A Portfolio of drawings, pastels and paintings with artist’s statement in the form of a poem: Because, copyright 2002-2016.
After a hiatus following my sister’s death in 2015, I went back to work in the studio this spring, inspired by the suggestion of Diane Farris, the photographer and author, 14 years ago, that I make pictures to accompany the poem and turn it into a book.
Not feeling I have either the resources, or the inclination to make a book of the poem, a box of my design and construction with the poem/pictures in the form of a portfolio, seemed more to my usual mode of working.
The idea of a box is a precious one. A box holds treasures, secrets, tokens, unexpected things. I have boxes of all sizes, made of unusual materials in my surroundings: tiny Chinese boxes made of porcelain, with a single shark tooth fossil, larger ones, made of carved cinnabar, a wooden inlaid one made by my father in 1948 for my grandmother, containing old cracker jack prizes of great ingenuity, Japanese wooden boxes, for porcelain, filled with photographs of loved ones, rattan boxes of beloved correspondences, modern plastic boxes: my grand-niece’s drawings and letters from earliest childhood to the present, family archives, personal and professional archives, photos, slides, files with ideas for artwork, ceramic experiments, sketchbooks, saved things for collages, such as feathers, shells, dried flowers, antique family baby dresses, lace, and so much more. There are boxes which I made covered with vintage Japanese patterned papers from the late 1930’s to early 1940’s, and, of course, the plexiglas “boxes” [sculptures] which contain the continua of my three-dimensional engraved drawings.
My late friend, Dr. Anwar Kamal, a great collector of art, shared his memory of the box he had as a child in India before Partition. He lived in a village in the Punjab near an ancient archeological site. He and other children played among the deserted ruins where he found “treasures” of porcelain fragments and colourful beetles which he saved. When Partition came and the upheaval of migration forced his family to flee for their lives, he lost that beloved box. An art historian once suggested that the reason people become obsessed with collecting art is because, as children, they suffered the loss of toys or something else precious to them.
I began my box making in graduate school. I suspect the impulse was partly to protect my spirit from what is sometimes the brutal process of higher education. It was, perhaps, a message that said, you may look, but you may not destroy what is my essence.
My latest box, my new portfolio, is opaque, covered in Japanese papers, large (24 x 18), and one must open it and handle, with care, the poem and the drawings. At the age of 75, there is a solid record of my artistic legacy. My essence is no longer in danger. How liberating!