I began this piece shortly before I had knee replacement surgery. I was absolutely terrified of the upcoming procedure and desperately needed something to take my mind off it. Art has always been a way for me to explore subjects I’m curious about. But this time around I wanted to do something to pay homage to my muses – a gift of gratitude to all the women (real and fictional) who have inspired me.
Like the George Bernard Shaw quote above the altar, I believe that “life is about creating yourself.” I regard my muses as honorary members of my family tree, since their work and life stories have had as much a part in shaping the person I have become as whatever traits my ancestors handed down to me.
My list of inspiring women includes some obvious choices, such as: artists (Angelica Kauffman), writers (Christine de Pisan, Sor Juana de la Cruz), adventurers (Gertrude Bell, Amelia Earhart) queens (Elanor of Aquitane, Elizabeth R.) and a few goddesses (the Minoan Snake Goddess.) But there are some odd characters as well, to liven the mix (Sheena Queen of the Jungle, Alice in Wonderland.)
When creating the art for this altarpiece, I studied medieval tapestries. I chose this subject first for the technical virtuosity and the intricacy of their imagery, but also because most of the work to create these elaborate artworks was done by anonymous women (often in monasteries.) I think the magic they made with colored threads is most humbling. I also am well aware that strands of DNA resemble winding threads and, as in tapestries, these strands combine to form a bigger picture. So, I tried to weave the theme of threads and interconnections through the imagery in my artwork as well as using actual threads to wrap parchment strips the have the names of some of my muses written on them. I suppose, in a sense this is binding them. But all the ends are left free to fall where they may.
Mitochondrial DNA (or Altar to Honor My Mitochondrial DNA) is a one of a kind artist book created in 2015-16.