I was all about making sculpture, and then, after the loss of two people close to me, I felt the need to “talk about things.” Instinctively, I developed a creative outlet for intuitive feelings. Through art, not words, I let the pieces evolve expressing a response better suited to me. Through this process, I have continued to express life as I know it.
Mj Viano Crowe
DRESS CODE NARRATIVES
I am in love with, and conflicted about fashion. Clothing, often the bridal gown, figured prominently in my past work. Other series used embodied and empty dresses as both surrogate and metaphor. For me clothing is a potent vehicle to convey ideas about the spirit and matter, ritual and transformation.
In DRESS CODE NARRATIVES, compelling tales in the anthology, Women’s Indian Captivity Narratives, first and secondhand accounts from the 1500s through the 1800’s, were my inspiration. As settlers moved westward, Native Americans, endlessly exploited and marginalized, retaliated to survive. White women and children were sometimes taken as hostages, or as replacements for family members who had perished in earlier battles.
The accounts of the women I depict are part of our nation’s conflicts, and our collective histories. In cobbling together these dresses, cutting and pasting cultures and perspectives side-by-side, understanding and new meaning emerges. The truths of these stories are simultaneously simple and complex, transparent and layered, reshaped through the passage of time and in the re-telling, much like memory itself.
See the Word
// i // personal beyond personal // wife died // devastation // pain // stopped creating // the word not seen // psyche a desert // after 2 years slowly create // one word // God // in the visual sense // God? // visual literary // creating GOD part visible // 24 x 36 // silent God // life a desert // one word exploring // personal beyond personal // searching words // negative // devastated // defining words // everyday words // historical // redefining words // seeking // exploring // visual literary // work with fuck // fuck // discover word fuck positive // in one word totality // variations // exploring // visual literary // personal social beyond personal // a beautiful word // recreate // 50+ variations of word fuck for beauty // seek single words // moving slowly beyond devastation // beyond pain // seek freedom // hitler // nigger // one word // explore // personal beyond personal // GOD? // fuck // nigger // devastation // create create create // visual literary // creation is destruction destruction is creation // pain // the eye of the mind // i see the word //
I work in a combinatorial way and draw upon stories and mythological ideas from East Asian, Western and Native American sources for my images. The materials that I use include acrylic and oil pigments, India ink, my own photography, drawings, cut and torn papers, and “objects” that I’ve found over the years.
For the past two years, I have been using a sort of formal “framing” for my works (like the ones I’ve submitted) that are inspired by 16th century Italian, French and German playing cards. I’ve given this series the title “Cartomancy” inviting personal divination as viewers, perhaps, imagine how they might be interpreted or even “played” for themselves.
With this, I’m trying to tap into a centuries-old cartomancy that facilitated self-reflection and even storytelling. Italo Calvino described cards (Tarot in particular) as a “combinatorial narrative machine”.
I live and work in Portland, Maine.
Collage and assemblage continue to be strong factors in my work; I simply enjoy the physical process of layering and the intuitive discoveries that layering can bring to more formal compositional relationships. My work deals with common themes of transition and transformation. There are stories, to be sure, but I rarely begin a piece with a narrative already in mind. Instead, during the process of making when a narrative begins to appear, I simply hang on and wait for instructions. Sometimes the stories take a more public direction; they might turn up in titles, or in bits of exposed text, or in obvious visual symbolism. But mostly, the narrative factors accompanying my work remain private; they are the personal notes I have imbedded in paint and the never-ending questions I have on my mind.
My Half Life:
I never dreamed that 25 years of my life would not be fully accessible to me, that large sections of my body would not occur to me, that I would stop breathing, lose vital signs, focused vision, coordination, energy. What crystallizes in it’s place is color, loose, shifting forms, the earth’s joyful animation. But also my isolation and entrapment, invisible to everyone else.
For many years now I have worked with birds that have crossed my path due to what I call “expected accidents”. Our connection to birds runs deep. They are in our myths and on the cave walls. Pictorially they are often depicted with human bodies. I use the birds that come my way to speak about relationships, consequences, sacrifice and modernity. Using them as metaphor, I tenderly work with these birds, honoring what happens to them as they live life.