I began making ex-votos after my father passed away in 1996.
I took a trip to Mexico City on a journey to return some of my father’s belongings, and it led to this body or work. We had two watches of his in a shoe box on the desk. Every day around 3pm the alarms would go off on the watches. They were alerting me to something, whether I wanted to be alerted or not. Out of the blue I decided to take them to Mexico and give them to children on the street. I didn’t know why I needed to do this, but I couldn’t deny that I needed to do this.
I had many curious and unusual things happen to me around that time, and I wanted to work through them in my painting.
The weekend that my father passed away, I was contacted by a friend of a friend about picking up a portrait of his father, and transporting it up to Boston from Cape Cod. How curious to be taking a long drive with a painting of someone’s father at the time of my own father’s passing.
The pain and confusion surrounding my father’s death were put to rest by spending time painting about these circumstances.
The trip to Mexico – my first- took on the nature of a spiritual quest. My senses were heightened and many things took on a spiritual nature, such as going into the ocean there for the first time…
even somewhat depressing or banal events could be recorded as an ex-voto, such as the time my family celebrated my birthday with a cake- with my name misspelled on it….
Eventually, I started teaching other people to make their own story.
I taught ex-votos in Oaxaca Mexico.
Here is some of the student work…
…and here is some of the student work from that time.
Many of these story paintings were depictions of difficult but inspiring events from the lives of the students.
In graduate school, I started doing performance. Dissatisfied with filmic records of the performances, I realized I could document my performances a different way- I began to make ex-votos about them. This allowed me to make my own meaning about whatever had transpired. Sometimes, not much happened, but other times I had really transforming experiences. Photo and video was just unable to capture these internal transformations. With a camera, anything spectacular could be recorded, even if nothing much really happened…
I could also record things that happened after the performance was ‘over’, when the camera was turned off and the people were long gone.
I began to see performance as not just something to be done while in costume, or at an appointed time. Performance began to be dictated by the important moment and not just by my plans.
If for instance, I had a curious and wonderful interaction with someone while on a seemingly normal day, I could declare that to be a performance. All I had to do was to document the story of transformation in a painting.
Following my intuition changed the course of my artwork. It led me to discover a whole new way of working, integrated me with my Mexican heritage, and changed the direction of my artwork into something personal and honest. I feel it is my work in life to make these paintings, and to work with other people to develop their own narrative paintings.