As an interdisciplinary artist who constructs installations that memorialize obsessional lives, I draw inspiration from offbeat characters whose private manias become public fodder for tabloids and reality television. My subjects may be other people, but their struggles are highly personal. In my practice, I investigate contemporary forms of animism, death, sexuality, the medicalization of identity, and addiction. There is not a clear cut line between my installations and performance work as they often overlap and blur into each other. Increasingly, my installations have performative elements while ephemera from my performances work their way into my installations.
In Raggedy Ann to Real Doll I constructed a storefront operating theater at Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions as one of America’s most beloved dolls went under the knife. Projected video and the remote voyeurism from a live Stream provided multiple onsite and virtual opportunities for spectatorship with the possibility to experience the installation from the gallery sidelines, externally through the windows, or directly engage in the surgery.
(In)/Animate Objects 2016
A mountain of decaying dolls towers to the ceiling upon which their maker, the grandmother, presides from the throne of her wingback chair. (In)/Animate Objects was an installation that focused on the excesses of a doll hoarding grandmother in the form of over a thousands of handmade, distressed rag dolls. (In)/Animate Objects was the second half of a diptych. Its companion, Object of Her Affection, was a puppetry performance about a woman who in her search for love develops intimate relationships with inanimate objects. The performance charted Andrea Lowe’s life of heartbreak from the loss of her baby blanket to doomed romances with monumental structures. Whether it was nature or nurture that made Andrea an object sexual, she happened to be raised by someone who also shared a complicated relationship with things – her grandmother. Years have passed since Andrea fatally fell from Roy, a crumbling tenement who she was in love with. In sorrow, her grandmother has amassed more dolls than she can possibly care for. I created (In)/Animate Objects for the 2016 COLA Fellowship Exhibition at Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery. In 2017, I displayed photographic documentation at LAMAG and was included in the book, COLA20.
Fudgie’s Death was a pulp noir inspired installation of sequential art that followed the troubled daughter of a famous ice cream mogul and her downward spiral into frosting, substance abuse, and Fudgie the Whale. There were forty storyboards including a selection of three that Korean paper engineer and scenic designer, EuGean Seo, re-interpreted as pop-ups. I exhibited the Fudgie’s Death collection at St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn. In the live version of Fudgie’s Death I transformed table-top pop-up books into full-screen cinema with magnification from a choreographed security camera.
Birthday Trauma, was a selection of off-kilter puppets, props, and set pieces originally created for Growing Up Linda, that I exhibited outside of the many live performances. In Growing Up Linda, the fictitious daughter of a famous ice cream mogul must come to terms with her troubled past. I set up Birthday Trauma as a tableau from the inciting moment in the life of Carvel at her fifth birthday party when she is strong-armed by her father into dismembering her friend, Cookie Puss (a talking ice cream cake) for the consumption of her blood-thirsty relatives. I exhibited various iterations of Birthday Trauma between 2006-2009 in Orlando at Avalon Island, in Santa Ana at Grand Central Art Center, in Los Angeles at Acorn Gallery, and in Connecticut at the Guilford Arc Center.
The Adventures of Michael Jackson and the Animals of Neverland Ranch was a collection of puppets, props, set pieces (including a giant story book), and wall text that highlighted a reclusive pop-star’s whimsical abuse of animals in his private zoo amidst troubling relationships with children. Originally these objects were part of a short, table-top puppetry piece I adapted from a section of Michael Jackson Was My Lover, a questionably sourced, pulp, tell-all about Jackson’s relationship with a teenage boy. In this piece, I explored the cosmology of celebrities storylines and how they are constructed through our collective myth-making. I displayed the installation at St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn.
Puppet Trash 2004
Puppet Trash was a solo exhibition in the front window gallery of AS220 in Providence. that featured dolls, puppets, and puppet residue. Included in the installation were Aunt Kate, Gemini (conjoined at genitals), STD Teddy, Linda Carvel, Terry (Linda’s Dealer), and Seated Figure.
Side Effects 2003
Side Effects was a body of work created in 2003 consisting of digitally altered photographic prints of pharmaceuticals (antibiotic, antipsychotic, and antidepressant medications). For the most part I used actual pills scanned at a high resolution to create images which I manipulated in Photoshop, and printed on high gloss photo paper. Side Effects included The Metronidazole series, The Atypical Antipsychotic Series, and The Half Life Series. Of Respirdone #12, Petra Kuppers wrote that “the flash of science, and its miraculous color effects, beams, transpositions, and traversals, glistens on the photo paper” in her book, The Scar Of Visibility: Medical Performances And Contemporary Art. I originally exhibited the images as an installation at Ocean Coffee Roasters in Providence.
In Finocchio: The Holiday Classic, I reimagined the idea of the commercial holiday window popular in urban centers – taking the format of the sequential visual narrative and injecting it with contemporary themes of postmodern gender theory, technologies that can alter the body, mental illness, and addiction. The storyline was a twist on Pinocchio. However, instead of being centered on a puppet who wants to assimilate as a basic human boy, Finocchio focused on a marionette “trapped” in the body of a non-binary human and hir journey to self-actualization through fabulousness. I created the installation in the front window display of the Dirt Palace, a feminist art space located in a repurposed abandoned library building in Olneyville, RI.
