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MFA Candidate: Lesley Art + Design

Faculty Advisor: Oliver Wasow

Artist Mentor: Allison Maria Rodriguez


My work is rich in layers because layers mimic life. As I continue to circle the sun, I create layers on top of layers in my life; the work is excavating in order to learn and grow. In addition to discovering, comprehending, and challenging my own histories and traumas, there are deeper layers in my work. I seek to create bridges between the maker and the voyeur, the digital and analog, and chaos and order.


For each project that I am working, the process changes on changes as the work and experience is temporal. Despite the fleeting moment, there is an emphasis on the material allegory present in each project. Tissue to represent fragility and refraction and reflection to represent the warped perception of my body. Gesture acts as a vehicle for mindfulness and the marks are a record– even seen as a tally–of my daily consumptions and preoccupations.


Unearthing, comprehending, and challenging a disconnection between my physical body and my mind is what I set out to do. There is a division that has become a part of my daily experience, and my current body of work attempts to reunite the two. The desire and urgency which infuse the repetitive marks my hand makes can no longer be ignored. 


Hidden traumas, fueled by experiences with disordered eating, body dysmorphia, and past abusive situations, have persistently percolated in my intuitive-based work, but I never opened up the dialogue by asking the art questions. Why would certain motifs and symbols continue to pop up in the work? Why is my subconscious mind constantly pinging these experiences as I create?   Intersecting installation, projection, mark making, and performance can help drive dialogue and comprehension. Implementing an interdisciplinary methodology allows the viewer and participant to engage on multiple levels of knowledge.

project one


mock up / ideas expanded

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project two


mock up / ideas expanded

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project three


mock up / ideas expanded

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project four


project four


project five


project six


project seven

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project eight

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project nine

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project ten


project eleven



Over the course of the Summer 2021 MFA in Visual Arts virtual residency, new perspectives and ideas were generated that will help guide the research and studio practice over the next term. Leading up to the residency, my studio practice took a giant leap into the digital realm. The work and research began exploring various ideas including materiality, mark-making, the aura and material allegory in digital and analog media, and continuing my interest in the self-proclaimed artist-as-excavator role. During the numerous conversations and critiques with faculty, students, and visiting artists, deeper connections in the work were exposed. These connections and revelations will drive the research and studio practice this term. As a group three student, I believe there is slight room for exploration, but the majority of the term should be used to fuse connections. Areas of interest that will be explored throughout the term include my relationship to my body, the engagement of space, sound, and experience, and navigating past trauma, nostalgia, and healing.

Repeatedly throughout the residency, comments on the evident past trauma hidden in my work were made. Although I do not intend to illustrate traumatic memories, my intuitive process pulls from that past. It was during a very insightful one-on-one critique with Michelle Grabner where a parallel between post-war European paintings and my work was highlighted. After the war, these artists had to navigate through fragile, difficult trauma while simultaneously learning about their new post-war world and their position in it. Two artists to research are Joseph Beuys and Anselm Kiefer. Destroy the Picture, Painting the Void by Paul Chimmel and The Trauma of Painting by Alberto Burri are a couple of texts that were recommended to me. As a survivor of domestic abuse, my work inadvertently addresses my past experiences through the treatment of material, a somber palette, and the overall aesthetic and composition. I have placed a great emphasis on process and aesthetics in my work, mainly serving as a crutch, but during the residency, many pushed for me to be more explicit with the contextual information in the work and to continue to be vulnerable in the process.

In addition to the identification and discussion of trauma and healing as major topics, nostalgia and memory were noted. Questions percolate when these words are used in relation to my practice, especially after adopting the role of artist-as-excavator. Why is there interest in returning to the past? And is there something crucial that has been left behind that continues to ping the subconscious mind? The memoir, Hold Still by Sally Mann, was recommended by a few students, as well as Camea Lucida by Roland Barthes. Although these works are geared towards photography, they address memory and could unlock some important answers. In addition to looking towards photography, implementing physical objects could create new discourse. The objects could serve as vessels to past memories and experiences. This may look like using images and/or videos of isolated objects in the projections or it could be creating a space that houses the physical objects juxtaposed with the time-based media. Although there is uncertainty in how this will form, it is clear that the work is still moving into installation.

The projection and installation work that was presented during the residency was still in the preliminary stages. These explorations sparked conversations that opened up new routes to explore. However, the commonalities in these different pathways were the significance of the experience and the engagement of space for both the viewer and the artist. The Poetics of Space by Gaston Bachelard, Space, Site, Intervention: Situating Installation Art by Erika Sudenburg, and Mark Rosenthal’s text, Understanding Installation Art: From Duchamp to Holzer, are readings that were recommended to better understand space, phenomenology, and installation. By asking questions that address obstacles in space, navigation through space, and filling space to create an experience for the viewer could better bridge the gap between the creator and the audience. This desire to move these roles closer together has been a consistent interest of mine throughout the program at Lesley, and during the past residency, the lightbulb flickered as I began to understand why this continues to occur. This revelation opens up even more questions.

Why is there a focus on exploiting the process? What is driving the urge to share the role as an artist-as-excavator with the audience? Questions that were asked by other students regarding the motive in the work, as well as questions surrounding my source material for the time-based media, led me back to the significance of the hand and body in the work. Mental health is a difficult thing to navigate and talk about, especially when it is personal and private. Depression, crippling anxiety, toxic eating disorders, and body dysmorphia ruled my body and mind for so long, and perhaps the hyperfocus on the process and repetitive actions by the hand are ways to reclaim, relearn, and rewire my body/mind connection. It seems that I am just starting to crack open the meaning in the work.

This is the final term before I write my thesis, and I am in an advantageous position to dig deeper within the work while learning more about myself. The SUFA21 residency offered valuable insight and has helped merge numerous ideas that were floating around. Through rich discourse, a layer was pulled back exposing ideas that I didn’t know were as transparent in the work:  trauma, pain, suffering, anxiety, and nostalgia.  Although the final outcome of all of these revelations is unclear at this point, the work will continue to incorporate processes and mediums that focus and depend on reconnecting and/or merging the body and the mind, the artist and the viewer, and the analog and the digital. 

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