Mine was a devoutly Roman Catholic family, an enclave inside a burgeoning Philadelphia suburb, a plasticine vista of assorted second-generation immigrants whose commonality began and ended with our desire to escape who we were. It was from within this pocket of human frailty that I bore witness to a caravan of ritual, contradiction, and violence. Both jewel-like and blood-like, beautiful, yet weighted by the disrupted and disturbing lives of so many I awoke each day new, yet little around me seemed to change. In response I quietly took note, mapping the viscera of each event, every moment that clung repentant in my memory.
I was raised in a large Mexican-American and Southern-Italian family seemingly dropped in the middle of a 1960’s post-war suburb where everyone identified as white and believed in the American Dream. Although an avid reader it was film and poetry that offered me a perspective on the bizarre theater that was my life.
One afternoon purely by chance, I stumbled onto Fellini’s film La Strada while flipping the dial on our small black and white television. It was on that day, an afternoon I remember with absolute clarity, that I knew there was something more to life as I knew it.
The story of Gelsomina and Zampano became my evidence, evidence that there were questions no one had answers too, questions like, why were some people born into lives filled with such pain and sorrow and could one escape this or change their fate. I needed to know the answers to these questions and it seemed, although I couldn’t say why, that the answers might have more to do with something called art than the religious practice I was so painstakingly immersed.
Another revelation came from within a classroom where amid the turmoil of pre-adolescence and the irony of public school education a lone teacher introduced The Iliad and the Odyssey. I was transfixed. Later that year, another teacher encouraged us to contemplate the meaning of Simon and Garfunkel’s The Sound of Silence. Vulnerable and passionate, Mr. Riccardi resorted to hysterics when the class erupted in howls of laughter at the mere idea. Following the lead of a disturbed twelve year-old the class was hijacked from his control and shortly thereafter, with his hands balled tightly in fury, Mr. Riccardi was escorted out of the classroom having stripped off his jacket and shirt while dancing on top of our Formica desktops. I sat, as usual, in the back of the classroom drawing on the borders of my notebook.
Unfortunately, Mr. Riccardi didn’t return to school that year and not long afterward my mother read his obituary to me with a quiet and profound sense of loss. Mr. Riccardi had died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to his head.
Coinciding with the incomprehensible was a ceremony of belief performed weekly a mere one-mile walk from my home. The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary held within its contemporary suburban architecture an artifice of ritual in which I obediently participated every Sunday and Holy holiday barring only extreme cases of illness, for which my mother was our strict arbiter. Catholicism and its reinvention within modern patriarchy had a powerful influence on me. The world of my everyday life, the world of the Vietnam war, and the world of Roe v Wade had not really entered the consciousness of our congregation beyond a prayer for peace and a weekly meeting for all Right to Life parishioners. And yet, as alienated as I was from much of what the church represented, I was continually drawn to its strange and beguiling practice of believing.
The collision of these experiences and my family’s attempts at a seamless assimilation into middle-class American culture eventually became the basis of my formation as an artist. Focusing on issues of gender, identity, poetry and politics, I am interested in the contradictions inherent in what we try to say, and much of what we cannot.
My process is amorphous and contradictory; a hydra rooted in the hallucinatory experience of contemporary life. I work conceptually using whatever material or method is necessary to express an idea. My Installations, Performances, and writings, intentionally create a space for these dialogues to occur while giving primacy to the language of visual experience. Arranged in relationship to site and concept the materials I use span a large and varied terrain from assorted found objects and personal collections, sound, and video. At times I use video as a participant or witness within the installation or performance. Many of my installations and performances are collaborations that require a significant amount of resources and time to produce. In fact the process of making and thinking about a work- in-progress is at times a source material and at other times the subject of the work itself.