Early Digital Work, 1988-92
In my earliest digital explorations I created digital images that referenced
my paintings at the time. Being drawn to the natural world as a source
from which to examine and reveal the relationships between nature and
culture, it seemed an ideal way to discover the parameters of the computer
and to see my work in a different medium. Using a software program that
mimicked the act of painting, I found myself translating my conceptual
ideas on the screen using a mouse to navigate and create painterly effects.
I produced these works as large cibachrome photographs (53 X 43”).
The cibachrome print most closely resembled the luminous qualities of
color and light that I was now used to seeing when I made the work and
I wanted the work to be large scale so that it could be experienced physically
as well as analytically. In this work I was intentionally referencing
the natural landscape yet, by creating simulations of nature, suggesting
at the same time that these might become artifacts at some point in the
Moving into Bees
For many years, I have been fascinated, almost obsessed, with the desire
to understand what happened in our world to cause the almost complete
extinction of all matriarchal cultures in which women held equal and powerful
roles in their societies. Again and again, I have read and researched
the time period in which this supposedly occurred. In fact my obsession
inspired me to travel to Romania in 1996 on my sabbatical to explore the
archeological sites and remaining artifacts of the early (3500 BC) Cucuteni
culture in hopes that I would be able to find some evidence that revealed
more about these cultures and that could help me understand why they disappeared
or were subsumed into the patriarchal society in which we now live.
Like artists such as Squeak Carnwath (who employs
encaustic and beeswax in her paintings and often refers to the bee world),
Wolfgang Laib (who has been described as a spiritual minimalist and believes
in the redemptive and therapeutic powers of art), and Garnett Puett (who
raises bees and establishes them so that they will build honeycomb onto
his metal armatures and found objects), I am drawn to the natural world
as a source from which to examine and reveal the relationships between
nature and culture.
In 1992, I began to work digitally with images
borrowed from nature and the bee society that reveal the inherent connection
world and technology. The integration and centralization of bees and
bee worship by ancient matriarchal cultures are historical testament
power and fascination of the astounding world of bees. Using computer
technology to weave images from the bee world with found and
images of ancient cultures and natural forms, the computer screen provides
a contemporary tool with which to glimpse relationships that
yet compelling and familiar.
The integration and centralization of bees
and bee worship by ancient matriarchal cultures is historical testament
to the power and fascination of the astounding world of bees. The bee
species lives in a closed, fixed matriarchal-based society within which
the Queen is “mother” to all the members. The hexagons they
build and the honey they produce link nature to science, architecture
and mathematics: fields of discipline with languages the human species
uses to communicate “ideas” about nature.
My early work with bee imagery revealed the features of a female monarchy
within the hive and its apparent similarities to contemporary hierarchies.
But further investigations also revealed the nature of the relationships
among the worker bees themselves. They are responsible for all aspects
of the hive from economics to politics to manufacturing. Although all
workers, their relationships are egalitarian and interdependent. Different
texts informed my thought-process at this time. In particular Savina Teubal’s
Hagar, The Egyptian: The Story of the Desert Matriarch because
she refers to priestesses and holy women. By shifting my perspective of
the female monarchy and the worker bees, I re-created a scenario that
more resembled the Goddess and her priestesses. This shift also affected
the emphasis in my work from that of using bees as the metaphor for nature
and exploring the relationships between nature, art, technology and science
to focusing more intently on the notion of a bee priestess and creating
a mythology that imagined her culture and her world by interpreting the
rituals, customs and traditions that Western women still practice today.
Dance of the Melissae
In 1994, I created an ensemble installation, Dance of the Melissae,
that explored the world of the honey bee society and its relationship
to art, science, technology and ancient matriarchal cultures. In this
work, I was asking how it is that women maintain or lose their power based
on their possession or lack of sexual autonomy and independence? And,
what kind of culture might support or enhance the possession and maintenance
of true female autonomy? This installation was first exhibited at the
Brand Library Art Gallery in Glendale, CA.
“The exhibition thus becomes an investigation of the Enlightenment
from the perspective of the practitioner; Nancy Macko's critique of the
information world suggests a Kuhnian paradigmatic shift in which technology
becomes ritual, science reverts to magic and art is removed from the site
of culture and comes back to life.” (JMS Willette, "How
Sweet It Is," ARTWEEK, 2/17/94)
The piece was comprised of several parts with an accompanying soundtrack,
Telling the Bees, of a cappella tap dancing. Bee Priestesses
act as a talisman for fertility and fecundity and invokes a time when
the power and mysteries of women and nature were revered and worshipped;
Stations of the Goddess, sculptural haikus that look to the matriarchal
era preceding the patriarchal order of Christianity; The Honeycomb
Wall, 100 wood panels each 11 1/2” in diameter, the panels
held found objects related to honey bees, the geometry of hexagons and
the chemistry of honey as well as printed images produced from linoleum
blocks and scanned and layered computer-generated images output as cibachrome
photographs; The Large Votives, re-call an ancient memory of
nature as a goddess. Measuring 7' X 5', they are wood panels wrapped with
lead sheeting and employ other mixed media materials that evoke a particular
goddess. They include: Demeter, mother of the bees, Techne,
goddess of art and science or craft and technology, and Hymen,
who rules over marriages and honeymoons and because bees are hymenoptera
(veil-winged); and Aphrodite’s Lattice, a floor piece to
honor the ritual of meditation established by the Pythagoreans.
As Professor Mary Davis MacNaughton, Director of the Ruth Chandler Williamson
Gallery at Scripps College, Claremont, CA, described the installation
in her essay for the exhibition brochure, “walking into the
space, one is aware of the distinctive fragrance of beeswax permeating
the air. In addition to beeswax, fragrance comes from three glass brink
vases, which contain aromatic spices of fenugreek, coriander and lavender.
