Artist Statement : Veil and Cut Piece

Veil No. 2, 2006, oil on linen, 6.25 x 8.5 inches


The word veil says covered but also suggests the revealed.  These paintings are ambiguous, sometimes almost impossible to read on first viewing.  They are black paintings, both literally and metaphorically.  Literally they show black gauze stretched over parts of the body, perhaps a hand or a cheek; but the fabric distorts and decontextualizes.  Flesh can be seen obscurely through the gauze, and occasionally, through fissures or cuts in the fabric. The captured flesh balloons out almost like viscera from this second skin.  Is it is a confrontation with a disintegration of the self, or a conception of an extreme sensuality?

Cut piece

Cut Piece No. 1, 2006, oil on linen, 10 x 8 inches“There, they put me in a room, suspended me by my arms and attached my feet to the floor,” he recalled. “They cut off my clothes very fast and took off my blindfold.”
Laid Saidi, Washington Post interview

“A wound gives off its own light surgeons say
if all of the lamps in the house were turned out
you could dress this wound by what shines from it.”
Anne Carson, The Beauty of the Husband

Clothing is protection.  Cutting through is a wounding of this symbolic second skin.  It came as second nature to those mourning a death to mimic the inner tear of loss with a renting of cloth and pulling of hair.  Nature becomes ritualized, as in Jewish funereal rites, which involve cutting or tearing of the black garb of mourning.
Though my work has never been overtly political, this series is a direct response to actual events.   The stories recounted by former U.S. prisoners have brought me an awareness of aspects of human disintegration engendered by a poverty of body and mind that seems an inescapable part of the experience of war.  This is a level of desperation, which, living in an affluent society as I do, I am rarely exposed to.  The simplicity and yet the cruelty of the act of cutting off of a prisoner’s clothing, as a foreplay to interrogation, shocked me.  As does the U.S. government’s condoning of abusive acts they insist do not reach the level of ‘torture’.  Yet what could be more violating?   The symbolic act, through malintention, becomes the hurt it only appears to mirror.