Early Puppets 2000
From 1999-2000, I created a collection of puppets and dolls that I exhibited as an installation at Gallery 2 while studying at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. This early body of puppetry work marked a shift in focus from creating performative dolls that existed as sculptural objects (or in photographs) to kinetic puppets and performing objects with storylines for performances.
Petting Zoo 1999
For Petting Zoo, I transformed a basement cubicle at Randolph Street Gallery in Chicago into a dim, immersive environment where viewers were encouraged to pet, feed, and interact with masked animal-human hybrids who often pet back. I created Petting Zoo with video artist, Kathleen O’Shea, in our alter egos, Twinkie and Star – the Giovanni Sisters. However for this appearance as the Giovanni sisters we were hybridized as cloned sheep. Petting Zoo existed in the context of a larger haunted house at Randolph Street Gallery, featuring installations and performances by radical faeries including plastic wrap mummification and mud wrestling.
Spin The Bottle 1998
Part beatification station, part photo booth, Spin the Bottle collapsed boundaries between the viewer and the performer, creating a space for playful interactions at Randolph Street Gallery in Chicago. I created Spin the Bottle with video artist, Kathleen O’Shea, in our alter egos, Twinkie and Star – the Giovanni sisters. In Spin the Bottle, we investigated the idea of the make over, standards of beauty, transformations, and before and after photos. Spin the Bottle was just one of the stations in Day of Beauty + Ritual, a performance art circus we curated with Koe Koe Johnson that celebrated spring as a time of rebirth, renewal and rejuvenation. Day of Beauty + Ritual featured installations and performances created and consumed by an eclectic mixture of pagans, club kids, naturalists, queer spiritualists, and artists.
The Program 1997
The Program was a table-top installation at Gallery 2 that featured repurposed animatronic stuffed animals (a cat, a rabbit, and a junkie dalmatian) that were altered so that they could converse with one another. The dialogue between the cat and the rabbit over the junkie dalmatian was similar to a dialogue video artist and collaborator, Kathleen O’Shea, and I heard on 55th and Western at 4 o’clock, July 8th, 1997. The Program was a loaf between “the real” from the storybook character, the Velveteen rabbit and “the real” that Lacan states in psychoanalytic theory. This reinstatement of the real to reality is constructed through language. We created The Program for the Hybrid exhibition at Gallery 2 in Chicago as part of the Eighth International Symposium on Electronic Art (ISEA).
For Feet, collaborator, Kathleen O’Shea and I explored the idea of service, beautification, and the aesthetic and heightened spectacle of pseudo-medical treatments. We invited gallery patrons to relax on our reclining chair. They were blindfolded, while we enacted sensory treatments to their feet including an array of foot scrubs and a variety of other tactile stimulation. Feet was part of a larger context of alternative spa treatments created by Radical Faeries at Randolph Street Gallery in Chicago.
Silver Room 1997
The Silver Room was a performance-installation I created for Fausto Ferños’ Wig Show, at Gallery 2 in Chicago, in which I created a silver room-sized environment. Stationed on an alter, I became a metallic deity, modeling one of Ferños’ handmade aluminum foil wigs as I serenaded viewers, blowing bubbles and lighting sparklers over their heads.
Confessional Bed 1994
In Confessional Bed I invited the viewer to recline on a cosy bed with a stuffed animal and homemade afghan and to listen to a portable cassette player. The audio track was an interview with an anonymous survivor who recounted her memories of childhood abuse. At the time an inordinate amount of my friends were coming out to me as sexual abuse survivors. While I was vowed to secrecy, I felt like I had to make an installation memorializing their experiences. Confessional Bed was part of Assorted Crackerjack Prizes, a group exhibition that explored space, scale, and interactivity with pieces ranging from smaller art in boxes to larger room sized installations.
Vigil was a site-specific installation that explored mortality, in which I constructed a wake-like alter in the proscenium of a repurposed a fireplace. The fireplace became a viewing area for a human body that I presented as a living corpse. In Vigil, I was interested in the theatricality and surreality of seeing an actual dead body of someone you know and loved but that no longer contains a kinetic life force in it. The living corpse, performed by Dan Millman, made subtle seemingly involuntary bodily movements: such as breathing, twitching, blinking, and occasional tossing and turning while sleeping. The performer was powdered white and wearing a ceremonial suit. For Vigil, I was interested in staged deaths and the common fantasy of being present at your own funeral. I was also inspired by Joel-Peter Witkin’s macbre photos of corpses and Lenin’s Tomb. Vigil was part of Assorted Crackerjack Prizes, a group exhibition that explored space, scale, and interactivity with pieces ranging from smaller art in boxes to larger room sized installations.
UFO Crash Site 1994
UFO Crash Site was an assemblage of space ship debris, lights, and sound art. The audio track included my ruminations on contact with extra terrestrials, time, space and our limited comprehension of the infinity. UFO Crash Site was part of Assorted Crackerjack Prizes, a group exhibition that explored space, scale, and interactivity with pieces that ranged from smaller art in boxes to larger room sized installations.
Right Wingback Chair 1994
In Right Wingback Chair I invited viewers to sit in a wingback chair into which I had embedded speakers with the rantings of a fictitious right wing character who quoting passages from the Bible to justify his bigotry. Right Wingback Chair was part of Assorted Crackerjack Prizes, a group exhibition that explored space, scale, and interactivity with pieces that ranged from smaller art in boxes to larger room sized installations