All of these spices intermingle to create a subtly intoxicating atmosphere.
Also stimulating is the sound of the space, which resonates with a continuous
rhythm; on closer listening, one realizes it is produced by a cappella
tap dancing. The sound's mesmerizing, repetitive pattern calls to mind
humming bees and archaic chants.” It was my intention to not only
challenge conventional notions of science as it relates to nature and
art but to also fully involve the viewer in the sensual pleasures of Dance
of the Melissae.”
My basic fascination with the form of the hexagon
prevails throughout this work. As a form found in nature, it has a long
history that is grounded in geometry going back to Pythagorus. Related
to ancient goddess worship and found naturally in honeycomb, it belongs
to the different worlds of science and nature and acts as a link between
them. The Honeycomb Wall, a major portion of this installation,
has been re-configured for installations exhibited nationally at: The
Center for Photography in Woodstock, NY and Gregory Kondos Gallery, Sacramento
in 1998; The Light Factory in Charlotte, NC in 1996; the Municipal Art
Gallery at Barnsdall Park in Los Angeles in 1995; and the Sam Francis
Gallery in Santa Monica in 1994.
“the natural world and technology merge in one section called
‘The Honeycomb Wall,’ which displays hexagonal wooden panels
echoing the pattern of the honey cell. Within each hexagon Macko has collaged
images related to the bee. Some hexagons contain diagrams of glucose molecules,
which form the basic chemical component of honey. Macko combines these
diagrams with images of queen bees, drones and honeycombs, so that we
see both the hidden and visible structure of nature. Macko achieves her
richly layered imagery through the alchemy of the computer, which can
create startling new visions.” “Macko ‘outputs’
this photomontage into cibachrome prints, which she mounts onto the wooden
hexagons. She intersperses these photographic, closed hexagons with other,
open hexagons filled with found objects related to the bee. Like the honeycomb,
Macko's hexagon wall suggests limitless extension, and makes us ponder
nature's vast underlying geometry.” (Mary Davis MacNaughton)
In 1999, I translated the digital images from
The Honeycomb Wall into a suite of prints called the Honeycomb
Series. These large (34 X 46”) inkjet prints have been printed
with permanent inks on Arches cold press paper using a Roland printer.
Each one captures a distinct configuration created by the architecture
of the wall.
Lessons from the Hive
Lessons from the Hive, an auxiliary work to Dance of the
Melissae, combines multiple digital images arranged as a triptych.
Framed in lacewood, each piece incorporated the plexiglas glazing to enumerate
the image: the center image resides underneath a coppery gold silk-screened
honeycomb grid while the two side pieces incorporate text that further
informs the viewer about scientific knowledge related to the bees. Lessons
from the Hive, was included in P.L.A.N. (Photography Los Angeles Now)
at Los Angeles County Museum in July of 1995 as well as the SIGGRAPH Art
and Design Show of 1994 in Orlando, Florida.
a Bee Priestess,1997
A computer animation of 1:30 minutes in length designed for the web,
the piece examines the ritual of tattooing as a rite of passage to becoming
a bee priestess. Images of the process are interspersed
with digital still shots of the actual tattooing. The audio component
utilizes a cappella tap dancing. The piece was screened on Stimulus
Transmit over Cable Access Channel 53 by the Bay Area Video Coalition in San Francisco
and presented on the Jumbotrons Display in Hollywood as part of Billboard
Live Video Art. The piece can no longer be viewed as the technology of the animation is now out-of-date.
In 1996, I was awarded a Faculty Sabbatical Research Grant from Scripps
College to further my on-going exploration of ancient matriarchal cultures.
I traveled to Romania with my partner, videographer and photographer,
Jan Blair, to document burial sites and cave sites and other visual evidence
of “bee” worship and existence. Relying heavily on the well-known
text by Maria Gimbutas, Language of the Goddess, I identified
12 key sites to explore, primarily from the Cucuteni culture of 5000
3500 BC. I had been under the assumption that it was somehow proven or
understood that this was a matriarchal culture. But again and again I
was faced with resistance to this concept by every archeological authority
of this period that I encountered. It wasn't until the very last days
of our journey that a long discussion with archeologist Dr. Magda Mantu
occurred at her excavation site in Scandea -- a town northeast of Iasi,
which revealed that, in fact, no one can substantiate, find evidence
or even conceptualize the existence of the matriarchal-based culture
that Gimbutas’ research suggests.
From this research trip we developed Glimpsing
a body of digital still and video work in which we combined images with
text excerpted from our travel journals using the computer to compose
the work, which was output as Lightjet digital prints. The work re-creates
a sense of the frustration and the absurdity we experienced attempting
to conduct this research and to give the viewer a true glimpse of life
in an eastern European country just coming into the 21st century after
25 years of living under a dictatorship. The cultural differences were
striking but what hit home the most was the sheer lack of and condemnation
of the imagination, which of course strikes at the heart of every creative
person. Imagine your life if your ability to be creative were denied to
you. Using high-end video and digital processes to create the work functioned
to exaggerate the disparities between our first and third world cultural
experiences yet using this technology also functioned as a means of bringing
together two such disparate experiences.
The work was originally developed to be shown as part of the Mary H. Dana
Women Artists Series at Douglass College, Rutgers University in January
of 1998. It was also exhibited at the Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery
at Scripps College in 1998. In 1999, it was included in Queen at Mendenhall
Gallery, Whittier College, Whittier, CA and Digital Code/Cultural
Patterns at the Visual Arts Gallery at the University of Texas at Dallas; and the
images were published by Washington State University Press in Frontiers:
A Journal of Women Studies.
