SISTERS OF THE CLOTH
New work from the quiet isolation of the Spring and Summer of 2020. This Series is built upon the impressions of a five year old in La Rochelle, France, where – for awhile – I was put into the custody of nuns who lived in a medieval convent.
CORRIDORS & SHROUDS
The impressions began with walks in neighborhood cul-de-sacs where I noticed pieces of cloth. I would notice one, then another, and another. In New Mexico, many still put their laundry out to dry, often draped over a fence or stone wall. Sometimes, these are forgotten…left there to fade into the seasons. Couldn’t tell you why rags and laundry caught my attention but once you start noticing something, there’s a reason.
In the quiet of this pandemic, my dreaming revealed corridors and shrouds. My waking now held terrors. Abandonment, loneliness. I resisted remembering until those terrified little girl memories of flapping cloth creatures emerged forcefully, impatient with all the waiting. From bundles of rags, I “saw” fabric – copious, flowing, mysterious – rise into form.
As a 5 year old, I struggled to grasp that real women were under all that drapery. I could ask nothing for speaking was discouraged. Other than the perpetually seated Abbess, this community of French nuns was always in a hurry, dashing and darting with bundles, parcels and mops. Incessantly toiling. Like household gods, each was a silent expert at what they did. You said little, did much. They were frighteningly beautiful blurs, smudges of white and black. Everything in its place, everything in order.
Wearing different habits to denote their status, there was a distinct hierarchy within this community, and you quickly learned who was at top, and who did the laundry. They all commanded their space wherever they were or whatever their assignment was – all knowing, all powerful but in fact, many years ago nuns had little to no power within the church. I’m not sure they even do now. These obedient women were consecrated worker ants, always minding the time, polishing and starching as they noiselessly prayed.
Decades later, I remember those figures of cloth rushing down ancient corridors, making sounds like the sails on fishing boats in the La Rochelle harbor.
The shrouds in corridors became sculptures of cloth. Since I work with 3D programs, I began assembling fabric in an abstracted manner but still figurative. Joan of Arc has been my primary subject matter for so long that this different way of working startled me. The work just became. And it wanted to be ceramic. This is what led to that.
I’d been to a lecture in Taos at the Harwood Museum in 2019 organized by Ann Landi of Vasari21.com, on the Evolution of Art Criticism, which included panelists Peter Plagens, Laurie Fendrich, Lucy Lippard and Garth Clark. Garth Clark is a distinguished writer, curator and lecturer on modern and contemporary ceramic art. I was galvanized by his understanding of this medium, which I never seriously considered. I bought his 2003 book, “Shards,” and wondered when and how I would produce ceramics.
This new body of work, “Sisters of the Cloth,” can only exist as 3d printed ceramics. Some pieces appear simple, but are in fact, quite complex. Created with 3d software, they are well-suited to 3d printing. The process will involve clay extruding to the largest size, and then combining the sections into life-size sculptures. They will be fired like pottery, and then hand-glazed. They can be constructed with permeating resins for outdoors, hung on walls, suspended from ceilings. Editioned smaller pieces will come first, because when working this way, each side must translate well.
Ceramic always suggests fragility. These iterations of fresh novitiates, postulants and weary old nuns wearing extraordinary hats no longer exist in the real world. The habits they wore have virtually disappeared. These are the impressions of shapes – sometimes apparitions – from a five-year old mind. I have harbored these windswept impressions over a lifetime and, like the statuary that filled their Medieval convent, these pieces are a kind of vesper, a chant from the sanctuary of dreams.