Category Archives: new work

my first paper installation

What an incredible experience!!  EvictionProof Peepshow – as part of the 2012 Philly Fringe Festival – is not only my first installation comprised entirely of paper, but it also fulfills a couple of my long time dreams.  First, I have always wanted to install my work in a real home – and what a home this is.  A home of artists who are the most incredible hosts of all time.  Secondly, we actually charged admission and people showed.  Some will say “art should be open to the public at no cost”  – well this is fine if the artists have funds to sustain.  My life-partner, Martina, is a performer/director/producer in the art world of theatre and they almost always charge admission – why not visual artists?  And last but not least I finally meet Pauline Houston McCall and Debbie Lerman.  Please see the amazing artists of EvictionProof  – Michael Clemmons, Marie Monique Marthol, Mindy Flexer, Jennifer Blaine, Celestine Wilson Hughes

Here’s Virtual Fancy Room

EvictionProof – peep show

Eviction Proof takes place at 4613 Newhall Street and will open on Friday, September 14th, 7:30-9:00pm.  Admission is $15 for a tour through the house.  Patrons who wish to reenter may pay an additional admission.  Patrons are invited to share their stories of foreclosure and eviction online at our website, or Philly Fringe Festival

The house invites visitors to peep into the lives and home of its family in this ‘Extreme Makeover’ meets ‘Peekaboo Playhouse’-styled theater event.  The house knows that its fate and  the family’s are linked and that puts a human face on foreclosure,” says EvictionProof Peep Show Home curator Brooke Whitaker.

The three-story home sits on a quiet block in Germantown, enclosed by perpendicular less quiet streets.  From September 14th to September 16th each room in this gorgeously worn Victorian twin will become an expression of the manifestations of foreclosure, told through the eyes of  visual and performing artists.

In the “Virtual Fancy Room”, installation artist Laureen Griffin uncovers the truth, depicting the living room as the most dressed up but the emptiest of all of the rooms.  According to Griffin, it is in the living room where homeowners proudly display tokens of luxury, all to impress guests and maintain a facade.  Although beautiful, “it tends to be the most dishonest room of them all,” says Griffin.

Artist Michael Clemmons, a painter and ceramic artist, stages the master bedroom titled “Evidence of Things Not Seen”.  “This room,” says Vashti, “is the place in every home that anchors the family or tears it apart.  It’s that place where the grown folks go to fight with each other and heal each other.  It is the share shame place.  We know that Michael will bring something to the surface in this room that we wouldn’t even be able to put into words.”

As onlookers view the installations, a Greek chorus, portrayed by the family, echoes the stories of each room, recounting arrested memories.  In other spaces, comedians and actors, such as Jennifer Blaine, Desi Seck and Cymande Lewis (who Vashti will direct the following weekend in “My Name is Sam Johnson”) will recount stories of other families dealing with foreclosure, and the unexpected hilarity and absurdity arising from the neglected and disenfranchised.  Screens will show interviews with families battling foreclosure and patrons will even have an opportunity to have their pictures taken in the upstairs studio as the evicted by photographer and installation artist Debbie Lerman.  Some interviews screened will be incorporated into the next day’s show.

Portions of the proceeds from Saturday’s shows will  directly benefit a resident of Germantown currently fighting foreclosure.

Post Ringling Syndrome – struggling with processes

While I poked around Ringling Museum last November, all I really wanted was to transport myself back in time. What was it like to live when high craftsmanship was part of our daily value system? How would the gender portraits be received if they were hanging in Ca d’Zan? Everywhere I turned, there was beauty! I wanted to be able to make everything! So here back in Philly, in the 21st Century, I struggle. First off, the materials are different, safer, low VOCs, etc. and often inferior. I can’t actually work with high fume chemicals; I feel sick and get migraines.  So I searched and experimented….


I first began thinking I would decoupage furniture. Kind of like the baroque decoupage and painted furniture.

Here is my first attempt.

