Return to the Fortress| Artist Statement 2019
“Return to Fortress” is a series of abstract landscape and portrait paintings, an altar installation for restless ancestral spirits and a knitted prayer shawl with protective amulets for use during pregancy that considers to question: How do you return to a homeland from which you have been exiled and which has existed in a mythical imaginal sphere for 500 years?
The works presented are the result of a self-directed artist residency and solo exhibition, in the the medieval village where my ancestors were exiled upon threat of death in the Edict of Exile in 1492 during the Spanish Inquisition.
Buried cemetary evokes my experience of exploring the medieval Jewish quarter, to discover that though the cemeterys have been paved over with church courtyards and 18th century textile factories and almost all evidence of a Jewish presence has been erased there are hints remaning in the imagination and memory of the community and in traces of architectural structures and carvings. Wishing Fountain with Infinity Keys, evokes a sense of nostalgia and melancholy at the optimism of carrying a house key in exile and also speaks to the maintainence of the Ladino language and Sephardic superstitions, songs and cultural practices that have been passed down through the generations.
View of Bejar (Hommage to Ventura Lirios) uses an iconography of abstraction and gestural mark making to evoke a sense of ephemerality associated with the idealistic notion of returning to an ancestral homeland, informed in equal measure by faded internet reproductions of an 18th century painting by Italian painter Ventura Lirios and Google Earth Maps of Bejar.
Invisibility Cloak combines the colours, mark-making and gestures of Hommage to Ventura Lirios with Sephardic icongraphy and regional details from Béjar such as feathers, poppies and medieval coins to create a metaphysical Invisibility cloak that operates in equal parts as a disguise, a retro-active protective garment for the diaspora and as a document of my interactions with the landscape during my residency. Wildflowers, moss, birds, butterflies and Amulets against the Evil Eye, all find their way into a series of protective garments and Invisibility cloaks, designed to cultivate belonging and integration into a land from which my ancestral line was exiled and has long remained alienated
The self-portraits, suggest the healing and regenerative potential of Moss while also drawing upon a tactic of using moss as camouflage as referenced in a local legend from the 8th century in which the people of Bejar disguised themselves from head to toe in Moss during a military siege. As legend has it, the guards fled in terror, believeing these moss monsters to be supernatural in origin.
The presence of the altar acts as an iconographic key to the rest of the exhibition, while also offering an invitation to connect to a space of healing and emodiment. It offers a site for healing and release of ancestral trauma by intermingling earth, stones, feathers, keys, water, coins and wildflowers from both Canada and Spain.