Excerpts from and Extensions to…
Excerpts from and Extensions to... is a permanent
graphics installation in the W.M. Keck Learning Room in the Honnold/Mudd
Library at the Claremont Colleges, which I produced in collaboration with
Los Angeles-based photo artist and videographer, Jan Blair, in 1998.
Using images and text found in the “alphabet” stained glass
window at Denison Library on the Scripps campus and which were already
reflected on the Honnold/Mudd website, extended the familiarity with the
images and continued the idea of language as it has formed from notched
sticks and early cave paintings to its current digital form. Since the
installation of the window almost 35 years ago, we have experienced the
advent of the digital age. Therefore, we chose to expand upon the window's
interpretation of the "alphabet" to include the most current
state of language and text by adding a font that reflects digital text
as well as to extend the primarily Western text-based languages of the
window by including the Chinese character for peace, "wa."
Extrapolating the images and text from the window to an appropriate application
within the Learning Room took into consideration the architecture and
activities of the space. To that end, a minimal selection of images placed
carefully and thoughtfully around the room created a feeling of life and
learning without distracting and disturbing those using the room. Since
the scale of the room was much larger than any of the actual images, the
images from the window were modified and manipulated to accommodate the
The installation used a palette that reflects the colors already present
in the room–walls, trim, desktops, chairs and carpeting–so
that the graphics seemed to blend in with the room and, at the same
add a sense of playfulness and visual movement. Drawing upon the "alphabet"
window as the graphic display in the Learning Room continued an already
familiar theme that takes the viewer on a conceptual journey reminding
one of the development of language and the value of text.
Early Writings of the
Bee Priestesses (circa 4792-1537 BC)
If my Romanian
odyssey to find information that would provide me with the knowledge
I believe exists mirrors much of what many people experience today –an
invisibility of all but the dominant culture, a fragmented at best
sense of representation in the world and a profound lack of true historical
presence, then invoking a strategy, which many artists who experience
this same sense of alienation and absence of presence use, might help
to rectify the circumstances: that is to create the history that is
Early Writings of the Bee Priestesses, 1-15 (circa 4792-1537 BC),
1999 is an installation of drawings that trace the mythology of the bee
priestesses. These water-based ink drawings are the first discovered writings
documenting the earliest encounters between the warring drones and the
peacekeeping bee priestesses. Discovered deep beneath an abandoned archeological
site in the Moldavian region of what is now Romania, these drawings provide
evidence of the existence of the bee priestess culture during the days
of the matriarchal Cucuteni. In particular we can see the systems of war
These water-based ink stamp drawings on notebook paper measure 8.5
by 11” and were installed as part of the exhibit Drawing the Line
at the Williamson Gallery at Scripps College. They are the first discovered
writings documenting the earliest encounters between the warring drones
and the peacekeeping bee priestesses. Discovered deep beneath an abandoned
archeological site in the Moldavian region of what is now Romania, these
drawings provide evidence of the existence of the bee priestess culture
during the days of the matriarchal Cucuteni.
In particular, we can see the systems of war at play. Drawing No.
the power of the breast as skep resisting the cruelty of the trowel.
The skep –keeper of the bee priestesses’ secrets and legacies— is
hurtling through space clearly indicating the aggressive nature of
the drones. In Drawing No.s 11, 12 and 15, the bee priestesses set free
the poisonous thorns from the legions of roses which we know they loved
and cultivated. Recently discovered in perfect condition, the hat attests
to the fact that the bee priestesses were scribes of their own condition
and could easily switch from fashion rituals to self-reflection at the
flick of a very small quill pen.
Quintessence: New Constellations
In 1999 I began a new body of work titled Quintessence: New Constellations.
A direct outgrowth of my earlier work, in which I explored the honeybee
society and its relationship to art, science, technology and ancient matriarchal
cultures, this new work links the simultaneous shifts of several fundamental
paradigms as they may take place in the future: the establishment of equity
among genders; the re-discovery of and responsibility for nature through
technology; and the recognition and integration of the archaic feminine
past into the global network of the future.
In this work I am creating new constellations that not only
mark our past and but also guide our future. Viewing new constellations
new stars for the first time. Stars that we were either unable to see
before or stars from so far away and long ago that it is the first
they have been visible to us. [In The Invisible Universe, David Malin
writes, “…[there] are galaxies so far away they can hardly
be seen with ground-based telescopes. And beyond them, even more distant,
are even more galaxies--more galaxies it would seem than there are stars
in the sky. The Hubbel Space Telescope has taken clear pictures of these
over 10 billion light years away. These galaxies seem to be an unfamiliar
species and must have been among the first to form. ”]
a world of balance between feminine and masculine, nature and technology,
and art and science,
these new constellations
will be represented by images from the archaic past returning us
to a point in time when “feminine values and egalitarianism flourished.” [Leonard
Schlain, noted author of Art & Physics, puts forth the hypothesis
in The Alphabet Versus the Goddess: The Conflict Between Word and Image
that the alphabet and the written word were the initial charge that
altered the world view. He believes that, “whenever a culture
elevates the written word at the expense of the image, patriarchy dominates.
When the importance of the image supersedes the written word, feminine
values and egalitarianism flourish.”]And
they will speak to a future in which such a world can be experienced
once again or perhaps for the first time. Certainly it is a timely
to consider reinstating the feminine into our consciousness in a transcendent
way at the onset of a new millennium.