Although I am not really feeling the decoupage thing, I did find some interesting materials.  One was a digital media coating by Golden.  I painted it on foil paper and rice paper so i could run them through my printer.  Another was Mod Podge and interestingly, you can add pigment and create a non-toxic paint that is wet-paper sandable.  Nice!  Also can use as a glaze over milk painted surfaces.


Now I am back to printing – silkscreen fiber reactive dye paste on fabric:

Drawing reproductions of some of the photographs I gathered from the archives.  This was drawn using Lascaux screen-printing drawing fluid and the screen filler is Speedball.  I only got three prints out of this screen, as the soda ash on the fabric disolved the filler.  Welp!… back to the drawing board.  I do need more practice drawing, not one of my strengths.  I am such a nervous drawer and am really trying to loosen up a little more.  I am learning to love drawing…  oh yeah and next screen I will use Lascaux filler, although it takes days to remove when I want to reuse the screen.


Next, I am finding ways to add multicolored prints to my work.  Stenciling – this is fiber reactive dye paste stenciled onto velvet.  I love the potential for bringing in more color.  One of Mable Ringlings love was color.  She had colored glass windows installed in Ca d’Zan – I think six different colored panes in all.  This set the color scheme for the entire house – also trompe l’oeil, painted furniture, murals, patterns, and decorative motifs painted on the walls and ceilings in various rooms.  So I am madly trying my stencil making.  One thing is, stencils are easy to cut from polyester sheet, like Duralar film by Grafix. I cut using a fine tipped wood burning tool.

The value of things – inspired by the Ringling Museum

While on residency at the Ringling Museum, I have unexpectedly come upon a form of decorative arts I never considered having much value.  That is  – painted furniture and decoupage .  As I worked my way through the collections in Ca d’Zan, I realized the need to access multicolored motifs in my work – a place to imprint colorful fem-eccentric imagery.  Up until now most color is in the printed gender portrait and the dyed fabric, however the decorative imagery is fairly monochrome.  Decoupage allows me to transfer digital images to print and apply them to the surface of furniture.

Fabric dying and printing, embroidery and lace, decoupage – the histories behind these art forms is fascinating and always takes me to wonderful stories of women and woman’s work.  Decoupage combined with decorative painting and gilding was a way to create affordable and do it yourself lacquered furniture decorated with figurative and floral motifs (an inexpensive form of Japanning).  Decoupage has been a popular hobby for women throughout the ages.  Printed images glued to a surface appear to be a more colloquial version of baroque and rococo painted furniture.   I can’t decide if I am simply intrigued that I can now insert colorful imagery into my settings, or if I am inspired by something deeper.  I think both…

As I stroll the Ringling campus, read books written by female circus performers, spend time in Ca d’Zan, Mable’s gardens and looking at photographs both of Mable and the circus performers – I read about and observe to what ends John and Mable Ringling went to be respected amongst the top capitalists of their time – I become deeply aware of my need for beauty and aesthetic acceptance and question how my livelihood, art and person fit into the value of things.

I could really let it get me down – knowing, for example, that certain theories, materials, and subjects have more value in the world (of art) – or I could embrace what I value despite it all.  For example, here at Ringling, I value the voice of the woman. I am thinking about she, being the one who is normally gazed upon – turning this in on itself to she being the one who gazes. A woman can be self conscious when not being objectified, like the circus women, Josie and Zora, she reflects upon her own person, her status and values.  She provides strength from within, not condescension and judgment coming from an outsider’s point of view.  To me a much more interesting and powerful narrative emerges.

Mable Ringling held strong to her integrity. I am told how she provided for her sisters and everybody I meet and everything I read use kind words to describe her.  Yes she directed the design and operation of Ca d’Zan, a 1.5 million dollar Venetian Palace built in the 1920’s, but she was working against the odds – not being from an upper class family – still frowned upon today. While people tour the Ca they continue to condemn Mable for her working class origins.  She seemed to be free spirited and loved to surround herself with family spending much of her time in her gardens, with her animals, and out on the yacht.  She didn’t keep a journal and only once let a journalist interview her, so I can only guess by looking at family photo albums and various collected photos of Mable – who was she really?

