Prison Hospitality
gouache on paper
12" x 9"
One day when I was at a prison to interpret Spanish for a court proceeding, I saw a woman changing her baby on the bathroom floor. "You come out from there or you can't go in and see Daddy," she said to the little boy hiding in the stall. When I got home I recorded this in my sketchbook, and then a year or so later I painted this small gouache. I have since seen many similar scenes in prisons and jails.

My work as an interpreter has influenced my work in many ways. I have recently finished production of a handmade artist’s book, with an edition of fifty copies, in which I examine issues of immigration and of incarceration, telling stories of immigrants and their experiences with the US criminal justice system.

My other work is, less directly, influenced by my day job. The white-on-black “walls” series includes both small gouache paintings on black paper and wall-scale oil-stick works on black-gessoed canvas. The first of the series of small gouache paintings, Whitewash, is my response to the lyrics to a song by Berthold Brecht, Song of the Whitewash: “… Look, there’s another unpleasant stain on the wall…. So it’s whitewash we need… to keep things covered up until a later date…. “ In my day job as a court interpreter, I was seeing a lot of the “ugly cracks” hidden from the public, and the image intrigued me. I began to paint the bare bones (sometimes literally) of walls, in gouache on black paper, which I then cover with my own white gouache and watercolor “whitewash.” Looking at the work in retrospect, I see how my interest gradually shifted from the surface of the walls to their structure.

It was as that interest developed that I began to “build” much larger walls of overlapping figures, and of their absence, using oil stick to outline paper masks and stencils that I tape temporarily to the canvas. At times the repetition and overlapping of the figures create an illusion of depth and movement in the “walls.” As I use and re-use the paper silhouettes, they become torn and mutilated, and I am now installing them on “real” walls and lighting them to emphasize the way they emerge from the surface. I have also worked using paper silhouettes and wheat paste, pasting them directly to a large outdoor wall, as part of the O+ Festival in Kingston, New York.
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