To better understand the idea of quintessence I
turned to scientists and theologians. In a special issue of Scientific
American aptly subtitled The Brave New Cosmos, Jeremiah
Ostriker and Paul Steinhardt tell us in their article “The
Quintessential Universe,” that “the universe has recently
been commandeered by an invisible energy field, which is causing
its expansion to accelerate
outward.” This “ubiquitous ‘dark energy’ [quintessence,
has] a strange and remarkable feature: its gravity does not attract.”
Referred to as the fifth element by the ancient Greeks, along with earth,
air, fire and water, this element “prevents the moon and planets
from falling to the center of the celestial sphere.” It “interacts
with matter and evolves with time, so it might naturally adjust itself
to reach the observed value [of dark energy] today.” [Jeremiah
P. Ostriker and Paul J. Steinhardt, “The Quintessential Universe,” Scientific
American, Volume 284: No 1, NY: Scientific American, Inc., 2001.]
In her book Quintessence…Realizing the Archaic Future,
feminist theologian, Mary Daly elicits quintessence in another way. She
believes that we can transcend time and realize the archaic past in the
future summoning forth the ancient ways and, thereby, fulfilling our destiny
as a life-giving, life-sustaining species. Her sense is that we are sleepwalking
in terms of how much we could be achieving and accomplishing as spiritual
beings and that we need to re-possess our original selves in order to
set the universe right.
How then might we, not necessarily return to paradise, but re-balance
a seemingly tilted world and create the quintessence Daly and others conjure?
If quintessence is the “stuff” that lies between everything
in the universe, then perhaps by conjuring the stars and galaxies that
David Malin depicts for us, we can discover such a world. I am certainly
eager to evoke this mysterious matter in the spatial field of my work.
It seemed to me that the best way to awaken these ancient cultures was
to place them in the future, where they may in fact already exist. If
there are galaxies billions of light years away what kind of cultures
might be attached to them? To imagine this, I re-contextualized the images
I was working with creating a new cosmology in which these images became
constellations, and groups of star clusters one might observe in the heavens
of the future (e.g., Bucranium Constellation). “It was
believed that all honey came from the moon, the hive whose bees were the
stars.” (Erich Neumann, The Great Mother) Perhaps they
can help us to re-discover the essence of the archaic feminine past in
the quintessence of the future. The Greeks thought of quintessence as
the fifth element. Today scientists believe that this is the same dark
matter that is the veritable fabric of space. I prefer to think of it
as the Greater Feminine.
The first major piece in this series was a large (5 X 14’) mixed
media work on birchwood panels accompanied by a number of smaller study
pieces. The piece was exhibited in In The Mind’s Sky: Intersections
of Art and Science at the Williamson Gallery in fall 2000. The exhibit
was accompanied by a catalog and there were several reviews of the show,
which included mention of and reproductions of my work. This piece was
exhibited in 2001 at Gallery 825 in Los Angeles in a show entitled Romancing
the Universe, curated by Scott Canty of the Municipal Art Gallery
at Barnsdall Park in Los Angeles.
Works on Paper
For several years, I have focused on forging a new
and hybrid art form that combines digital imagery with traditional printed
imagery. Specifically I have merged my expertise in printmaking
with my expertise in the digital realm to develop creative approaches
to working across these two media.
Creating a hive of
one's own, creating a universe of one's own.The constellations in Quintessence provided the way for original works on paper. Drawing upon the unit
produced a series of diptychs and digital prints that reference
the unit and the
multiple, the part to the whole and asymmetrical systems of patterning
and cell-division to imagine the interstices, the space between, which
is the dark matter. The Dark Matter Series, 2001 suggest the
vastness of space and the fluidity/fragility of the macro/micro world.
vinyl reinforcements shimmer and float across a black expanse calling
the depth of the oceans and the vastness of space. As works on paper,
these pieces are produced uniquely as collages, and can be editioned
as digital and photographic prints.
The Reinforcement Series, 2001 are two suites of works on paper that
examine the notion of expansion and growth organically rather than mathematically
from the unit to the multiple. The Gray Series, 1-9 are a
set of nine collages of graphite gray vinyl reinforcements on white
X 22”). The Red Series, 1-12 are a set of twelve collages
of Chinese red vinyl reinforcements on gray Rives BFK (30 X 22”).
Both suites are reproduced as digital prints. The suites depict the
first nine and
the first twelve cardinal numbers as clusters or hives.
Conversation avec Oeillet (eyelets): earth, air,
fire, water, 2003 are four unique mixed media works on mulberry paper
22 X 27”. Using a color palette of vinyl decals in the form of the
reinforcement and rubber stamps, these works reference the visual dialog
I observed among the fallen leaves on the footpath of the bois d’amour
forest in Pont Aven. This non-verbal dialog “speaks” visually
at the same time expressing my awareness of feeling culturally isolated
and verbally limited during a 4-month residency in France in 2003.
Traditional Prints (2004-08)
The Reinforecment Series led me to develop the First Ten Prime Numbers, two suites of 10 lithographs, which were
completed in 2004 with master printer Mark Mahaffey of Mahaffey Fine
Art in Portland.
Two versions have been created. One in which the reinforcements have
been printed in copper ink on Rives cream BFK (30 X 22” paper size).
In the second, the reinforcements have been printed as lithographs on
a 12 X 12” black aquatint on Rives white BFK (15 X 15” paper
size) and dusted with gold pigment. The pieces build on the ideas referenced
in the Dark Matter Series with the explicit intention of rendering
each of the first ten prime numbers as a developing cluster, constellation,
cell or hive.This work was in the exhibition Art
from Mathematics at the Peninsula Museum of Art in the fall of 2004. It was also shown at the Portland Art Museum in 2006, where it is in the Gilkey Center for Graphic Art and at Commissary Arts in Venice, CA in 2008.
