100 Broken Clamshells

 "The problem lies not so much with some feminists' concept of what femininity is, but rather with their misconception -- shared with the public at large -- of what art is: with the naïve idea that art is the direct, personal expression of individual emotional experience, a translation of personal life into visual terms.  Art is almost never that, great art never is."                              - Linda Nochlin



The broken clamshell (hinged portion of the shell that remains after seagulls have dashed the clam open to expose its meat) is an image I have been painting for the past 2 years.  It holds a great deal of resonance for me and embodies elements that I have pursued in my work (both abstract and figurative) over the years.  This project addresses the relevancy of the feminine, of non-goal directed activity.  It relies on the tenants of journal keeping, the belief that through discoveries of the self come discoveries of humanity; through understanding the microcosm, the macrocosm is revealed.  Traditionally we have perceived that power and transcendence in art lie in a more "masculine" approach

But when does something stop being personal and begin to be a metaphor for the human condition?  Perhaps we are evolving into a time where this takes place for a greater number of people.  I admit to spending many years addressing personal issues through my studio process, but after working so long in this mode I feel I have emerged with a vocabulary that I employ to evoke and represent various aspects of the human condition and with a process that is informed by my past concerns but is in no way dictated by them.  Just as I have experienced the trajectory of my own progress from the personal into the public domain, I feel comfortable extrapolating this to the progress of feminist art as a whole. 


This clam shell form has revealed itself to me as having the power to evoke sexuality, through a visual reference to a part of the female anatomy that often threatens, creates discomfort and embodies mystery.  The project's impact will hopefully come from a combination of elements; ranging from the desensitizing power of repetitive exposure (think Lenny Bruce's "nigger, nigger, nigger"), to the revelatory nature of spiritual chanting, to the acceptance of the profoundness inherent in the value of simple every day chores.

I am honoring the importance of daily practice, meditation, of small gestures, of the ability of the common place to lead to the type of revelatory experiences that can only occur through process as opposed to shock and "sound bites".  I am saying that through the repetitive, through the seemingly insignificant one can enter the realm of the mysterious and the sublime.

The images on this page are intended to relate this project visually to my main body of work.  In the flowers and pods that I paint I find mystery, fertility and a sexuality that is undeniably feminine and fierce but is yet the mother of us all.  This imagery has always been a cornerstone of my abstract work.  I have included the images of Smudge as a more direct embodiment of the power of the clamshell image: she is a tough little street cat who, after 4 years with me, is still jumpy and nervous and somewhat feral.  It touches me deeply that she finds enough security to lay total exposed, on her back, legs splayed.  In this posture I see confidence, trust and an acceptance of her vulnerability.  It seems akin to what draws me to the hinged pieces of the clamshells, where all that remains intact, after being dashed apart on the rocks, is this not so fragile connection exposing an undeniably female form in which I see strength and resilience.