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Schutzengel  | pastel | 40x60 inches | 2016

Schutzengel | pastel | 40x60 inches | 2016

About a year and a half ago, my work took a much more personal turn. I wanted to overcome my fears of exposing myself too much to others by telling more of my own story. Through many serendipitous moments the word “wall” kept appearing: I was born behind a wall in 1962’s West-Berlin, in close proximity to the actual wall, spent my formative years there among a people that in general are very reserved. Within my own family (and within me) there were walls built up and torn down both of which often had negative results. Even my married last name contains the word wall!

I realized walls were a major theme running through my life. Making the resulting paintings public was one way of my breaking down an internal wall I had built up myself. All my life I had erected my own walls of protection and fears but since moving to the wide open spaces of the American Southwest I had been learning to tear them down.
With this continuing series, I am using the Berlin Wall as a metaphor for all of the walls in my life.

The paintings examine the endless contradiction and effects of walls.  Walls are real and physical, imagined and psychological. They make visible one’s fears, anxieties, and insecurities. They separate and yet offer a common purpose. They divide us yet invite us to scale them and tear them down, to come together again. They offer comfort, though false, yet feed hate and fear. They isolate and protect. Walls keep people out AND in. They shelter us and yet make us want to break free. They repel and tempt. They control and we rebel. They are a prison and a freedom. We can choose to erect them or tear them down.
One example of the contradictory nature of walls is Schutzengel (Guardian Angel).  When I spotted the graffiti of the angel on an actual leftover piece of the Berlin wall still standing I knew it would perfectly illustrate my point of actually having felt protected by this ugly horrible wall as a child. “Schutzengel” literally translates to “protection angel”. Since I lived on the West side I never felt oppressed or locked in as a child in Berlin, but actually saw the wall as protecting us from Communism.  Only when we ventured over into East-Germany, either to visit or travel through, did I feel the oppression. The piece had to be very large in scale (it's 40x60 inches) and the figure about life size so the viewer might feel the oppression of the wall on one hand and the sense of protection from the large angel on the other.

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