Using mostly functional objects from the studio, I have been building precarious, tentative 'sculptures' in front of drawings and paintings that contain figurative elements as well as marks and erasures.
These sculptural objects mimic, in 3 dimension, the hue and form articulated in the drawing. Manipulation of the light source and shadows further a process of refinement and integration, particularly when the result has been photographed as the final 'artifact' of the process.
Objects, like a careful drawing, become democratized when considered within my photos where other materials are placed alongside the drawing.
I celebrate the studio through the use of detritus, whatever is at hand, waiting to be repurposed in the photograph. The imagery becomes a melding of abstraction and representation, always considering gravity, air and light.
I have taken as a starting point, my large, mixed-media drawings that engage a discourse with conscious and unconscious marking. My purpose in generating this dialogue, aided by the elimination of color, has been to enter into a process intended to bring conscious creative decisions into closer contact with unconscious ones; and vice verse.
Much of Modernism was about bringing the unconscious to the fore: Abstract Expressionism and Surrealism championed this aspect of human experience. Conversely, in more recent practice, Minimal - Conceptual practice has focused on clear and concise conscious thought processes. My own rather contemplative studio experience has lead me to this effort to integrate these two aspects of mental and creative experience and has led me to extending the space of the drawing further toward the viewer.
Using mostly functional objects from the studio, I built precarious, tentative "sculptures" in front of the work that are integrated into the picture because they mimic, in 3-dimension, the hue and form articulated in the drawing. Manipulation of the light source and shadows furthered a process of refinement, of integration, particularly when the result has been photographed as the final 'artifact' of the process.
2013, My Studio Practice
I have always relied on notebook sketches to begin my studio work. Recently, discarding the aid of a sketch, I have built a new structure for my studio practice that challenges my ability and produces a more visceral image.
I begin with Yupo paper flat on the floor. I pour tinted water onto the paper and drop ink sparingly into the water, wiping and re-pouring continually until what remains are echoes of stain, forming a mysterious, dreamy and grisaille space.
The dry surface is a cool scrim of marks that I enter and explore when I place the sheet vertically, on a wall or panel. Then, using oil paint and brushes, I work quickly, applying and wiping away white and grey paint until, after many hours, a figure, a story - a dynamic emerges. The tinted residue left behind after wiping off the oils helps integrate the figure into the space.
I've always been interested in the paradox of our pride in intellectual accomplishment versus the virtually un-evolved passion of our mostly private animal urges - nature at work ensuring reproduction of the species, our collective destiny. And this informs my imagery, though not always overtly.
My figures have assumed postures that examine their status in the world. Through the re-structuring of my studio practice, I gained freedom to explore the form when I stopped using the drawings for guidance. And, to my surprise, the figures became less cartoon-like, and more representational.
These new figures, mostly female, link personal to a broader statement about women in a way that reminds me of Louise Bourgeois. I feel a connection to feminism with relevance now as women connect the personal with an emerging role in society.
Moving from restrained color to outright "grisaille", Stites focuses on tone, line and form more directly in her exploration of abstract and figurative vocabularies of personal and collective experience.
The work is visceral and varied in it's depiction of these internal and external worlds.
This balance of the real and unreal in these tense and scantly balanced compositions is a reminder that the logic of surrealism is as compelling as when it was considered "new". — David Rohn, artist and critic
2010, Scissor Kick
In this new work, I have moved from the use of organic amalgamous shapes and lines to the use of an iconic object image: the scissor.
This object, which moves, cuts, transforms and eliminates, bears a relationship to the organic shapes and lines of earlier work because it functions through binary movement – not unlike, for example, two legs; but also because of it's kinetic power: to amputate, stab, trim away.
Scissors have also been a fundamental studio tool for me so incorporating them into the work seems a natural integration of my process and its product.
My work has always had an organic, visceral, flesh-based aspect which I consider to be part of my concern with life issues such as vulnerability and passion.
Larger works incorporate this lexicon of scissor forms into an elliptical world of familiar imagery, creating a halo of detritus afloat in the white space of bare paper. This uncanny blend of organic and inorganic creates a visually complex but formally unified cycle of interaction and movement.
2008, Roiling Balls & Morphemes
Newer pieces reflect a more sculptural view than previous work. They maintain the thread of transformation but extend and expand it to objects. Particularly the Madball, the Crazyball, and the Medusa Crown play with the limits of discrete forms, exploring where organic forms stop and objects start.
These works speak more to nature's endless capacity for growth and recursion. Like kudzu or bacteria, the shapes in the Roiling Balls have exploded exponentially from a seedling and threaten to overwhelm the forms that contain them.
Playful scale-mixing in Cow, Burden, and Fear is also an expanded interest. Identifiable anatomic parts are integrated with contiguous shapes and textures that suggest coexistence of big and small, detailed and smooth, intricate and simple. As much as the eye wants to anthropomorphize these creatures, it is challenged to reconcile their organic nature with their lack of a consistent scale.
These can be seen as artifacts or curios. To the extent that they represent tests of an object's boundaries, they themselves feel like objects. Despite their motion and potentially unstable nature, they are discrete, self contained, complete. It is as if the unchecked process of nature they describe was somehow halted in the service of documentation and collection.
2005 - 2006, Sensual Grotesque
From sketchpad to small drawing to larger drawing, this work evolves from a line drawing to a watercolor and ink embodiment of animal, human, and found form that seems reasonable and monstrous at the same time.
The intimacy of hair and skin, recognizable to our private selves, is at once unsettling and gratifying. Although we think of ourselves as unique, our sexuality ties us undeniably to nature. The fluid slippage between human and animal reminds us - for better or for worse - that we are not as evolved as we would like to think.
The multiplicities of cloning, regeneration, and biological manipulation are an undercurrent, but my goal is to affect the viewer personally rather than politically.
Thus the work is not intended to shock but to create a moment of revelation, a space in the mind of the viewer that can be both relief and intrigue.