P H I L O S O P H Y
I refer to myself as an altar junkie, since I am hooked on creating obsessively intricate altar installations honoring my deceased ancestors. I amass eclectic collections of well-loved antiques—the building blocks of my altars. More is more is my personal motto and justification for my hunter-gatherer addiction. My found-object assemblage altars and memory vessels are the ideal format for my approach to visual excess, with synchronicity guiding my visual directions. The gestalt of each altar amounts to more than the sum of its myriad parts—transcending the material world to reveal mysteries from the spiritual realm.
My practice began in 1992, years after my passion was ignited by an encounter with a cool blue chapel in San Blas, Mexico. This was the first Catholic sanctuary I had stepped into, and I was instantly drawn to the immortal entity of Mary, the Jewish mother who grieves for her crucified son, Jesus. This exhilarating experience fueled my desire to recreate such beauty and reverence in my own home.
Consequently, I have constructed dozens of altars and memory jugs to display in museums, universities, and galleries, with no guidance other than my intention and aesthetic intuition. Years of experimentation, and research travel to Costa Rica, Mexico, Peru, and Trinidad, helped me to meld Hispanic Catholic altar sensibilities with the earthier aspects of African Congo, Brazilian Candomblé, Cuban Santería, and Haitian Vodou religions. After my parents passed away, I began making memorials expressly to them. Altarmaking enabled me to examine these life-altering events, as well as the tragedies befalling my Russian-Jewish ancestors during the 1918 Spanish Flu Pandemic, The Holocaust, and other untimely deaths.
I regard my altars as three-dimensional paintings, coordinated by color and composition, plus the cultural and historical significance of the objects I acquire. These are nostalgic works, steeped with layers of symbolic resonance and personal reflection. The emotionality and physicality of the altars made painting and drawing seem flat and limiting, but this year I returned to drawing. I am developing a series of black and white studies from my cast-iron bust of a Madonna, which I interpret as the Mother of Sorrows—in honor of the mothers in my family who have grieved their children's' deaths.