Laughing Medusas

For a long time I have been asking in my work—what does it mean to be a body; how do we make meaning; and how do we come to knowing? As well, I have always been curious about inexplicable but ordinary experiences that change us, like liminal (threshold) experiences and saturated phenomenon. This body of work is the visible path of my inquiry into these questions. I juxtapose minimal planes (of steel and luminous colour, that for me indicate what is unknowable or unsayable), with drawn fragments, layering signs and symbols from everyday life (like maps, packing stickers, stock market reports and medical imagery) with soundscapes, digital video clips, overlaid with imagined textual dialogues between thinkers that I love (Rilke, Cixous, Marion, Derrida, Keller, Foucault, Appelbaum and Taylor). These material surfaces, sounds, signs and texts unfold depth and collide to create meaning echoing the way we negotiate these "languages" daily.

Saturated phenomenon are experiences of givenness that philosopher Jean Luc Marion says exceed the senses, that flood, overrun—indeed saturate, otherwise ordinary events. Like other ordinary but inexplicable experiences, saturating phenomenon surpass the sum of their parts; they are experiences of overflowing fulfillment. Like liminal experiences, they are not measurable in any ordinary way and are hard to put into words. Here, I hint at them through planes and veils of colour and texture.

Marion identifies the face as a potent source of saturated phenomenon. Many of these images juxtapose minimal planes of steel with close up faces. In Painting Today, Tony Godfrey observes that a portrait painted face-to-face implies a one-to-one, an ich-du (I-Thou) relationship. These large close-up faces bring to mind Buber's I-Thou, Levina's face-to-face ethical encounter with the other, and invite the viewer into relationship. In The Face of the Deep, Keller notes how "the face breaks up both the deconstructive caricature of depth and the counter caricature of deconstruction as shallow."

Helen Cixous' famous 1979 essay, "The Laugh of the Medusa," describes woman released from the misogynous medusa myth-claiming full voice, laughing with relief, coming finally to her senses and meaning in history. Cixous describes something I recognize, a creative resurrection from death; freed from fear of the abyss, a leaping, daring, surrendering, vulnerable plunge into terror filled freedom and a surge of energy marked by laughter. The paired faces vacillate between fear and joy—laughing, crying, meditating, yelling with full voice-being flooded with fields of saturated colour, seen floating through layers of texts.

This series celebrates how simple mundane surfaces can open, enfold and invite such saturated phenomenon. The surface of steel, the porous, close–up topography of the face, the signifying surfaces of texts, maps, packing stickers, material veils of saturated colour—each trace, layer, flood, open and unfold multiple depths. The surfaces themselves invite not a dualistic opposition of surface with depth, but celebrate how the multiple traces overlay and do not erase.