Once the most abundant bird in the world, the last passenger pigeon died in 1914. Considered cheap meat, the birds were zealously hunted throughout their native North America. To tell this story, I collected clay pigeon shards from the Santa Clara Field Sports Park Shooting Range and configured them into bird-like forms. I’m grateful to WEAD for showing my Clay Pigeon Passenger Pigeons at Bioneers.
I’m grateful to Dorota Brzozowska, Professor at Opole University, Poland, for including my work Bound to Please #35 in Chinskie Slady, her book about Chinese traces in Polish culture. The piece pairs a ceramic misshapen foot and an actual lotus slipper, referencing the old Chinese custom of foot binding, a ritual preformed on young girls resulting in permanently stunted foot growth to comply with the cultural ideal of tiny feet. Chinese women with bound feet created intricately embroidered silk slippers to showcase their lotus feet. The ultimate bound foot, “a golden lotus,” measured three inches in length.
Thanks to Bethany Marcel for her review of Nostos.
Her comments about my work: "I also enjoyed the visual art by Lorna Stevens, paintings that “reflect experiences of a journey home…..derive[d] from aerial photographs of the United States-Mexico border.” I was moved by these images. I admit I lingered longer here than I usually do over graphics in a literary journal."
Last May I was invited to contribute original images to Nostos, a new literary journal. The term “Nostos” refers to the experience of returning home after a journey, as in Homer’s The Odyssey. I was intrigued.
As is often the case with these things, editor Lawrence Tjernell was facing a deadline and I was embarking on a two week trip to the east coast. I threw my paints in my suitcase and considered what I might do. In New York I visited the Museum of Modern Art, where I saw Robert Rauschenberg’s series of transfer drawings illustrating the thirty-four cantos of Dante’s Inferno. Though Dante’s work was created in the early 1300s, Rauschenberg only used contemporary images in his interpretation because, in his words, ”The role of the artist is to see what is in the world today.” This resonated with me and I chose to focus my images on immigration, specifically our relationship with our southern neighbors. I began each picture with a graphite drawing from aerial view of the United States-Mexican border. To these I added a watercolor overlay.
“Transit,” the left image, is from an aerial photograph of a highway system in Tijuana. I added the painted lines to create movement and the sense of going from one place to another.
“Terrain,” the middle image, derives from a photo of a mountainous area near the San Ysidro border crossing. I added the blue circular stroke to reference a topographical rendering of such a place.
“Mapping,” the right image, starts with a drawing from an agricultural landscape in El Paso, Texas. The rectangular fields reminded me of the grid on a map, an essential navigation tool.
Nostos includes work from seven poets, a short story author, an essayist and an artist.
Please join us for a reading at College of Marin on Tuesday, November 7 at 7pm in the Learning Resources Center, College of Marin Library building, 835 College Avenue, Kentfield.
Nostos is now on the bookshelves of Copperfield's Books in Petaluma, Novato, and San Rafael, and available on Amazon.
In 1981, “Abstract Figure,” a limestone sculpture I created that year, was purchased for $1000. from a Stone Sculpture Society exhibition at Lever House on Park Avenue in New York. As a young artist just starting to show my work, I was thrilled. I lost touch with the piece until this week when I received a note through my website asking if I had created it, and if so, would I provide additional information about the work and the process of making it.
I was prompted to revisit 1979-1982, when my practice focused on stone carving. I worked with Minoru Niizuma, an abstract stone sculptor, in the undergraduate art department at Columbia University. He was a wonderful mentor, who helped me secure a place in the Iwate Sculpture Symposium in Numakunai, Japan, where, during the summer of 1982, I created a large scale granite piece for the town sculpture garden. He also contacted his friend Isamu Noguchi and arranged for me to visit him in Shinkoku. My afternoon visiting with Noguchi and touring his studio in Japan is one of my most memorable art experiences.
Abstract Figure, pictured in a photo sent by its current owner, was one of several stone works I made during this time. I loved the physicality of carving stone and the challenge of creating from such dense material. I was firmly attached to the minimalist aesthetic and stone carving offered a copacetic material and process.
In September, 1982 I entered Columbia’s Master of Fine Arts Program, intending to concentrate on stone sculpture. Two weeks into the program I broke my finger and the doctor prohibited me from using a chisel for eight weeks. That event prompted me to investigate alternate materials and techniques, especially since I needed to create a body of work for end of the semester faculty critiques. My practice expanded to include a variety of traditional and nontraditional materials and all sorts of new ways to construct objects. To this day, I continue to work in a many media, attempting to marry material, technique and subject matter.
