Her Secrets

The table has a bed underneath it. It looks pathetic but sleeping there actually feels comforting to her.

Under the table is a painting by Norah Flatley Lovell (Who had a 2006 show in Kansas City and maybe is still in Taos, New Mexico). The painting is a swirl of images. Sleeplessness causes thoughts to come and go through her head. Bits of information or memory that are pushed aside to clear the head are replaced by another bit, and another, and so on until her head is a jumble with no one idea dominating.

She has many secrets.
It takes time to find them and understand.

The table has a drawer with a stomach on it. The drawer is hard to open but if you do get a peek inside, there are kleenex wads with calculations on them amongst the chocolate bon bon wrappers. The drawer has slick white walls, a pink carpeted bottom complete with drain plug.

Dimensions:12″ x 24″ x 8″
Last shown:1991 “Surprise Visit”, one person show
Eureka College, Eureka, IL


The iron hangs from the ceiling via utility cord attached to a spring. It is an oversized iron and has a butt. It hovers over a very thin ironing board, which is concave. The legs of the ironing board bow out and are attached to big construction orange feet.

When I lived in an apartment in Chicago, I asked the landlord if I could store some things temporarily in the landing between the apartment next door and my apartment. I was waiting to move everything into new studio space. I had some rough storage space for the “stuff” you collect and can’t part with in a studio, but between the apartment doors I stored finished work, including Iron.

One day I came back from work and it was all gone! It was an amazing physical sensation of panic! I ran down to the owner’s door and he said he threw it all away. What was it all anyway!? We had a huge shouting match. Then I ran out to the dumpster. I pulled out the orange feet – wrapped in bubble wrap very carefully. I pulled out the iron, the ironing board, etc. As far as I could tell, it was all there. I started running it up to my third floor apartment. I was livid with rage! Emotions ran head to toe like electricity. Everything was packed so carefully that it was obviously wanted material.

Between trips someone swiped the box that the iron was in. I asked around and a “blue van” had stopped by, so I jumped in my car and searched for a blue van for an hour or so to no avail. My cast aluminum piece – gone! I noticed there were other things missing. I asked the landlord about them. He had put them in his basement because he thought he might have a use for them.

It was an amazing experience to see objects you have slaved over heaped in a dumpster. I did pay to have the iron recast. I believe the one pictured here is the first iron. I moved out of that apartment as soon as the lease was up. The landlord had a heart attack shortly after my departure.

When I made Iron I was thinking about things that we humans spend a lot of time on that are really not very meaningful. Well, they are meaningful in some way to the person performing the process, but in the world what is the point of doing this thing you love? It’s not just artwork that fascinates me: Cheerleading, dog shows, crossword puzzles, many many things we do. I have great respect for devotion ala the movie Fast, Cheap, and Out of Control.

There are other aspects of the piece. For one, it takes muscles to meticulously remove wrinkles using this particular iron day after day. The pressure of the spring requires determination; gravity is not assisting as per usual with this chore. Also, tool itself, the iron, is a body. It is pulled and pushed often. It is heavy and is the intermediary between the fixer and that which needs to be fixed.

Dimensions:floor to ceiling x 30″ x 5′”
Materials:spring, top from iron, cast aluminum iron base, board top is buckeye wood, legs from ironing board, wood feet on ironing board
Last Shown :1991 “Surprise Visit”, one person show
Eureka College, Eureka, IL

Public Access Kleenex Box

If a public entity (school, park, bus stop, subway) had the public comfort in mind, they would provide us with some Kleenex. Tissues are a comfort when it’s needed and it seems we all need to beg for it or fend for ourselves. Even though other things at hand might serve its function, it does not feel like a luxury when you reach for it.

Sometimes when this piece is shown, I use tissues in other places as well. In the last show there was a gap between floor and wall. We folded Kleenex and piled them underneath the wall – a secret stash. They also appeared on windowsills and a vitrine (big glass case) that happened to be available.

The students at Eureka College thought that there was some kind of psychological experiment associated with the piece. The rumors flew and they believed that the color they chose “meant something”. Somehow they felt observed when reaching for the Kleenex. And reach they did – the boxes were quite empty on de-installation.

Comfort to the people!

Dimensions:14″ x 48″ x 8″
Materials:Wood, Kleenex, mixed
Last shown:1991 “Surprise Visit”, one person show
Eureka College, Eureka, IL

Single Occupancy

The experience: Open the door and enter a long hallway. Turn the lock on the door to “occupied” so you have privacy.  The door closes behind you if you leave it open. The room is a gold color, with carpeting like you’d find in any suburban home. At the end of the hallway is a room just big enough to contain a chair with very wide arms. Turn around and sit in the chair to face the doorway which has a mirror on the back of it. It’s just you in the chair and the mirror at the other end. There is no ceiling. You are in a private space within a public space. There is no ceiling so the noise wafts around you. The experience is akin to when attending a party you need a break from the din and being pleasant. A typical option is to take refuge in the bathroom. You close the door and “ah” finally a bit of peace. But then is it peaceful in there for you?

