This body of work was created in conjunction with the separation from my partner. Each sculptural piece utilizes various aspects of our bed as it’s primary material. Our mattress, sheets, pillow, and blanket were transformed into a collection of objects that carry a deep sense of personal ritual. The work culminated into a 3-day performative action in which collaborations between myself and photographer, Gina Cholik and video artist, Anne Klint transpired. What remains from a deeply meaningful process is a series of sculptures, photographs, paintings, and video that are best viewed in conjunction with one another, each informing the next.
For detailed information on individual pieces, read below:
69” x 51” x 23”
Our mattress, sheet, dye, pencil, paint, thread, wood, water tubes, lilac
I remember being fascinated with the notion of a clean white sheet. Evidence of human existence on a white sheet (perhaps the most intimate and physically used object in a home) may decrease its value to the point of being discarded. The object’s physical usefulness remains unchanged, while it’s psychological role has been altered.
Stains are records of past events, often those that we don’t want to remember. The theme of moths (inspired by their fatalistic devotion to their flame) emerged in the piece, camouflaged into the stain-like markings and at times attempting movement by being partially cut out of the sheet itself.
The hole on the left side of the bed is lined two feet down to the floor with a structure of 2x4s inlaid with fragrant, lilac filled water tubes. Olfactory perception is also alluded to in the form of a Facebook conversation between my stepson and his mother that is sewn into the mattress. It reads (translated from Tagalog):
NJ: Do you miss mommy?
NJ: How is it at nighttime?
ZC: I cry at nighttime when I’m alone because when I smell your pillow, I can still smell the scent of your hair.
The mattress was the first piece made in the series, concurrent with an intense period of grieving.
23” x 18” x 24”
Sheet, dye, thread, amethyst and unknown crystals, taxidermy form
I had dreams of this otherworldly lynx prior to its formulation into a sculptural object. This particular lynx (both as object and concept) has become a very real totem for me; the sculpture feels oddly alive.
Lynx are nocturnal hunters and have exceptional night vision, thanks to a layer of mirror-like cells in their eyes called the tapetum lucidum. Unabsorbed light hits this layer of tissue that is covered in a zone of doubly refracting crystals and is reflected right back at the retinal receptor layer for another chance at absorption. This is why cat eyes shine in the dark.
Their remarkable sense of sight has given the lynx a reputation in various cultures as being the keeper of secrets and having a heightened sense of knowing. I personally interpret the heightened sense of sight to be a representation of attunement with one’s inner self.
My experience of loss opened me up to the practice of remaining aware and observant while in the experience of fear. I overcame lifelong phobias in the timespan of this object’s completion.
41” x 8”
Bed sheets, thread, Lex’s hair, cherry wood, steel
A life-sized skeleton was embroidered into the face of the dress using my then partner’s hair for thread. The dress itself was hand sewn from my bed sheets. The piece is a reminder that the foundation, the bones of our lost relationships are a love that will always remain. It protected me in the sense that it comforted me enough to let go. I’m glad that I could wear these pieces, could wrap myself in them. I wore them for the entirety of the three-day performance.
12” x 11” x 9”
Comforter, turmeric, my hair, hair dye, hummingbird feather, thread
I knew I was going to be sleeping outside alone. The headdress was hand sewn from my comforter, and designed to defend myself from my own fears by minimizing the sounds that would incite them. It’s force field like powers work equally well in the city; allowing the wearer an internal experience in a public space.
The impulse to stain my face and dress in that moment came in part from a desire to reclaim the notion of staining. When staining the mattress and the lynx, it came from a place of mourning and of contemplating the “mistakes” that led to the end of a partnership and a new-found strength. In facing the void of the night and the holes and my discomfort, it was important for me to continue to stain in that space of indeterminate transition and to access an intentional mark-making that utilized the pigments and support of the earth.
Our pillow, Lex’s hair, owl feathers, Mother’s hair
I was reluctant to give up my favorite pillow to the project. It’s so comfortable. I imagine it now to be filled with owl feathers rather than goose down. Aerial photos taken of crop circles inspired the pattern sewed with my partner's hair into the center of the pillow. I de-threaded the weave of the fabric in select areas surrounding the drool stain markings. A bit of my mother’s hair was incorporated as well.
2 site-specific temporal installations, c-prints
Arches of wild sweet pea blooms were created to mark significant points of entry. More details of this project can be found in the below short story.
video stills from site studies/WIP
Experimental explorations of memory, sensory perception, movement, and time. Over a six week period, I revisited sites from my life where my body experienced extremes. I brought with me to these sites cotton twine and fragrant sagebrush that I'd recently gathered from trips to the desert. I bound small handfuls of sagebrush at each site and noted the coordinates. The bundles were later were hung on walls, labeled with their corresponding coordinates as a part of a larger installation created during a residency at Krowswork gallery in Oakland.
if i revisit these sites where i experienced trauma will i remember something new?
will my body change?
if i change the way i move my body this time around will it change the past/my experience of how the past lives in my body now?
if time is nonlinear can i change time/heal old hurts?
why did i bring sagebrush? it was like bringing a friend or ally along
why did i want to smell something thats not from this place during these site visits?
what was the point of all of this?
why did i rush each visit? did i actually rush them? maybe not.
go through each site and discern why significant
sagebrush, wild sweet peas, acacia, dirt, earth pigments, maple branches, polyurethane, cotton twine
During the six week residency, I revisited sites from my life where my body experienced extremes. I bound small handfuls of sagebrush at sites of trauma and wild sweet peas at sites of pleasure. At each site I noted the geographic coordinates. The bundles were were hung on walls, labeled with their corresponding coordinates, mapping impactful physical sensations and time in a nonlinear way.
