Artist's Statement :

I don't like to call myself or my work "spiritual," but my experiences as a long-time Buddhist practitioner and one-time nun are strong influences. There is a Zen story in which a student asks a dying teacher what to do to honor that teacher’s memory. The teacher answers, “Build me a seamless monument.” Meaning: live in such a way that “sacred” and “ordinary” are one. Playing on this possibility, I apply the methodology and aesthetics of the sacred to the ordinary, and vice versa. For example, in the first phase of the 100 Names Project (2002) I used site-specific shrines and maps to create a walking pilgrimage linking dozens of spaces in downtown Atlanta , wherein participants engaged their city, its contrasts, and its multi-national inhabitants with newfound attention.

My interest in devotional sites takes root in two major pilgrimage experiences. In 1991, I walked the Camino de Santiago in Spain , following a traditional route to the shrine of St. James in Santiago de Compostela. Two years later, I was awarded the Chase Coggins Memorial Fellowship to photograph the 88-temple Shikoku Island pilgrimage in Japan. Sites along these routes showed me how thousands of handprints can dig gouges into the stone of a cathedral, how grape soda can be an offering, and how participation in a shared, sequential matrix of gestures can be a catalyst for transformation.

Re-casting traditional devotional practices into contemporary situations keeps the traditions relevant and offers a rich vocabulary for expressing activist impulses. I like to tread a fine line between reverence and play, and so the recipes for my installations sound like this:

  • During an election year, question the deadly polarization of political display by staging elaborate street processions around Vashita the Sacred Cow.
  • For the Names of God in a litany, or the deities in a sand mandala, substitute actual names of those being born and dying, in the city, every day. (100 Names Project Phase II, 2002)
  • Use a crisis in urban green spaces as a starting point for growing acorns into trees for re-planting, and then as a catalyst for written reflections on the paradoxical nature of nurture. (Becoming the City that Planted Trees, 2003 & Becoming Aware of a Paradox in Nurture, 2004)
  • Be literal about utopian longing for A Better Place , and suggest alternatives to the blight of untended investment real estate. Apply these as vinyl letters on the windows of derelict, empty shops. (Coming Soon, 2002)
  • Invoke the oracular possibilities of the Internet, using search-engine results as raw material for multi-layered Internet Mandalas of participants’ chosen texts. (Internet Mandala Project, 2003)
  • Take the story of the god Indra’s magic net of stars, and invite participants to make a net of their own, linking themselves to one another in a giant cat’s cradle tracing personal relationships. (Finding Indra’s Net, 2004)

Alongside major installation projects, I continue to work as a painter, a book artist, and a photographer, understanding that the seeds of my ideas are watered through these deliberate ways of recording and invoking the world.

August 2005