August 18, 2019

Fracking Weld County part 2

Fracking Farm, hand-stitched cotton thread on linen,  4"x6",  2019

Fracking Fields, hand-stitched cotton thread on linen,  5"x5",  2019

Fracking Elementary School, hand-stitched cotton thread on linen,  4.5"x6",  2019

"If fracking treated all people equally, that is, if every person in Colorado were threatened with anywhere from 10 to 50 fracked wells in their neighborhood, the oil and gas industry would be long gone." -Philip Doe 

Here's a sampling from the compendium of scientific, medical, and media findings demonstrating risks and harms of fracking:
  • Over 90 percent of all original research studies published from 2016-2018 on the health impacts of fracking found a positive association with harm or potential harm. 
  • People living within setback distances are potentially vulnerable to thermal injury during a well blowout, and they are also susceptible to exposures of benzene and hydrogen sulfide at levels above those known to cause health risks.
  • In 29 out of 76 samples, toxin concentrations far exceeded federal health and safety standards, sometimes by several orders of magnitude. 
  • Fracking fluid was found to contain arsenic, benzene, cadmium, formaldehyde, lead, and mercury. 
  • Pollution near drilling and fracking operations is high enough in some Colorado communities to raise cancer risks, according to a 2018 study. 
  • Data from the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission showed that fracking-related chemical spills in Colorado exceed an average rate of one spill per day. Of the 495 chemical spills that occurred in that state over a one-year period of time, nearly a quarter impacted ground or surface water. 
  • Water withdrawals for fracking can deplete water levels by 51% in nearby streams. Streams near drilling and fracking activity had significantly higher numbers of methane-metabolizing and methane-producing microorganisms. 
  • Wastewater samples collected from 329 fracked oil wells found that virtually all—98 percent—contained benzene at levels that exceeded standards for permissible concentrations in drinking water.

June 2, 2019

Fracking Weld County part 1

Fracking Neighborhood, hand-stitched cotton thread on linen,  5"x5",  2019

Fracking Playground, hand-stitched cotton thread on linen,  5"x 7.5",  2019

Fracking Highschool, hand-stitched cotton thread on linen,  5"x 7.25",  2019

“If you think the economy is more important than the environment, try holding your breath while counting your money.”     – Professor Guy McPherson, School of Natural Resources, University of Arizona

These pieces are the first three in a series of six. This work is inspired by contemporary Afghan war rugs, with their vivid pictorial scenes and border decorations interspersed with images of tanks, fighter jets, Kalashnikov rifles, military helicopters, and other depictions of war. I created these small stitchwork pieces by referencing photographs of actual fracking sites in Weld County, Colorado, portraying the fracking rigs, tanks, and other drilling paraphernalia within the landscape. Utilizing similar visual motifs and styles of the war rugs, they include small repeating images- mainly around the borders- that I associate with the fracking industry: dollar signs, water drops, flames, and thermometers. I played around with different kinds of stitching, and each one has a slightly different style.

I'm calling the series Fracking Weld County, which refers to the county in Colorado where I grew up. The vast majority of fracking in the state is concentrated in this area, called the Niobrara shale formation. It currently has more than 25,000 active wells in this area alone, with many more permits pending. Many of the drilling sites are within neighborhoods and are very close to schools and playgrounds, and every time I go to my hometown of Greeley to visit my dad I'm astonished to see what the extraction industry is doing to this area and the ugliness that it brings. Using new technologies applied to horizontal fracking, the raw greed of the gas and oil industry, with the full complicity of the local government, has overlooked the health and safety of its citizens and of the earth itself in favor of profit. Fracking is extremely toxic, contaminating both the air and water. It also directly contributes to climate change by releasing methane. I think that true wealth is a healthy environment and an authentic connection to the beauty and intelligence of nature.

