I know everyone loves your giant spiders, and other large-scale sculpture work, but I have to say that your textile works- two and three dimensional- are what have stuck with me all these years. You were one of the first sculptors working with textiles that I was introduced to, who was using the medium of sewing and textiles to create ‘serious’ works, dealing with the human body and the female experience. You took sewing and textiles -things looked down upon as craft and women's work- and inserted them into the male dominated world of sculpture. You showed them you can create with wood, marble, metal and textile. You made giant works about intimacy, pregnancy, and hysteria, and inserted yourself -by way of these huge sculptures- in space, instead of standing meekly in a corner. I often feel I am pushing against boundaries: in my graduate school textile program, I was often told to switch departments, to study fashion, because I was interested in making garments. I sense a kinship of pushing against boundaries in your practice as well. Your practice spans so many mediums- drawing and painting, sculpture, installation and fabric works- I wonder if you ever came up against something similar. Of people trying to fit you into a specific box because of your interests, mediums, and subject matter.
Your treatment of the body is what makes your work so powerful to me. Your large, plush, pink, pregnant bodies; your bronze figures in hysterical arches; textile sculptures of a head, or multiple heads; and figures in romantic embraces. I have been making work about the body- by way of garment- for years, and I still haven’t figured out how to say what I want to say. But your work speaks so clearly to me. I empathize with it. I can feel all of the emotion in it.
Often, I return to an image of you walking down a street in New York City, encased in what looks like a mass of latex tumors. It reminds me of the humor that can also be present in your work. Or the image of you, in a black feathery jacket, holding under your arm, one of your bronze penis sculptures.
I have always admired how deeply personal and emotional your art is. You don’t shy away from subjects that make others uncomfortable. I have always thought of your practice as a way of processing by making. Your childhood is such an important source of inspiration for you, and a place you can return to easily in your mind. I hope to one day be as vulnerable through, and with, my making, as you were. But I have yet to become that comfortable, or at ease, with letting so many people in. How is it that you could just open yourself up in that way? I feel like I have cracked my door open slightly, to let in (and out) a little bit of my innerworld.
I know you must get asked this all the time, but I wonder if you have any advice for me. I find myself in a struggle. I know it takes time to get to the point in your practice, where you’ve finally figured out how to say what you want with your art, and that you can only get there by continuing to make. But I am worried I have too many interests, and that I keep saying yes to things that take me off track. Will I ever return? Or will I veer too far off? Will anyone take me seriously? Can I portray the same levels of vulnerability and emotion in my garment work? Your entire body of work is what I aspire to be- in my own way.
I wanted to write to you, to thank you, for coming into my life thirteen years ago. You, and your work, have made a lasting impact on me as an individual, and as an artist.
With love and admiration,