I look at myself – despite my personal nature and livelihood some of my traits are seen as woman and some may be seen as mannish – like being a grounds keeper, gardener, laborer, designer, artist.  A type may come to mind when seeing me maneuver the large walk-behind Gravely mower over the bumpy three acre terrain of Stenton Museum grounds – a piece of equipment generally operated by male lawn keepers.  I love physical work – out in the yard sweating, digging, rearranging, carrying, trimming, keeping fit and getting dirty.  As a designer and artist I appreciate high craft and tend to be moved by more feminine spaces and ideas.  Here, I am drawn to Mable and her sister’s bedrooms, Mable’s sense of color, her green chairs in the breakfast room, the painted furniture, and the ormolu figurines of women, cherubs, and animals (monkeys in Mable’s room).  Her bathroom is filled with painted trompe l’oeil wall panels, doors, and chairs.  I am loving the arts seemingly more valued by women.

first interior photo as canvas for installation

Beauty Revisted at CFEVA

Scene from Country Home is inspired by my desire to bring authentic places into my work.  Up until now, I have been using images from the Gender Portraiture Project, while I imagine the places and settings where the people can be.  This base image is taken from Wyck Historic House Museum in the Germantown Historic district of Philadelphia.  I am experimenting with combining photographic images taken by me from real places with portraits and found images.  I find images from online copyright free books and journals and by photographing artifacts in my environment.

You can visit the Gallery at Center for Emerging Visual Artists, 237 S. 18th Street, The Barclay, 3rd Floor, Philadelphia, PA – now through August 19th, 2011 to see this work in the flesh!

Not Shangri La

After two years, I finally mounted and exhibited this piece.  I call it a tapestry because I appropriate the visual format of the Constantine Tapestry, however I have been told not to call it tapestry as it is printed, not woven.  So it is my un-tapestry.  This was particularly difficult to print – the first phase I laid down the background color then printed 10 screens, some multiple times.

Aside from this challenging technique, I am interested in exploring the concept of the Exotic.  In my definition of exotic, I look at stigmatization and acceptance as bi-polar opposites.  I have found that in textile design and decorative objects, often what is accepted into the decorative motif is not always accepted in high society.  This piece is not only influenced by its namesake – from the film Lost Horizon, but also by a textile from the collection of Stenton Museum a textile using Chinese peasants, set in bucolic scenes, as motifs.   I made an off the cuff comment that the curator had not thought of.  That is: “Isn’t it strange that the social elite will decorate their home with people they would never have at their dinner table?”

perks for supporting New Woman project

New work inspired by Ringling Circus Museum, Cà d’Zan Mansion and the cultural context of early-American women circus performers.

Please come back soon as the project is currently being mounted on the United States Artists Website.

Here are perks for making donations to my project:


Two of the images printed on Vigor and Pastime depict an original advertisement for electric sewing machines and the other two show women working at home in their tenement apartments sewing Campbell’s Soup Kid doll clothes.
What would Tiffany think? …and what is the definition of craft today? My lamps resemble a Tiffany lamp, but are made from aluminum and plastic – not the precious materials Tiffany worked with. However, they are inspired by gardens and nature. This prototype was developed using the plasma cutter and Trotec laser cutter.  The shades will also be created in the spirit of Tiffany as he arranged flowers and drew them onto patterns to create stained glass designs. I will arrange flowers into the form of the pattern cut-out, photograph and print them onto plastic transparency. The same shade material shown here.

please support my project at NextFab Studio!!

Today I am mounting a project for support on the United States Artists website.  This is very exciting as the money will pay for a residency at Ringling Circus Museum and Ca d’Zan Mansion.  Please keep in touch as my story unravels.

Also – Please please support my project at NextFab!!  Forward the link to all your friends!!  It is free and easy – simply go to the NextFab Award One website and click on

Another way to spread the word is to click the “like” button on the Award One page and on my website.

Thank you for all your support and reassurance!!