…The throughline that seems to make its way into my work is the beauty of the human spirit and its immense capacity for change and transformation. In my earlier work, this came about through my peaked interest in the works of literature Paradise Lost by John Milton and Invictus by William Ernest Henley. They contained the energy of the Hero’s Journey archetype and the indomitable human spirit. Though Paradise Lost was about the fall of Lucifer, Milton positioned him in such a way that made him appear as a sort of warped hero or relatable in his tumultuous, emotional downfall at the very least. Henley’s feelings of our capability were clear when he wrote in Invictus: “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.” With this, my earlier work focused on the grit, perseverance, tragedy, but also victorious nature of transformation. Falling from great heights, undergoing incredible hardship, and having the wherewithal to choose to move through it and arrive on the other side differently, like a phoenix being reborn.
I often get asked about the blood—blood is a symbol for life, death, and rebirth. Blood has rich religious and cultural significance that come into play as well—it’s a representation of both sacrifice and initiation depending on the context. Chronologically, there is a tonal shift in my body work from the blood being more symbolic of the hardship we undergo, to it being a symbol of rebirth and indication of a new period starting. During this time of focusing on the hero’s journey archetype, I felt that there were missing elements. It had a structure and arch that was relatable enough. Something kept nudging me that there is more. I began to realize it felt heavily masculine in nature. I believe we all carry both polarities within us, so we can relate to each and notice when one is lacking or absent.
I was on the search for the feminine experience of transformation. I began reading works such as Women Who Run with the Wolves by Dr Clarissa Pinkola Estes and The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter. The former being folk tales from different cultures and the significance that they have in each phase of a woman’s life spiritually, psychologically, and physically. The latter being a feminist retelling of classic folk tales that I found delicious, strange, and yet quite satisfying. So, I created the feminine counterpart to Bloody but Unbowed and Ascension with Give Me the Death I Need and Revelation. The large difference that I found notable was the masculine had to go out, find the darkness and conquer it, and the feminine had to go within, and as Hozier sings in Arsonist’s Lullaby, “don’t you ever tame your demons, always keep ‘em on a leash.” I think the feminine resolves to understand the darkness to keep it at bay rather than annihilate it in hopes that it wont ever return. Because the darkness never truly leaves.
Moving into the paintings that I refer to as “the Antler Series”—Growing Pains and Love or Death. This series was intended to represent the beauty and horror of change. The harshness and tenderness of being trapped inside an old identity or story. In order to move on from the stories that we’ve told ourselves, we have to first inspect why they appear in the first place and what involvement we have in keeping them alive. We have to meet this version of ourselves with compassion, so then we can begin to dismantle this cage that we’ve created for ourselves. I wanted to show the tension that is letting go of an old version of yourself to make space for the new to appear, through this visceral imagery of pairing antlers with the body.
For me, my work acts as a search for meaning and beauty during times of great discomfort and darkness, a search for the light, if you will. The work is intended to honor all that we overcome and to celebrate this complex process. I’ve noticed that I often resist change which I think is why I am so obsessed and enamored with this theme—with the power and potential inside each of us allowing us to be the hero in our own stories. I believe that our capacity for transformation is the closest thing we have to magic.