these untold stories. The rich, evocative potential of the objects stands in stark contrast to the almost minimalist execution of the series.

In "Border Hyphens" the found objects should be read as the connecting link between reality and imagination.

What Gravity?

"What Gravity?" is a series of sculptures, accompanied by compressor painted images. This work clearly acknowledges the physical law of gravity, but nevertheless pokes fun at it while trying to wiggle out of its unavoidable certainty. Seedpods were the inspiration for this work.

I started this project with the intention of learning to cope better with aging, especially my own. It is my hope this work process helps me to embrace aging with greater serenity (and some aplomb).

The seven sculptures are suspended. Their size varies slightly but does not exceed three feet in height. The structure of the sculptures is copper tubing and steel. The skin is flax pulp.

The images (three) are hung without frames. Their size is 62"x 36". The medium is pigmented cotton/abaca pulp.

Revisiting Renaissance Art

In an attempt to determine why I feel so strongly attracted to Renaissance Art, I made an experiment:

I completely abstracted the paintings from this period, focusing only on the compositional lines, stylized main shapes, and hues, since it was very seldom the subject of Renaissance Art that interested me.

I chose handmade paper as a medium and painted shapes and accents on it. The lines result from tearing up very thin handmade paper and mounting it to the mother sheet.

A thin layer of shellac protects and gives an ancient feel to the work.

“Of Mice and Men”

“The best laid schemes of mice and men gang aft a-gley.” This line is taken from Robert Burns’ poem To a Mouse, and scarcely anything sums up my life experience more precisely than this quotation.

John Steinbeck found this theme relevant enough to dedicate a powerful novel to it. It also is consistent with John Lennon’s quotation, “It is life what’s happening to you, while you are busy making plans.”

The inspiration for this series comes from a discovery I made at an antique shop in New Braunfels, Texas. There I found an enigmatic looking stack of cards, which magically attracted me. They were handmade and lashed together with a worn piece of string. It took me awhile to find out their original purpose: They were created in the Thirties by an ophthalmologist for testing his patients’ eyesight.

In the context of this series, these cards become a metaphor for VISION, which seems to be of existential and practical importance to human beings.

From my German childhood I also remembered the drawing of a little mouse, thumbing its nose, from a book I dearly loved. Wilhelm Busch drew it, and I made an etching after that drawing. The mouse represents the FICKLENESS OF LIFE.

Vision and fickleness (card and mouse) are juxtaposed because of their intrinsic incompatibility.

The organic shapes stand for LIFE. They are a reference to Carl Blossfeld’s book Archetypes of Art. His work continues to fascinate me. These organic shapes now fatefully traverse the labyrinths, which are an added metaphor for our carefully CONSTRUCTED PLANS. My research of mazes (labyrinths) took me from BCE to the end of the last millennium.

I experience a special “connectedness” to my art when I work with my own handmade paper. The diversity of techniques and media used in this series underscores the diversity and complexity of all our lives.