March 14, 2019

Miniature Fracking Blanket

Miniature Fracking Blanket, 2019 hand-stitched cotton thread on linen, 6" x 6"

"We are letting the extractive energy industries turn the world inside out." - Josh Fox

Although Miniature Fracking Blanket is a precursor to my work-in-progress series about fracking in Weld County, Colorado, it is mainly a stand-alone piece directly inspired by a woven Navajo blanket that was in my mother's family and that was recently sold (shown below). The story about who in the family purchased it - her father or grandfather - and in what year, got lost when she died. Her notes describe it as a Chief Blanket (third phase) 64”x 55”.

I thought about how the blanket ended up in my family. In doing some research I discovered a book titled Swept Under the Rug: a Hidden History of Navajo Weaving, by Kathy M’Closkey which explains the history of Navaho textiles in the context of colonization and economic exploitation. It includes an analysis of trader archives revealing that nearly all Navajo textiles were wholesaled by weight until the 1960s. M'Closkey explains how the Navaho artist’s weaving is "marginalized when the work is treated as a collectible craft and culture is split from commodity."

Miniature Fracking Blanket is a small piece, 6” x 6”, stitched in the mosaic style on a hoop. I wanted to create something in homage to the weaving’s beauty as textile art while at the same time acknowledging its context in the dominant culture. I replaced the central image in the blanket with a fracking/drilling rig to reference what is 'sacred' in a capitalist system that exploits the earth's resources for money. I chose this image in particular because the area that my mother's family is from, and where I grew up, is currently being subjected to extreme gas and oil extraction. 

I found this paragraph on a webpage of the Art Institute Chicago:

The Navajo believe that the deity Spider woman taught women how to weave and continues to work through today's artists by directing the growth and beauty of each textile they make. Finished blankets are thought to have life forces of their own, radiating a sense of vitality and harmony essential to the Navajo philosophy of hozho in which every individual strives to live in balance with the world.

February 10, 2019

The Queen Of Wands Contemplates Saturn's Return

The Queen Of Wands Contemplates Saturn's Return, 2019,
 hand-stitched cotton thread on machine-stitched
dish towel remnant, 15.5" x 12.5"

This piece is another of my 'dish towel tapestries', using the mosaic style combined with outline stitching. The idea for it had been brewing in my imagination for a while, but I couldn’t start it until the work for my solo show was finished. During the time I was working on the show I had a three card tarot reading which included the Queen of Wands. I don’t know much about tarot interpretations but I was immediately intrigued by the images on the card and I decided to create my own personalized version of it. The overall composition of The Queen Of Wands Contemplates Saturn's Return is influenced by classical paintings and mosaics, especially the central figure of the queen. I included the traditional symbols of the card: sunflower, black cat, wand, lions - and I added my own: pug, flicker, Saturn.

In the reading, I was told that the Queen Of Wands embodies creativity and living an unconventional life. Here she represents 'the self' - myself - and aspects of the higher self. Her crown is consciousness, its yellow reflected in the yellow of the large sunflower to her left which represents the soul. The stone pug, out of which the sunflower rises, replaces a stone lion in the original version and symbolizes my past and its seemingly concrete life story. The black cat is an obvious archetype of the shadow, or subconscious, and was the first thing that struck me about the card.  Both the wand, a branch with green leaves, and the bird perched on it, symbolize the earth and being grounded and inherently connected to it. I added the flicker in particular because I've often found symbolic meaning in my encounters with them. The planet Saturn represents our human relationship to the cosmos and, personally, its second astrological return. I stitched the two lions as part of the background, almost like clouds, to portray them as ethereal thought forms and emotions. They surround the queen as she takes a break from holding up her wand in one hand, and sunflower in the other, to reflect on her life in a moment of time.

November 11, 2018

Duck and Rabbit

Musavir's Pink-Headed Duck,
hand-stitched cotton thread on machine stitched dish towel remnant, 2018  9"x8"

Musavir's Pink-Headed Duck is based on a watercolor painting (c.1780) by Indian painter Musavir Bhawani Das that I came across when I was researching animals for the Vanishing Kingdom. Although the pink-headed duck was once found in parts of the Gangetic plains of India, Bangladesh and in the swamps of Myanmar, it was feared extinct since the 1950s. Numerous searches have failed to provide any proof of continued existence but it has been suggested that it may exist in the inaccessible swamp regions of northern Myanmar and some sight reports from that region have led to its status being declared as critically endangered rather than extinct. 