I began the Namaste suite of intaglio prints at Crown Point Press in the summer of 2001 and worked on
them with Mark Mahaffey from 2004-08. The prints combine lithography and etching
and the imagery is reflective of my ongoing research interests in nature,
spirit, ancient matriarchal cultures and the cosmos. The Namaste suite
of 4 works (multiple plate color etchings and litho, 12 X 12” printed
on 24 X 22” Rives white BFK) suggests a contemplative
or meditative state.
Additionally a third suite of etchings, In the Garden of the Bee
Priestess I and II and In the Garden:Cornucopia, created an important intersection
between my rubber stamp drawings and my installations. In the Garden
I and II are 12 X 12” plates printed on 30 X 22” Rives
white BFK. In the Garden I is a suite of five one-plate etchings in black; In the Garden II is a suite of three three-plate color prints (etching
and aquatint). In the Garden:Cornucopia, a two-plate color etching
and spit bite, is a bleed edge measuring 32 X 20”. The works recall
a time when the feminine was sacred and women were truly revered. The
mysteries of fecundity and the life force are re-enacted through rituals
that honor the sacred feminine. The visual reference to rich textiles
and wall coverings may appear to give the work a sentimental edge but
that is neatly overridden by the powerful images of an active feminine
that knows no bounds allowing the work to sustain a sense of irony more
than anything else.
intaglio prints created an important intersection between my digital
prints and my installations. Exploring ideas of nature and the cosmos
as macro/micro relationships directly addresses the work in which I am
currently involved. I have continued to develop this work and produced
a suite of monoprints in the summer of 2002 at the Riverside Art Museum
that accompanied the 2002 installation Forgotten Song of the Bee Priestess.
Forgotten Song of the Bee Priestess
A temporary installation exhibited in the Williamson Gallery at Scripps
College in 2003, this work combined rubber stamps, small mixed media
panels (14 x 14”) and painted projections of rubber stamp collages
directly onto a portable gallery wall 6 X 8’. Working from and within
nature using stamped images that included the rose, bees, garden tools,
ancient priestesses and the skep (a woven beehive shaped basket that was/is
used to protect the bees in winter, I created a playful and poetic rhythmic
work directly on one of the gallery walls that conjured the sounds and
songs from ancient women’s cultures. This piece was accompanied
by five monotypes utilizing similar imagery.
Interstices: Prime Deserts, 2003
[interstices: a narrow space between adjoining parts or things; a crack;
In Prime Deserts, a collaborative installation
with mathematician Robert Valenza, we sought to locate the intersticial
moment or moments linking art and mathematics through a visual representation
and examination of the “space” between prime numbers.
A prime number is a whole number larger than one
that cannot be factored into strictly smaller whole numbers. Hence seven
is prime, but 55 = 5 X 11 is not. The only even prime is, of course, two.
Numbers bigger than one that are not prime are called composite. Primes
and composite thus relate to each other with the reciprocity of foreground
For millennia the enigma of the distribution of prime numbers has been
enormously engaging and surprisingly consequential. Indeed, a great deal
of the mathematics used in engineering and science can be traced back
to this problem. Since antiquity we have known that there are infinitely
more primes –there’s always a bigger one—and also that
there are arbitrarily long stretches of whole numbers in which there are
no primes whatsoever! Such stretches are called prime deserts. And while
the primes eventually do tend to thin out, we still find, surprisingly
often, pairs of consecutive odd primes, such as 59 and 61 or 10,007 and
10,009. These are called prime twins. But while such pairs seem to occur
without limit no one yet knows if there are in fact an infinite number
In the small then, primes –and so, too, the composites that separate
them—are unpredictable. Yet in the large, they exhibit amazing regularities,
many of which begin to emerge especially in the 19th century. Thus prime
numbers, like life and art, live in the twilight region between chaos
and mechanism. With this in mind, we render these images.
To create Dirichlet’s Ocean, we utilized a large scale
video projection in which the ocean’s continuous movement flows
toward the viewer, the mathematical language to describe prime deserts
slowly scrolls through the scene suggesting that prime numbers are as
elusive as the line of the horizon, a point or destination that no one
can ever actually reach. Mapping the patterns of the primes and the deserts
between them along a spiral-shaped “X” axis, we created a
veritable cosmic moment on a 15 X 26’ wall installation in Prime
Starfield, which allows one to consider the infinite dimension of
these spaces and their relationship to the distribution of stars and star
clusters. A third part of the installation developed these clusters further
by building hive-like structures directly onto the wall in Prime Clusters.
The form of the reinforcement –a circle within a circle-- creates
the organic connection that mathematics often refers to in its highest
moment of aesthetic abstraction. The final portion of the collaboration
occurs in Organically Grown Primes, a video piece in which seemingly
random patterns of primes slowly fill the screen only to be replaced by
others in a continuous motion that re-calls the rock and sway of the ocean.
The implicit connections between nature and mathematics are made apparent
by allowing the viewer to easily shift from the rational to the natural,
the applied to the abstract, and all the suggested vagaries found in between.
