My art combines unexpected elements into a balanced whole through the juxtaposition of color, form, and texture. I first applied this philosophy when designing multi-strand necklaces reminiscent of the torsades so prevalent in Venice when I was young. While those necklaces were composed of ten or more twisted strands of identical, small Murano glass beads which glistened and made the eye dance, I designed necklaces using a wide range of materials including amber, abalone, freshwater pearls, semiprecious stones, shells, and I always included — in memory of my Venetian father — at least one Murano glass bead. I am highly sensitive to color and, not surprisingly, my palette has been described as “Italianate.” Unconsciously, in those necklaces I mirrored the opulent and joyful Venetian style.
After a decade of designing these necklaces, I began using segments of them to create surrealistic assemblages. I followed the same design principle, avoiding symmetry and achieving balance by juxtaposing color, form, and texture. Despite the structured nature of my art, I design each scene to remain intriguing in much the same way that my necklaces make the eye dance. Above all, though, these scenes must stand on their own as a work of art.
Each assemblage tells a story about our world, addressing social issues such as equality, immigration/emigration, anthropomorphism, the environment, and victims' rights. They are multi-layered both physically and conceptually. I prefer to convey my sentiments through gentle humor, designing an appealing scene that will attract an audience and yet serve as a constant reminder of the issue. The meaning of some scenes may be obvious; accompanying text – on the signage of exhibits and here on my website — explains the deeper meaning and symbolism of others. Viewers are invited to develop their own interpretations before reading the text.
I am initially inspired by the feeling created by the colors and textures of one of the necklaces I previously designed. In most instances, I include a segment of it, along with objects that complement its colors and quality, such as fine dollhouse miniatures and richly textured fabrics. I then add a broad range of other materials, including digitally manipulated photographs, ribbon, gimp, artificial flowers, wood, paper, art board, and mirrors. Influenced by the nature surrounding my studio, when I include animals, I seek out realistic models, even for surrealistic scenes. The found objects I incorporate include shells from our oyster farm and cold water coral and shells collected from the shoreline of the nearby wildlife refuge on Assateague Island.
The shift from necklaces to miniatures required me to learn skills such as woodworking, soldering, sewing, and Photoshop. It also forced me to accept two significant limitations — the laws of gravity, which often require adjustments to the original concept, and the dimensions of the desired wooden frames. To create the illusion that the viewer is present at the scene, I set museum glass in a 4” inch deep custom wooden frame that curves outward to draw in the viewer.