"Narrating Remembrance" is a collection of mixed media drawings exploring personal experience with rising painful memories in a context of the universal human ability to hide such histories deep within. Thus, recently some of my recollections came more consciously to the surface as I remembered a darker side of my childhood: the painful persecution that my Jewish Dissident family had to go through while I was growing up in Soviet Russia. I remembered general and minute anti-Semitic acts, attitudes and their repercussions, that involved painfully subtle but directly influential daily harassment, discrimination, and oppression. I have been so lucky to emigrate to US at seventeen and hid the entire painful Soviet, anti-Semitic, lacking realities deep under hundreds of mental folds. From my childhood impressions, it seems, I have only kept the youthful happy feel, filled with love and support of my family. Deep ethnic connections, faith and prayer have been a thread of hope throughout these times. I do not know what triggered the folds to unravel but I have been “unraveling” my memories and finding all of the small and big pains and fears rise to the surface, as the Soviet realities have been spilling from my mind’s depths.
In this body of work I have enjoyed expressing my love of drawing and an appreciation of its simple tools and materials, which allow me to reproduce dream bodies and wrap them up in imaginary folds. These forms are reflective of specific emotions as a memory and not always as a specific event: the images are of an adult appearing a witness to intense feelings of a child from a distant past. The imaginary bodies are somewhat stiff, unnatural and isolated, reflecting on the inner state of fright and tension. The tightly wrapped figures echo political binds, while also a feeling of being enclosed within one’s own fears and cautions – I still find myself looking twice to see if anyone is following and am terrified of hearing the phone or the door bell ring.
As I wrap the drawn bodies in the imaginary cloth, with each fold I remember, forgive and commiserate with personal and collective pains of the past; by unraveling the folds I “expose” and “loosen” personal histories so closely intertwined with the histories of others. Adding actual cloth ties the drawn women with this reality. The knots of threads, the strips, bulks and folds of fabrics, the layers of boards, are expressions of accumulated strata of life’s minute and general, inner and outer occurrences, accumulations, recollections, tied within, tied without, untied, unraveled and interwoven with the present and future. The colors of the cloth represent flesh and soul, pain and fear, hope and freedom, and are found and refurbished pieces of fabric. Poking paper with a sharp needle and bringing the thread through is as enjoyable to me as marking the paper with soft core of the pencil. Sewing reminds me of mending and holding things together in daily life. With these drawings I unravel the past onto the paper, while trying not to stay too tied up by its bonds.
Life Paused: Women and Wars
Pain, be it bodily, mental or emotional, constitutes an intrinsic part of the human condition and places one outside of one’s normal self-identity. Consequently, encountering others’ personal tragedies or global cataclysms sanctions for the practice of empathy by offering compassion, generosity or help. Both suffering and empathy allow one to experience a different dimension of one’s inner and outer life by stepping outside of one’s habitual comforts.
My work explores these concepts by reflecting on personal empathies with most recent meditation on Life Paused: Women and Wars. In the face of war perpetuated terror, women continue to give birth, to nurture and to sustain life, to only see that same life disintegrate through the loss of their families, the fall of their own bodies through shameful hurts or through displacement. In this work I strive to translate the intensity of pain forced on women during war to allow for sympathetic reflection on the topic in a viewer.
Intensity of the subject matter dictates the choice for my materials: wood resembles life easily destroyed by fire; thread reflects on life’s passages: broken but possibly mended. My “canvas” is often created as a collage of ripped and sewn paper and/or fabric. My fabric choices tend to reflect the airy qualities that allow for light penetration. A work is often incepted as such a collage of paper and/or fabric resulting in a unique shape and structure. In the process of sewing it together I contemplate the subject matter and the image. Thread has become an important element in my work representing both linear and drawn elements, as well as the conceptual and textural structure it offers to the work. The process of making, undoing and mending references tragedy and coping. Textile elements and drawn bodies are sewn together then layered with thread and found objects. In the end, a figurative image drawn on paper or cloth is often altered through ripping or cutting and sewn again forming a metamorphosed body. Although, some works portray figures drawn in a detailed and careful manner to reflect beauty of and regard for a female body in spite of of her wounds.
The making of this work allows me to step outside of my habitual self and I hope will inspire a viewer for empathetic contemplation as well.
Politics of Motherhood: Maternal Domains
My recent status change from a woman to a mother has opened doors into a rich subject matter where I am able to explore philosophical and spiritual sides of motherhood as well as its daily societal politicization and invasion through a prism of personal experiences.My creative process starts with a memory of my body in labor or while nursing my children. This particular bodily image then transforms into a visual portrayal of that intense emotional state as a drawing of a life-size figure in a pose reflective of that memory on paper, board or cloth. An archive of various cloths that I have collected over time serves as a pool of inspiration for my work as well. Sometimes I start a specific work by altering a piece of cloth through slashing and mending each piece using a variety of methods such as ripping, cutting, burning, weaving and sewing and then work with the emerging forms corresponding to the particular emotional state. In order to connect the transformed cloth with the drawn image I often use a range of threads as a drawing material by weaving, tying, sewing with or knitting. Some works also incorporate altered personal clothing items worn by myself and by my children.
Esoterically speaking, cloth and clothing cover human body as a second skin to provide warmth, protection, as well as symbolize care and nurture. A woman’s body acts as such catalyst towards her baby through bodily processes of conception, pregnancy, and lactation, in addition to physical and emotional forms of nurture in general. Thus, in the Maternal Body I also investigate maternal intimacy and sensuality. These principles often express themselves as a range of contrasting inner qualities such as love and hate, calm and fury, gentleness and harshness that outwardly might appear as a set of eccentric yet archetypal, paradoxical yet prudent behaviors accepted or rejected by the masses. Thus, a mother figure may emerge as appalling and attractive simultaneously. I try to express this contradictory nature of maternity through juxtaposition of a drawn figure and textile elements thus creating layering that allows one to look inside the drawn body through its many layers – from physical, to psychological, to spiritual. The layers are connected to the drawn bodies by sewing, stapling, or weaving through to reflect on the element of maternal pain, both physical and mental. However, no less important is a constituent of overcoming that pain which acts as a catalyst for a mother’s spiritual growth.
Through the Maternal Domains my intent is also to instigate an awareness of a “maternal body” – pregnant, birthing, lactating, nurturing, suffering, loving - as a normal presence in our culture to be respected and accepted as an individual.