The first time this room was constructed, it was in a space familiar to most viewers. From the gallery, outside of the installation, the dimensions of the room were unclear and thus a surprise. The yellow interior glowed when the door was opened which created interest from those around the room.

There were varied reactions to the experience of Single Occupancy. One professor drank his coffee in it every morning as a respite; one visitor burst into tears and told me more than I ever expected to hear about an art viewer’s life and body image. Public/private, body image, peace of mind, are some of the topics that come into play. The experience may differ based on time of day and mood of the moment. Can you smile at yourself in the mirror or growl or avert your eyes or ignore your reflection? The comfy chair provided invites you to stay awhile, take all the time you need to figure it out.

Dimensions:12″ x 24″ x 8″
Materials:Room was constructed with the usual drywall materials complete with carpeted floor, mirror on back of door, chair, vacant/occupied lock, welcome matt.
Completed:1990, 1992
Last Shown :1992 “Speak”, group show
Randolph Street Gallery, Chicago

If You Knew

The body is involved with viewing all art but with installation even more so. Installation art relates to you (the viewer) standing there. It might make you more aware of your movements, your height or weight. It might surround you or ask you to participate with touch. It might require that you walk through it. It might be very particular to the space you are in and may not make sense anywhere else.

I was thinking a lot about how we feel emotions in our bodies. Where do you feel joy, fear, or anxiety? Head, stomach, shoulders, hands, feet? Can you locate it?  I tried to make a piece with x-rays to explore this physical emotion. It never quite got finished but this one emerged from the exploration.

A “stomach” is on a table that looks quite animated. It is nestled in the table – there are grooves where it sits as if it has been picked up and put down often. Maybe you come home from work, throw the keys in the basket, take off your shoes, remove your stomach, and relax?

When you view this piece you can see part of yourself in the mirror. It is an old mirror, the silver worn away in places. The locket stands open empty. There’s some kind of sadness and missing someone or thing.

Dimensions:4′ x 30″ x 3′
Materials:Mirror, locket, table top is buckeye wood, table legs are mahogany, object is water-based clay, covered in oil-based clay, covered with plastic.
Last Shown :1991 “Surprise Visit”, one person show
Eureka College, Eureka, IL

Sculpture Kit

At the start of my MFA program we were told to make a sculpture in the form and method in which we have been working. Although the intent was seemingly straight forward and meant to provide a way to ease into new work, it turned out to be surprisingly painful. In a short period of time, questions about my work and about myself were highlighted, leaving me feeling very vulnerable and testing my own validity as an artist.

Notes from my journal:
“After I put the Vernissage show together last June, I felt like I had some closure with the paper/screen work. Creating them again was more like following a recipe than pursuing a creative inspiriation – I felt like I was copying myself. This dissatisfaction was amplified by the questions asked of me during the first quarter – the issues are difficult enough when feeling confident of the work.

Because I felt that making this sculpture was much like following a kit, I decided to use the sculpture to show that. I dissected the work (which was very therapeutic) into parts, and provided instructions on how to make it by number; a sculpture-by-number that can be purchased in any discount store. The meaning can be expanded then to not only represent my own experience, but to comment on the absurdity of kits made for “learning” how to paint, and on the idea of making art objects reptitively, without thought, for the sole purpose of making money.”

It was a rough start into my MFA program but one thing that I came away with and still love (as a person who also has a bachelor’s degree in math) is how the numbers activate the piece. The brain starts churning to solve the numbers. Can the piece really be put together? What is the number pattern? Even today I don’t use math much in my work but I still delight in numbers and graphs even if it is for image only – fake science.

Dimensions:8′ x 8′ installed
Materials:Wiindow screening, paper pulp, sizing, vinyl numbers, hoops, wire, misc.


This scale hopscotch is a bit of humor that came out of another piece which was much more elaborate. It was a scale trail. There were some 20 scales with their own personalities – some covered in astro turf, some on fluffy pink rugs, a dual set for left and right foot, etc. I envisioned viewers to walk the trail but found that most walked beside them and observed. As always in the USA we then talked about the realities of getting sued if someone got hurt.

Out of this I came the idea of a pristine white scale hopscotch which I expected not to be hopped but to be experienced by looking. Inevitably I found footprints in numbers. Viewers also found the shape of an ancient cross. Playful or holy? That’s up to you.

Dimensions:8′ x 4′ installed
Materials:Floor mat and 9 shiny white scales
Last Installed:1990 MFA show

Another Morning

Sometimes I play with bringing the body into the work more directly than relating to a sensual object like a stone carving. Carved sculpture involves the body by relating to its form and by touch or the desire to touch. Another Morning, as well as much installation art, involved the body whether the viewer physically got on the trampoline or not because they could feel how it would be to strive for that first warm cup – “the breakfast of champions.”

This piece was criticized as a “one liner” but sometimes that is enough for me, especially when it is among less accessible works in a show. Clarity and humor can be refreshing.

Dimensions:20’x 4′ x 4′ installed
Materials:Trampoline, Wheaties, breakfast serving, Wall St Journal, clock, shelf.
Last installed1990 MFA show