As a recent Visiting Artist at the American Academy in Rome I was blessed with time for active looking and mark making, reflection and incubation, and for creative stimulus within the community of other artists and scholars. I collected memories and raw material as sources for painting, printmaking, and mixed media work and enjoyed dedicated time to immediately respond to my sensory engagement with Rome. The collections and productions from this period provided seeds for this still-in-progress body of work, Rome Rhythm.
Rome, with its multiple coexisting layers of history and culture, appeals to my sensibilities in many ways; through the abstraction and open-endedness of ruins, which create not only a sense of the past, but openings for the imagination; by themes from antiquity, which spark the archetypal memory; and because of monuments and figures – containers of history and spirit, vessels of the past, which speak to me now and point me to the future.
As I walked around the city, I engaged my body and my senses in notitia or attentive noticing, absorbing spirit and sensory environment, capturing images and letting them capture me—from ancient epitaphs, inscriptions, and graffiti, to patterns of pavement and the many steep steps up to the Academy, the lines of architecture and monuments, curves of drapery, figurative forms, maps and objects of antiquity, powerful color, and water.
Having returned from Rome to my studio, I continue to trace my pilgrim’s journey with the action of art making. I address the canvas directly, giving visual form to captured memory and feeling and seeking to express the spirit and energy in my subject and myself. Beginning with energetic scribbles or lines as the ground of the city, I continue my “intervention on the plan of Rome” by building the work with fragments of memory and evidence of process: excavated layers; disrupted surface and structure; calligraphic gesture; things defined and obscured, and traces of the journey.
I seek to trust the immediate response or mark and strive for what Hsieh Ho called “spirit resonance.”