I have become increasingly interested in the spiritual dimension of the material world. I first started thinking about how we attribute meaning to material objects in my earlier work that focused on food and meaning. In it, I drew the imagery for my prints and paintings from food-related memories, associations and rituals. I explored themes such as food and morality (gluttony vs. abstinence, denial and restriction) and food and identity (personal, cultural, familial). These images also touched on confession and the seven deadly sins.
Another series of paintings focused on food and religion, inspired by stories about medieval women mystics and their relationship to fasting. I culled these stories from Carolyn Walker Bynum’s book, Holy Feast and Holy Fast: The Religious Significance of Food to Medieval Women. These paintings are not illustrations but rather are inspired by stories about how the women mystics used fasting as a means of obtaining independence and, ultimately, spiritual sustenance.
In thinking about food, which has no inherent meaning other than providing us with neurochemical fuel, I find it fascinating how foods and food practices are assigned meaning by human beings. This led me to think about the ways in which we, as a species, assign meaning to other material objects.
In recent paintings, I have focused more broadly on rituals of contemplative significance. I’m interested in how people express their spiritual needs materially through the use of personal and ceremonial objects in shrines, altars and other sacred spaces. I paint from displays of sculptures, photographs, candles, foods, offering bowls and other objects chosen for their symbolic meaning, especially focusing on their groupings in the constructed environment of personal altars.
My particular focus is on household shrines, altars and meditative spaces. Contemplative practices are intended to remind us, in our daily lives, to pause, to reflect, and to take time to connect with our inner world and a deeper dimension of life. My painting, Busy Mind, is about the many thoughts and distractions that intrude during mediation practice.
In his book, Religion and Material Culture, David Morgan takes an approach to studying religion “that attends to belief as an embodied epistemology, the sensuous and material routines that produce an integrated (and culturally particular) sense of self, community, and the cosmos.” It is these culturally particular material routines that I seek to explore visually in my paintings.