Feminist Utopias: New Constellations(2002-06)
In a world where the future is now envisioned through the lens of Katherine
Hayle’s post-humanity or Donna Haraway’s cyborg, one finds
solace and hope from the visions of writers working within the genre
referred to as feminist utopia. Authors Nicola Griffith (Ammonite),
Charlotte Perkins Gilman (Herland), Marge Piercy (He, She
and It; Woman on the Edge of Time), Dorothy Bryant (The Kin
of Ata Are Waiting for You) and Suze McKee Charnas (The Holdfast
Chronicles) challenge basic assumptions about power between the
genders and imagine women-centered worlds in which strong and powerful
autonomously without fear of the restrictions and consequences placed
upon them by today’s society. As part of this utopia, other
authors, like Octavia Butler (Xenogenesis Trilogy) and
Orson Scott Card (The Ender Series), respond to and re-shape
our notions of technology and our relationship to it by imagining
a more humane co-existence between
human and machine in worlds that mediate the cold spectre of Hayle and
My own insatiable quest to establish the existence of ancient matriarchal
cultures, mirrors much of what many people experience today –an
invisibility of all but the dominant culture, a fragmented at best sense
of representation in the world and a profound lack of true historical
presence. Invoking a strategy that these writers and other artists who
experience this same sense of alienation and absence of presence use,
I chose to create the history that is missing or inaccessible. For the
last 10 years I have been making work that places the honeybee society
with all its intrinsic metaphors at the center of my exploration creating
a utopia of Bee Priestesses where worker bees are female, priestesses
of the Goddess are Melissae, and Demeter is the pure Mother Bee.
In 2000 I created a body of work, Quintessence: New Constellations,
in which the metaphor shifted: rising to the heavens, the bees became
stars and constellations that lead us into a new and uncharted future.
This work addressed the simultaneous shift of several fundamental paradigms:
the establishment of true equity among genders; the re-discovery of and
responsibility for nature through technology; and the recognition and
integration of the archaic, feminine past into the global network of
future. Using traditional and digital art processes, to create Feminist
Utopias, I am creating new constellations that not only mark our past
but also guide our future. These stars may well represent the worlds
of earlier times when life was
more even and balanced. By bringing images from the ancient past into
the cosmology of a future we have yet to discover, I, like these wonderful
writers, am imagining a different ending –in fact, a new beginning--
to the dominant narrative.
This new work fuses images of the cosmos and astro-phenomena with images
that reference women’s power and wisdom to create new constellations.
By doing so, I am attempting to uncover the ancient past and thereby remember
the original connections between the natural world and technology, and
science and art. These works are realized as large format digital prints.
Lore of the Bee Priestess, 2004 (13:43 min)
This captivating visual narrative of the lost history of the ancient bee priestesses –an ancient, long dead matriarchal culture-- evokes aspects of utopia, feminism and spirituality: values that I believe are crucial to awaken and sustain in contemporary times. The piece evokes the spirit of a feminine odyssey, autonomy and transformation for which the bee priestess functions as a metaphor. The piece imagines an odyssey of spiritual transformation of the Bee Priestess…from the hive to the heavens -- re-imagined as a symbol of the sacred feminine, which is the Light.
As the Bee Priestess returns to the ancient sites seeking the essential connection to her spirit as part of an infinite continuum, she finds that it no longer exists. She realizes she must reach deep within herself to rekindle that spirit and bring it forward in a new form. The message of transformation and regeneration is both visual and aural incorporating original footage and sound from locations around the world. It is my intention to suggest a culture that no longer exists on this plane but one that we might connect to through time and space and art.This piece is about her odyssey as she discovers and defines her autonomy and independence and, at the same time, re-connects to this ‘original’ history.
For the last 12 years I have been making work that places the honeybee society with all its intrinsic metaphors at the center of my exploration creating a utopia of Bee Priestesses where worker bees are female, priestesses of the Goddess are Melissae, and Demeter is the pure Mother Bee. During this time, I traveled to Spain, Romania, and Greece documenting artifacts that corroborate the existence of these ancient women's cultures and in search of evidence substantiating the honeybee as an integral part of their world.
My own insatiable quest to establish the existence of ancient matriarchal cultures, mirrors much of what many people experience today –an invisibility of all but the dominant culture, at best a fragmented sense of representation in the world and a profound lack of true historical presence. Invoking a strategy that many artists who experience this same sense of alienation and absence of presence use, I chose to create the history that is missing or inaccessible.
The piece includes video footage of performances I did as the Bee Priestess in Spain, Greece and Romania as well as flamenco dancing, beekeeping and plumb bobs. The audio portion of the piece includes many sounds, among them: bees humming; birds singing; wings flapping; flamenco and tap dancing; frame drumming and original digital music; and bhramari pranayama –a humming form of yoga breathing.
I began development of this piece in 1992 and continued to research and film from that time until 2004. Post-production was completed during an artist residency at the Banff Centre in Alberta, Canada. Many thanks and great appreciation to Jan Blair, lead camera and videographer, Annabelle Kent, lead video editor, and Shawn Everett, lead sound editor.
Through the Eyes of the Bee Priestess, 2005
Using a Canon EOS 20, a digital SLR camera, I shot images at Joshua Tree National Park in the spring of 2005 as part of a 24-hour photo shoot project and subsequent exhibition, Site Lines, at the California Museum of Photography in Riverside. The images were shot on the path of the 49 Palms Trail and from the property of the Homestead Inn on Two Mile Road in 29 Palms, where I stayed during the shoot. The images were manipulated (layered, color corrected) using Photoshop CS and printed on Epson Premium Glossy paper using an Epson Stylus Pro 9600.
In using actual images of the landscape at dawn and pre-dawn, I wanted to convey the idea of another culture looking on -- "surveying" as it were-- thus the inclusion of the tripod and plumb bobs in the sky to suggest constellations of ancient cultures, and another albeit "feminine" presence. A four minute video tracking the desert light of dusk, pre-dawn and dawn and the predominating sounds of the wind and the animals accompanied the photo work in the gallery.
