Looking back what was the epicenter of the Disco era for you?
I caught the very tail end. As a young student at Parsons I was living in the dorms at 16 Union Square West with a kaleidoscope of the 8 most amazing women as roommates. Antonio Lopez had his studio on a floor above us, with Jerry Hall and Mick Jagger occasionally riding the elevator and Warhol across the park. New York city at the time was a bit ragged around the edges, dark and exciting, with a vibrant, electric core begging to be tapped. Straight 'off the farm' I was a part of this tribe of kids in NYC, experiencing life with a fearless exuberance that was eyeopening and exhilarating. We hit studio 54 a couple of times but the center of our world was really downtown. We were 'Mud Club' girls.
How did you translate that feeling into inspiration for the Freak Out exhibition?
When PoetsArtists introduced the disco theme I was working on my 2015 Goddesses series. So I jumped in and painted Vajrayogini, Got To Be Real. What goddess could be more ‘disco’ than Vajrayogini who transforms mundane daily experiences into higher spiritual paths and aids those with strong desirous attachment living in the current degenerate age? This Goddess is depicted nude with her luscious dark skin regal against an envelope of sizzling color. I was so thrilled with the way she radiated the era that I thought I was done with disco, but I was so wrong, somehow the disco beat wouldn’t release it’s grip. The closer I got to the show date the more I kept thinking about how much of the disco excitement around us was colored by the exuberance of the gay community. Our friends super talented, gregarious, joyful, dressing up and acting out lived life to it’s fullest. I started off painting a series of mini portraits of my friends from Parsons, in drag, and topped them off with glitter. I threw in a few girlfriends and celebrities creating a gaggle of Disco Divas and Starlets. I approached this new work like a sabbatical. These small pieces were a break from more serious painting, a chance to break the rules, experiment, play with glitter and not take myself too seriously.
Did you stop there?
No! At that point I couldn’t walk away. I was having too much fun. Minis are great but I love big! So I created a larger than life double portrait diptych to celebrate the women we were. ‘We Are Family’ is an icon to women with unique personal histories that join together as family and propel each other forward as individuals,to places they could never achieve alone.
Tell us about the last piece you submitted for the exhibition, it feels quite different.
The final piece was a departure from the crazy fun of painting the bright glitter festooned drag queens and the slick high gloss surfaces that represented the bright lights and flash of the era. Yet it still chartered new territory for me. I have established a delicate, labor intensive approach to acrylic painting and with this newest piece I struck out using oil for the first time. This piece was an opportunity to look at the other side of Disco. At the end of the night, when the war paint is washed off, at the heart of each character is a unique light, an often fragile and complex beauty. ‘Born To Be Alive . Faceted Perfection’ brings me back to searching deeper into the sensitive center of truth to where we are perfect, complicated, and exquisite.
Have you experienced a eureka moment while working on the artwork for Freak Out?
Breaking from my serious developed approach to painting felt very liberating. I gave myself permission to break patterns, play with materials and approaches that I would normally dismiss. It was like getting up to dance on new terrain, not sure if the floor would drop out from beneath me, giving into the music and risking it leaving me changed and in unknown territory. Doing things differently in order to remove guardrails and uncover new avenues of discovery....that sense of experimentation is Disco and beckons back to a time of youthful unknowing. When better to look at the plethora of possibilities, untethered by self inflicted expectations and to forge into the unknown. Why wait? Get up on the dance floor and dance.