Though I no longer carve stone, I was happy to be reminded of my time doing so.
Two publications regarding “Common Dilemmas,” my recent collaborative exhibition with Joanne Easton, prompted reflection on how we, the artists, wrote about our work compared with the observations of an independent art writer.
We co-authored an article on the advantages and complexities of collaboration, which was published by WEAD (Women Eco Artists Dialog) in their Artists At Work Issue. Joanne and I described the history of our work together, our distinct creative approaches and the Ostrich Feather Dress Project, a group endeavor we developed for the show.
Writer and artist Christopher Squire saw the show and was prompted to write ‘Footnotes on the Ostrich Feather Wedding Dress Project: Wearing the Beast,” which was published in Dissolve SF in February, 2017. His article focused on our group endeavor, but also included commentary on our collaboration.
I learned from reading Christopher’s response to our work and from comparing it to what we had written. Our account was descriptive and explanatory. We focused on sharing our creative journey with the reader. Christopher’s take, in comparison, communicated less information in a more poetic way. Unburdened by the history of the project, his perspective was less pedantic and fresher.
Consider our respective descriptions of the project:
Joanne and I wrote: “Research into our relationship with the ostrich, specifically our desire to adorn ourselves with its feathers, led us to purchase an ostrich feather wedding dress on eBay for $50. We invited artists to borrow the dress for a week and create a two-dimensional or wall hung three-dimensional work inspired by it. For many months the dress travelled between various studios in the bay area, resulting in thirteen diverse creative responses. Each Ostrich Feather Wedding Dress Project work reflects both the dress and the aesthetic perspective of the artist. The dress inspired photographs, drawings, paintings, relief and sculpture that visually comment on fashion, gender, desire, waste and more. When hung together, the pieces reflect many facets of this loaded garment.”
Christopher offered this: “For Joanne Easton and Lorna Stevens, a secondhand wedding dress purchased on eBay became the beginning of an exploration that grew to involve over a dozen new interpretations of the dress on the themes of constructed gender and marriage ideals, fetish, and fantasy. The garment is not the minimal, antiseptic gown of orthodoxy, but its wild cousin. Festooned with an unruly, downy border of snaking, white ostrich feathers engulfing the neck and wrists, drooping sleeves and an empire waistline, the dress makes space for new variations on a historical theme. In the Ostrich Feather Wedding Dress Project (OFWDP), Easton and Stevens reposition the wedding dress alongside the unusual secondary object of the ostrich egg, underscoring its role as an icon to explore the ambiguity inherent in signifiers—the physical form of a sign, as distinct from its meaning.”
So thank you, Christopher for your inspired thoughts on our project and for reminding me to apply creativity to my written words.
This group exhibition featuring text and image work was curated by gallerist Donna Seager and includes a selection from God, Seed and Huia.
I'm pleased to present works in collaboration with Joanne Easton combining natural and man-made materials in “Common Dilemmas,” a “With the Earth” exhibition at Gallery Route One in Point Reyes, California. The opening reception, from 3 to 5 pm on November 6, includes an artists’ talk at 2:30 pm. The closing art salon takes place on December 11 from 4 to 5 pm.
The show’s title, “Common Dilemmas,” is a play on the economic theory of a social shared-resource system also known as the tragedy of the commons. We use bird stories to address the complexity of sustainable practices, filtering this shared focus through our distinct creative approaches to produce diverse and complementary works.
Our collaboration began a year ago, catalyzed by four ostrich eggs sourced from my cousin’s farm in Ohio. The show includes the ostrich egg pieces and extends to include work from our individual practices including the Huia, the Passenger Pigeon, the Drinking Bird Toy and the Thirsty Bird Oil Derrick.
A highlight of the show is the Ostrich Feather Wedding Dress Project, a group endeavor by twelve artists invited to create wall works inspired by an ostrich feather-embellished wedding dress purchased on eBay for fifty dollars. The artists include Marcela Pardo Ariza, Mariel Bayona-Garcia, Ray Beldner, Suzanne Engelberg, Hadar Kleinman, Judith Selby Lang, Evie Leder, Cait Molloy, Thomas Van Houten, Katherine Vetne, Mary Hull Webster and Minoosh Zomorodinia.
