I felt that my work was not integrated enough with my concerns about habitat destruction, the steep increase of endangered birds and migration (of birds and people). Fused plastic bags carry an unspoken narrative about the consumerism that drives the depletion of planetary resources. Screen-printing on this new substrate enables me to embed images of endangered birds, migration and add text to the feathers. The new work is sewn and still has a textile sensibility.
I have worked with fiber since my textile design training at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. My artwork is becoming more painterly and abstract and this mixed media work straddles the fiber art and abstract art that influence my work.
There are hundreds, but here is a short list of artists that I continue to look at and find inspiration from: Olga de Amaral, El Anatsui, Naomi Wanjiku, Deborah Butterworth, Betty Woodman, Kyoung Ae Cho, Chakaia Booker, Robert Kushner, William Morris, and the indigenous artists from the Amazon Basin and West Africa (see my artist statement).
When I was younger, my artwork was more explicitly Jewish (and political) and I was profoundly influenced by feminist Midrashists including Lynn Gottlieb and Judith Plaskow. Although I work with abstraction, core Jewish themes continue to resonate throughout my work: longing for a homeland, thousands of years of forced migration, the relationship between outsider identity and dominant culture, honoring the sacred masquerading as prosaic, the intrinsically meditative/davening aspect of artmaking and Tikkun Olam, the hope that art can heal the world.
My simplest and most elusive advice: To thine own self be true. This means committing to your imagery, materials, and lifestyle without apology. Make art the organizing principle of your life. Listen to your inner wisdom and muse, not to the trends in the marketplace. Get support from people who understand you and your vision. Make art, lots of it. Pursue excellence. A cohesive body of work must precede all marketing efforts.
If you have children, they always come first. If you want an international art career, it might be better not to have a family. Now that my children are grown, I can turn my attention towards my art-making in a way that was not possible when they were young. It’s essential to claim a studio/room/table or some space devoted to your work no matter how seldom you get there. This ‘room of your own’ will help maintain your artist identity and provide you with a place to work when time allows.
This is one of the hardest aspects of any artist’s life. I juggled raising two children as a single mom, running a business along with maintaining my studio and art career. Taking excellent care of my health is an important key to my success and high energy level.
Like many artists, my revenue comes from many sources. Before I retired, my income came primarily from my medical billing company, lectures and artist workshops. I have always had rental income. Support comes in other forms. For many years I was a member of an artist’s support group formed after one of my workshops and I feel fortunate to be surrounded by colleagues who understand the stresses and conflicts inherent in balancing the artist’s life.
I enjoy the collaboration inherent in commission work. Generally, the buyer or designer would contact me to discuss the project and together we would develop the size, design, budget and timeline. Commissions start at $8,000 and are based on a price per square foot/meter.
During my first year in Mexico, I lived with a Mexican family with 8 year-old twins. The girls couldn’t pronounce my name correctly and it came out sounding like Cobra. The name stuck and has become my Mexican ‘sobre nombre’ nickname.
I attended an artist residency at a pivotal time in my life (Millay Colony, 1991) and it left an indelible impression. Mexico seemed like a perfect location for a residency and my initial outreach had a great response. The program has grown from hosting one artist in 2012 to inviting five international residents each year. Read more at 360 Xochi Quetzal