Bee Stories, 2006
Everyone has a bee story --some are more extraordinary than others. What is your bee story?
Bee Stories is a multi-media installation combining video and audio in which the viewer has an experience of being immerse in a culture other than one’s own. The idea is to immerse the viewer in another culture that is tied together by images and stories of bees and bee lore. The images are also meant to transport the viewer to imagine other times –possibly times of utopia and peace from the ancient past or in the distant future—while they are listening to non-English languages. The video images are designed to create a meditative almost hypnotic effect.
The video footage is a visual narrative of bees, bee priestesses and bee lore presented as though one is looking through a kaleidoscope. This is accompanied by stories about bees told in various languages. The viewer is able to watch the video while listening to the stories in two ways: as a composite of sound played overall and on individual headsets in which the stories are being told one at a time. Translations of the stories are available as wall text. The video is a critical part of the piece in that it ties the stories together visually and acts as a grounding agent for the viewer and the installation. The sound track of the stories is designed to create a cacaphony of language. The stories are mingled so that at times you hear only one and at other times an ensemble of stories –a tower of Babel so to speak—mixed as a complete audio track that plays while you view the video.
When I was living in Brittany in the fall of 2003, I had the experience of being inside another culture that I could only interpret visually and intuitively since my French was so rudimentary. In Bee Stories I am re-creating the experience of being immersed in a culture and bathed by a language other than one’s own. The experience is meant to be slightly disorienting yet also transportive and reassuring so that one’s imagination can be engaged.
If the viewer understands the language they are listening to, they will obviously make the translations as they listen, thus existing in a bi-language mode of thinking while they view the video. If they do not understand the language, which will be the case in most instances, they will have a sort of transported cultural experience without leaving a familiar space. The “disorientation” caused by a “foreign ” language forces one to create perceptions and draw conclusions that are sometime appropriate and correct and often total misreads. How one does this to enable their own understanding of a situation or an event is of great interest to me.
How we navigate our ever-complex world has multi-faceted meaning: we are a global community growing ever smaller necessitating that we understand each other culturally in ways that were never expected before; we are immersed in numerous expressions of language every day (technological, visual, aural, cultural), often navigating unconsciously and not always seamlessly through these terrains; our abilities to successfully communicate and collaborate across cultures will be one of our greatest achievements in the future. Bee Stories touches upon all of this. I believe that we can achieve this joyfully, playfully and with great love if we are given circumstances to experiment within that are non-threatening and supportive. This piece creates an atmosphere of tranquility so that curiosity and intuition can flourish, and viewers can expand their imaginations while they begin to comprehend what lies ahead.
Archival Pigment Prints, 2002-12
Bucrania, 1-12 (2002): A suite of
twelve digital prints, I am tracing the process of regeneration.
The goddess Artemis is thought to be ruled by the moon and was called
Melissa of Ephesus. The bull too belongs to the moon. Both the bull and
the goddess Artemis belong to the moon and to the bees. Souls are bees
and Melissa draws souls down to be born. Good souls can be reincarnated
in bees. It is said that if you plant a bull’s head (a bucranium)
in the ground in the spring, when the sun is in Taurus, a swarm of bees
will issue forth from the horns. The notion is that the spirit of the
bull passes into the life of the bees and the bees are thus “bull
begotten.” The series imagines this movement of the soul as an almost
physical form in the bucranium, as juices and bodily fluids, and as vapors
disappearing out to the stars returning to an etheric state. The stardust
and the clusters of rings act as references to the bees and the hive.
As there is “life in death,” the bees represent resurrection
The Thera Series (2003): A suite of six
digital prints, draws upon images from the Minoan period the earliest
utopian society. From 3000 to 1500 BC this culture thrived. Artifacts
show women debarking from ships, carrying trees, hunting with bows and
arrows, driving chariots, and leaping over bulls. Images of women predominate
in their religious practices where female deities like the Snake Goddess
were worshipped and depicted in the art. Many scholars believe that Minoan
Crete was a matriarchal culture ruled by a queen-priestess. This work
imagines the rapport and relationships among the goddesses and women and
locates them in their own utopic space –the good place that is no
place; that is no where but anywhere.
Our Very Lives (2003-04): A suite of large scale digital
prints exploring ideas of aging and the mother/daughter relationship.
Using images of old wallpaper, ancient artifacts from the Cucuteni period
(5000-3500 BC) and paint-by-number drawings with the talisman of the bee
priestess, these works draw upon notions of memory, time and the ancient
past to pay homage to a female lineage that harkens back to the beginning
d’ Nirvana Series, 1-9 (2003-04): A suite of large scale digital prints that continue to attempt to understand the process of aging and the early stages of memory loss. I made this work in France duing my sabbatical just after my mother had a small stroke that caused her memory loss process to begin.
Hopes & Dreams: A Visual Memoir (2008-10): In 2003 my mother began to show signs of memory loss eventually diagnosed as dementia. Over the last six years I documented her decline through audio tapes and photographs. The act of losing one's memory and sense of time is difficult at best to describe but can be understood through an experience of it. It reminds me of "calving" a term used to describe the process when huge chunks of glaciers just break off and fall into the sea. It is as if the mind "calves" and there seems to be no end to the process.
In the summer of 2008 I began Hopes & Dreams, a series of large format digital prints that act as a visual memoir and attempt to visually describe this "loss of memory." This body of work visually explores the "arc" of a life. Using two specific images of my mother when she was full of hope and life and at the threshold of her adult life in combination with artifacts, affirmations, personal writing (by her) and digital technology, I created a suite of work that gives the viewer some sense of this process as well as a poignancy for the loss of one's life, while one is still very aware and conscious.