I took the photo on the left in my studio. I’m wearing an ostrich feather adorned wedding dress and channeling Cindy Sherman as I compose a self portrait by moving many times from pose to iphone camera and back again.
The photo on the right, again me in the dress, was taken by professional photographer Suzanne Engelberg. Part of an afternoon photo shoot, this image captures a spontaneous sit down artfully enhanced by the photographer.
Both images took about the same amount of time to produce. The selfie realistically records me and my surroundings. The professional portrait renders me as I could not. I don’t have the technical skill, equipment or vision to create such an image of myself. Though I’ll continue to take selfies to record the events of my life, I’m glad to have Suzanne’s all together different portrait of me in the dress.
The Ostrich Feather Wedding Dress Project will be exhibited in Common Dilemmas, a “With The Earth” exhibition at Gallery Route One in Point Reyes, California from November 4-December 11, 2016. Common Dilemmas is a collaboration between artists Lorna Stevens and Joanne Easton.
The Ostrich Feather Wedding Dress Project is a group project of artists’ wall works inspired by a Lilly Rubin ostrich feather-embellished dress purchased on eBay for $50. Participating artists include Marcela Pardo Ariza, Mariel Bayona-Garcia, Ray Beldner, Suzanne Engelberg, Hadar Kleinman, Judith Selby Lang, Evie Leder, Cait Molloy, Thomas Van Houten, Katherine Vetne, Mary Hull Webster and Minoosh Zomorodinia.
Suspended Animation is back at di Rosa.Read More
For almost a year, I have been working with artist Joanne Easton. We were both residents at the Vermont Studio Center in December 2014 where we developed an interest in each other’s work and a desire to collaborate. We chose to work with four ostrich eggs sent by my cousin from her farm in Ohio. Initially we were attracted to the remarkable size and shape of the egg, but the ostrich story led us to create a series of works contemplating resource allocation. Once-threatened by the high demand for its feathers, meat and eggs, the ostrich is now semi-domesticated and farmed around the world. In response, we are creating a series of sculptural objects encompassing themes of desire and loss. Pictured above is Repair, in progress, my restoration of an egg I let roll off my work table and am restoring using the Japanese Kintsugi technique. Kintsugi is the art of restoring broken pottery with gold so the fractures are literally illuminated. The philosophy treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise.
I become acquainted with artist Minoosh Zomorrodinia through our work together on the WEAD (Women Eco-Artists Directory) board of directors and am honored to be included in “Rite of Passage,” a show she curated with Arash Shirin. Currently on view at the Islamic Cultural Center of Northern California, the curators hope to expand the conversation between environmental art and personal spirituality.
Rite of Passage through March 20th, 2016
Fridays and Saturdays from 12 – 5 p.m.)The ICCNC gallery( upper level)
1433 Madison Street
Oakland, CA 94612
"Smaller Footprints" at the Museum of Art and HistoryRead More
One Threshold, Two Yields at Krowswork in Oakland, January 1-10.Read More
Provider, revisedRead More
Draft pages from Paradise Drive, the Artist’s Book, a combination of selected sonnets from Rebecca Foust’s recent book, Paradise Drive and my watercolor responses.Read More
The Snow Goddess, an unexpected creation, inspired by my niece's story.Read More
I'm honored to be included in the "More Than One Way," exhibition at Southern Exposure. We are fortunate that SoEx remains committed to its annual, juried, entry fee free show that supports "new, innovative, risk-taking contemporary visual art practices."
Please join me for the opening reception on Friday, November 21 from 7-9pm at
Southern Exposure, 3030 20th Street, San Francisco.
Exhibition dates: November 21 – December 13, 2014 (closed November 27 – 29)
Gallery Hours: Tuesday – Saturday, 12:00 – 6:00 PM
When I posted pictures of my recent work Suspended Animation, I received responses asking where the piece is located and how to see it. I realized that not everyone is familiar with di Rosa, an extraordinary collection of bay area art housed in several buildings across two hundred acres of landscaped and open space in Napa. Founded by Rene di Rosa, who avidly collected and championed the art of northern California, the collection includes the work of over 800 artists including William Wiley, Bill Allan, Enrique Chagoya, Joan Brown, Mildred Howard, Paul Kos and Deborah Butterfield. The sculpture garden, where you'll find Suspended Animation, features work by Mark di Suvero, Ray Beldner and Viola Frey. Now is the perfect time of year to visit di Rosa. Tour information is available at dirosaart.org.