As a child, I enjoyed playing with ColorForms, those flat, rubber figures that stick to landscape scenes. Paper dolls were also a favorite. I worked out my feelings this way, manipulating figures on an imaginary stage. Since I was shy and anxious, I enjoyed solitude and sought dominion over a world of my own choosing.
I loved building things too. When I was seven years old, I created a figure taller than myself with my father’s woodworking tools, (stepping on a rusty nail in my bare feet). Another time, I dismantled my record player for its parts to build an abstract sculpture.
One day, while pouring over the glossy pages of a ballet magazine, I discovered dance. Captivated by the elegant form of Spanish ballerina Lupe Serrano, I wanted to be like her, so for the next fifteen years, (with the help of my mom who drove me to daily class) I learned ballet, eventually performing with Boston Ballet, Portland Ballet, and Ram Island Dance Company of Portland (a modern dance company). When I wasn’t dancing, I loved to draw and make paper collage. In 1985, I graduated from the University of Southern Maine with my BFA (concentrating in drawing and sculpture). Dance had left me with injuries, so visual art became my focus.
I was drawn to the surrealists–Joseph Cornell, Kurt Schwitters, de Chirico, Max Ernst. In 2008, I discovered Adobe Photoshop. With practice, Photoshop’s layering and editing capabilities helped me achieve seamless compositions recalling the fluidity of ballet. I have been working digitally ever since, and some of my work over the years has seen the covers of books, magazines and CDs.
Rarely creating from a fully developed idea (unless commissioned) I let my intuition guide me. A photograph (or scan) of a model is removed from its background then placed in a new environment and layered with other photographic imagery. Motivated by memory, hope. and feeling, unexpected narratives unfold. Themes such as love, loss, failure, triumph, transformation or transcendence seem to tell the tale of a life.
This past winter, I have been building Dioramas (shadowboxes) and assemblages as well as working digitally. An empty wooden box is an inviting “stage” for a new play. Combining the head of an old porcelain doll, perhaps cracked or broken, with a brass bird, a spool of thread or a delicate ornament, tells a story. I love browsing the dusty back rooms of local antique shops for materials. My iMac competes for space in a studio cluttered with old wooden boxes, statues of the Virgin Mary, found objects and ephemera of all kinds, as they wait to make their “debut.”
Feature image at top, and cover image for the Spring 2019 Issue: Joan Proudman, That Kind of Day, digital image