These works were completed in the summer of 2010. They have been digitally printed, and fabricated (mounted on sintra and glazed with Plexiglas). Each work is 43 ¼ X 32 ¼". They were first exhibited at 643 A Project Space in Ventura, CA in February of 2011 and again in December of 2011 at AC Projects in Pomona, CA. During the time in-between my mother's health declined and she passed away. The show at AC Projects acted as a kind of tribute to her. A special interest story was written in the Claremont Courier about the show and the work.
Nirvana for the Future, 2012: This new series of large format digital prints marks the closure of a long-term commitment to a body of work that explores the Divine nature of the feminine spirit in nature and our relationship as women to the world. In earlier work such as Our Very Lives, I marked the body and inscribed one’s life experience upon it as if it were a series of tattoos. These inscriptions coupled with a private, internal experience of the world functioned to depict a woman’s experience from the point of view of one who is coded only to survivor. Bois d’Nirvana took that one step further. This body of work demonstrated the permeable nature of the body and its relationship to nature as covalent and mutual –one as equally dependent upon the other.
Nirvana for the Future envisions a world embodied within the body, yet this body exists outside our immediate world --in the cosmos. This body contains the ancient seeds of a future world that holds all things dear and precious. The archaic past found on distant
galaxies will only reach us in the future. We can draw upon this past
to create a future in which war is no longer and women experience freedom
and autonomy. It points to a maternal lineage and a sense of birth and re-birth. It is an attempt to draw attention to our actions on earth so that we can prevent a future that we cannot sustain if it is created and, instead, create one in which our species continues to thrive and evolve. The Nirvana pieces imagine such a world and at the same
time recognize how this world is inscribed and written upon us.
UNIQUE PRINTS, 2009-11
I have worked in a hybrid format for over 20 years combining digital media with traditional print media to express my ideas and to create unique print works. There are many ways to incorporate digital methods into printmaking. The format I prefer is to print digitally onto the same substrate that I will eventually print on using intaglio, lithography or monotype. The allows me to unify images seamlessly much like one can accomplish using the computer alone but with the added plus of texture and color that only traditional printmaking can generate. I like combining the exactness and accuracy I can realize with a digital image with the less predictable nature of printmaking –especially the monotype. In this way the results are not static, not fixed, but can be more organic and spontaneous. Rather than trying to achieve the “perfect edition” as the canon of traditional printmaking might require, I am interested in attaining an imperceptible balance between digital and traditional printmaking in my print work.
In June of 2009 I created a group of monoprints with Mark Mahaffey that fall into four small suites: Rosette, Memory Fading, and Lost Count, as well as a few that don't easily fall into any of those groups. I wanted to re-visit the use of a form --a piece of pegboard-- that I had used to emboss work with in graduate school. I also wanted to re-visit the palette of pink and black that I used in work when my grandmother died. I re-created the same shape of the pegboard and scanned it so that I could print digital images into that shape. I printed on Rives BFK so that we could emboss the pegboard and monoprint over these images at the studio. Each group of prints goes through its own cycle of repeating, echoing and doubling with color and hand-stamping. Once again I am exploring the demise of memory loss as I experienced it with my mother and marveled at how she was able to continue to create a cogent reality despite the difficulties this disease presented.
Hex Memories is a suite of five prints combining several print methods –monoprint, chine colle (collage), and hand stamping. They are a reference back to The Honeycomb Wall and my use of the hexagon in earlier work that focused on the honeybees and matriarchal cultures. Here instead of using the pegboard as seen in other prints from this time, I used the hexagon as a template to monoprint on top of a rainbow roll monoprint. The hexagon floats above the ground line in alluding to the separation of the spirit from the body. The figures on the lower left smaller hexagon represent the mother/daughter archetype. This line fades out losing its potency as it moves to the right. The bee goddess image bears witness to this transition as if to “tell the bees,” something that was always done by beekeepers when their was a death in the family.
The Divine Reading Lesson is a suite of 30 one-of-a-kind multi-color and multi-plate photo lithographs. Completed in 2011 this work continues my exploration and recognition of the Divine Feminine in the everyday. Drawing from images I have utilized in the past (the plumb bob, the hive as grid, the ancient Cucuteni culture, hand-stamped drawings, a much loved floral wallpaper, and page reinforcements), I have combined these images with hand-stamped words into new and complexly layered prints that take the viewer from somber moments of stillness and quietude to exhilarating instants of joy and life. Each print is 12 X 12” printed on 24 X 22 ½ “ Rives White BFK and was created in collaboration with master printer Mark Mahaffey of Mahaffey Fine Art in Portland, OR.
DIGITAL MONOTYPES, 2012
After my mother died I resurrected unfinished prints I had begun to develop in graduate school in the 1980’s. The prints had images already on them that I had photocopied and transferred using some awful solvent like xylene or xylol (no longer available today, thank goodness!) I also had color Xerox copies of objects from my grandmother’s vanity –particularly her many strands of popbeads which begin to resemble as bubbles of light--that I had scanned on a color photo copier after she died. I re-scanned these digitally so that I could digitally print them in color over the transferred images. I did this repeatedly until the paper looked saturated as digital ink tends to be absorbed by printmaking paper making it appear really flat and dry. In the studio I added hand stamping on a few of them where I thought they needed another layer of texture. The result were these ten unique digital monotypes.
It’s hard to know if the images are imploding or exploding but they are certainly not at rest. I think of both processes when I think of death: the body doing one thing and the spirit doing the other. After I finished them, I re-titled them to Hiding Inside My Mother's Death.