Movement was explored both within the gallery and without. I danced in the gallery, under the night sky, in my home, and at sites of trauma/ pleasure. Towards the end of the residency teamed up with a collective of women to further explore these movements in Sibley park over the course of the summer.
Pigments were created out of earth gathered during the residency from sites where my body experiences comfort. Paint and dyes were made from the pigments and used to dye the cotton chords, paint the body sculpture, and the raw earth was used to create delicate floor patterns.
I continued to develop the sculpture over the course of the residency. The woman-turning coyote (work in progress) was made throughout 2016. The form was made by casting my body while holding the position I discovered through dance that triggered a body memory that induced a wave of flashbacks of sexual assault. The sculpture itself is made from polyurethane - the material used to make taxidermy forms. Incisions were made into the sculpture, so it now holds various meaningful medicinal plants under its skin. An array of intentional herbs, earths, and meaningful ingredients were mixed in when casting the pussy portion of the sculpture. A coyote spine is exposed in the sculptures neck and a plastic coyote jaw in set into the face. The body positioning of the sculpture was also informed by a personal experience of following coyotes, both literally and figuratively. Resiliant animals.
At the closing of the residency, all these explorations came together for a night if interactive performance with the gallery visitors. Visitors were guided into a more embodied state for their experience of walking through the installation. I wore a sign around my neck explaining that I would not be speaking. I offered a note and eye contact to each person entering the space. Visitors that seemed particularly engaged were adorned with bundles of wild sweet peas that I made over the course of the evening.
Site-specific installation in my father’s apartment
Carpet from the site, salt, rose branches from site, pencil drawing of quote from my father's book.
This portrait of my father was created in his then dining room in the area where he ripped out the carpet. The project was influenced by what was at the time, a mysterious experience described by some as spiritual and some as psychotic. During this experience my father smelled the fragrance of roses everywhere. My dad has spent much of his life studying Sufism, and in one of his books, The Rose Garden, by Sa’di, I read a verse that I felt encapsulated my father’s experience. I wrote that verse on the walls.
Site-specific bathroom installation/temporary lifestyle shift
Thistle seed carriers and dirt gathered from hills near site, fishing line.
Thousands of delicate thistle seed carriers were gathered and meticulously strung onto fishing line and installed in the bathroom over the course of three months. The body's pathway of movement in the space was altered with the placement of each garland. Routines were disrupted. As more and more of the space was filled with thistle garlands, freedom of movement was progressively limited. A tunnel was left open to access the bath tub and toilet until the last few days of the installation in which the bathroom became nonfunctional. My partner and I had to get creative with our morning routines and hygiene practices.
This project came at a time of dissatisfaction with the day to day. Struggling at a minimum wage job I didn't care for, feeling that my art practice was suffering for lack of time/energy/resources, and feeling really frustrated and disappointed by that. When I was a child, we would catch those seed carriers as they blew past so that we could hold them in our hands, make a wish, and release them. We would watch with anticipation, hoping the seed carrier (we called them "wishers") would rise out of site - because the rule was that if it hit the ground, your wish wouldn't come true. Threading the "wishers" on fishing line and installing in this fashion guaranteed perpetual suspension, while simultaneously disabling the potential for what they're built for - being carried by the wind. This project helped me to explore and embody the limitations of my daily routine as defined by my work (capitalism) and my marriage (patriarchy) and what it means to wish that I could be an "artist".
notes to think/write more on: privatization of time, capitalist influence, Inevitably, the fast pace of consumerism is accompanied by the tantalizing promise of slow time, "At times in tension, at times in collusion with capitalist scarcity, the scarcity of experience encourages forms of art that are not as easily distributed, If we are frantic, it is only because we need to be so in order to keep up. Slowness does not only characterize a mode of consumption, but also a mode of behavior. To that end, we now find numerous forms of contemporary art that gain resonance by tweaking behavioral codes with regard to the body and temporality"
Site-specific moment in time
Sand, artificial poppies, beach umbrella, family.
I made this when I was young. 19. It's a portrait of the women I grew up with. It was an action, an attempt at creating a space for them where they could feel relaxed and free. It was an imitation, a replica, of an idyllic California landscape - a piece just for them. The matriarchs of my community were drug addicts and survivors. They carried much trauma, and as a child, my heart was simultaneously filled and broken for and by my beloved women. I concerned myself with futile attempts at taking care of them, protecting them, calming them. There was labor in the action of building this installation - carting truckloads of sand down the long train tracks in a wheel barrow load by load, shoveling a layer of white sand over the debris and dirt. Getting it to look just so. The site of the installation is behind a scrapyard in West Oakland along the train tracks I used to explore when I was growing up. A giant wave of debris looms in the background as they and I effort to ignore its presence. The wave that I so feared came and took the life of Kim (upper right, under the umbrella) a couple years after this photo. She lived and she mattered. She was playful and kind.