I cannot speak to trends, what I can speak to is my personal desire for transformation. America is a culture of excess, there is so much stuff. I’m fascinated by the flotsam and jetsam that we allow in out day-to-day lives. Because of my interest in archetypes I’m drawn to plastic Virgin Mary’s and ceramic Buddha’s, because these tacky mass-produced trinkets represent divine constructs. Choosing kitsch objects for art pieces is a symbolic gesture that makes the viewer rethink their relationship with the object and ultimately the concepts they represent.
You’ve made it clear you believe in the intrinsic healing power of art, do you consider yourself an art therapist? Art therapy is still not very popular in Italy, what about in the US?
My graduate degree is in Counseling Psychology with an emphasis in Expressive Arts and I consider myself an arts educator and healer. Not only am I a fine artist I also manage The Arc of San Francisco’s ArtReach Program. ArtReach provides a unique arts academy environment where adults with developmental disabilities can pursue art as a means of personal expression, to develop new skills, connect to a larger art community and realize financial gains through sales of their work. We do not offer art therapy to the students as it is an academic collegiate environment and I am not a licensed therapist. However, I use techniques such as empathic listening, emotional attunement and mirroring that I learned while studying counseling psychology and expressive arts daily with my students. Expressive Arts are also at the heart of my personal and professional philosophy in regards to making art as I believe that the arts give us an opportunity to express ourselves, engage with intrapersonal issues, tell our truth, and share our perspective with the world. There is an international grassroots movement of Expressive Arts Educators and Therapist that is slowly gaining recognition.
Although you stress the healing power of art, death is a recurring subject in your art, why?
I have often stated that my work is about the endless cycle of birth, growth, death, decay and rebirth. Death is not the end, but in fact at the very center of this process. Without death there is no transformation, you cannot bring in the new without letting go of the old. Everything and everyone dies, it is a natural process. There is nothing more sick and destructive then holding on for dear life to something that no longer serves a purpose. and it is the fear of death and change that impairs healing.
Could you articulate the meaning of your body painting in A New Hunger?
I was asked by poet Darcy Lyon to do a live aesthetic response as part of an elaborate launch for her first book of poetry “The Wisdom of Desire. Because the book was about eroticism and the body it seemed natural for me to not just paint as her poems were read, but to paint directly on the body. So I painted a live model while her work was read in front of an audience. Body painting is a very sensual and intimate experience for both artist and model. As the artist moves the brush across the models skin, they are literally being transformed by touch. Usually when we are touched in a way that transforms us it is private and not visible to the naked eye. In this performance I wanted to illuminate the significance of touch and call upon eroticism without being candidly sexual.
You’re often defined as a gender fluid artist. Could you briefly explain what it means, and how it impacts your artistic production?
I’m not comfortable being a spokesperson for a complex and diverse community so I will speak about myself. For me being gender fluid means that I identify as neither/both male and female and reject the concept that there are only two genders. There is a growing movement across the globe of gender variant persons who reject the gender binary and recognize that gender is in fact a continuum having nothing to do with ones biological attributes. Throughout history gender has been used to define, limit and control everything about a person from the inside out; self perception, filial connections, sociological status, social roles, modes of behavior, interpersonal relationships, life’s work, spiritual practices, and sexuality. I as a gender fluid person simply refuse to be limited by biology.
In my artistic production I explore the human condition from a variety of perspectives. As a gender fluid person I take nothing for granted and believe that living outside the gender binary causes me to question aspects of the human experience that are often assumed to be known. Coming from such a deep place of questioning creates work that is often archetypal and symbolic in nature, because I believe we all have a myriad of aspects I explore my relationship with the archetype of masculinity, femininity, compassion, death, life, rebirth and so forth.