Why do I use candy? How do I use candy? Predictably, these questions arise in most discussions of my work. Candy is my metaphor- my “velvet hammer.” For almost three decades it has been my still-life, landscape, figurative and symbolic orientation. In these common, innocuous, mass produced objects I find the expressive visual equivalences for the intensity, complexity, irony, and subtlety I see in life every day, providing a pervasive and compelling raison d’être for my paintings and drawings.
Complementing its symbolic/metaphorical nature, candy is also sensuous in a direct visual way (color, form, surface) and in a vicarious way (taste, touch, smell). The cultural associations and responses my work can elicit from the viewer enrich esthetic experience and challenge me to continue exploring new ways of seeing and representing this particular reality. I choose and collect candy from various countries –chocolates, jujubes, licorice, hard candies, suckers- not only because of their potential in artistic terms, but equally important because of the way they evoke and reveal to me the values, attitudes, and cultures of the people who have designed and produced them in the first place. Europeans, more so even than Americans, take their candy seriously, especially in terms of refined appearance and careful presentation (some competitive German Konditoreien have been known to copyright their window arrangements!).
For most of the small “portrait” drawings I have done for friends, I have had readily at hand candies (namely jujubes and licorice) aptly mirroring individual aspects of each person’s essence. And except in one instance –the shape of the monster (but not the cellophane wrapping) in the “Frankenstein” drawing- I have not had the need to invent any of candy used in my work; it already exists to be interpreted, re-cast and reconsidered in a way that says “Think you know? Look Again!”
The visual effects I need to develop in order to achieve a convincing melding of subject with meaning require that the candies be painted or drawn in a very particular way; one which supplies a continuous challenge, both technical and compositional. In order to bring about the illusion of volume and forward projection into the viewer’s space and the transparent and reflective qualities of the candy images, I build up many thin layers of oil paint on canvas, defining and refining as I go. My technique is time-consuming and labor-intensive. Many of the paintings are large (up to 12’) and take between 2-4 years to complete. The smaller paintings and drawings, which take much less time, allow for greater freedom to experiment, changing scale and media, with more immediate results. Responding to the stimulation and challenge of special projects or commissioned work has often produced unexpectedly powerful outcomes when fusing the flexibility of candy as a subject with specific themes, concerns or issues that at first seemed incompatible. The “Frankenstein’s Monster” drawing for the 1993 Frankenstein Symposium and Exhibition in Ingolstädt, Germany, and the “Hold It!” painting and drawing with an anti-violence motif for the Duluth Women’s Domestic Assault Program are examples of this.
the process of repeatedly questioning and pushing the limits of the
subject and media, I have produced 8 major paintings (all but two of
which are in museum collections), 40 smaller ones and more than 40 graphite
drawings, about 20 of which were commissioned as donations to numerous
civic and cultural organizations for fundraising activities. New ideas
continue to come to mind – different combinations, different techniques,
different media –their coming to reality dependent, as always,
that the excitement, commitment, and conviction of my direction and
vision continue to be vital.