Riverine Rabbit (Vanishing Kingdom), 2018,
 hand-stitched cotton thread on machine stitched dish towel remnant, 9"x8"

I wasn't able to fit a riverine rabbit on the original map, so I stitched this separate portrait, Riverine Rabbit (Vanishing Kingdom). The riverine rabbit, also known as the bushman rabbit or bushman hare, is one of the most endangered mammals in the world, with only around 500 living adults, and 1500 overall. This rabbit has an extremely limited distribution area, found only in the central and southern regions of the Karoo Desert of South Africa's Northern Cape Province.

I consider these two small stitchwork pieces to be bridge pieces between my old and new work. They both relate to the Vanishing Kingdom map, but I stitched them on dish towel remnants, and I'll be creating pieces on this particular type of dish towels for some of my next body of work. When I first saw one of the towels, which are machine stitched in a grid design, I knew that I wouldn't be using them in the kitchen! I was immediately drawn to the idea of combining my 'mosaic style' stitchwork onto their surface, thinking of the pre-stitched threads as the 'grout'. I like that I can compose images using the boundaries of a grid, especially since I'm continuing my exploration of translating thread into a reflection of traditional mosaics. They are companion pieces both in subject, size and medium, and are part of a group that I’m calling the 'dish towel tapestries'.

September 30, 2018

Palestine Flip Map

I See Palestine Apart-Hide (This) Map, hand-stitched cotton thread, linen, 2018  21" x 16"

"Memory adds to the unrelieved intensity of Palestinian exile. Palestine is central to the cultures of Islam, Christianity, and Judaism...there is no forgetting it, no way of overlooking it."  -- Edward Said, from After The Last Sky: Palestinian Lives 

I created this map as an outsider and especially as an American whose government is directly complicit in the ethnic cleansing of Palestine; I don't claim to speak for Palestinians or to portray the Palestinian experience. As I've learned about Palestine and the false Zionist narrative that allows its Apartheid project to continue unabated, I've found that I can't look away. I refuse to not see Palestine or to dehumanize Palestinians. I refuse to be willfully ignorant about its erasure or complacent about the myth that it never existed. 

As Palestinian writer Nada Elia states, "the Zionist logic would also deny that Native Americans existed, because they did not have nation states recognisable to Europeans." 
In 1948, almost 80 percent of the Palestinian people had become refugees, an estimated 750,000 people expelled from their homes, their towns and villages, and hundreds were massacred. This is what is known as the Nakba, or catastrophe. 

My map depicts, on the right side, Palestine both before and after the Nakba, filled with images that I stitched in the 'mosaic style'. They include ancient mosaics and architecture, an olive tree, Jaffa oranges, fishing boats, a roundabout in Ramallah, the sculpture of a horse that stands in front of the Jenin Freedom Theater--that has been raided by Israeli soldiers numerous times--and the Al Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam. I also represent the three major religions in the area of Jerusalem, and I did my best to be geographically correct with the placement of particular images that I chose. 

The map on the left side is not a real place but represents an ideology which is based on supremacism and separation, enforced by the machines of war that maintain Apartheid and colonization. Its shape is Palestine flipped backward to symbolize Zionism as devolution, and I stitched within it objects that include automatic weapons, a drone, fighter jets, bombs, a tank, a surveillance camera, the Apartheid wall, a helicopter, and a bulldozer.

The two map shapes together reminded me of a butterfly, and it came to represent the unseen collective soul that underlies the activities of human life. The right wing of the butterfly is outlined by olive leaves, the left by bullets, depicting things of the world that are either soul nurturing or soul killing.

I based the line design that fills the background on the Palestinian scarf called a keffiyeh, and it represents two things at once: the veil of forgetfulness that allows humans to be separated from their higher selves and to forget the oneness that connects us all, and the oneness itself, the unified whole where all of our lives are intertwined. I framed this piece with the keys that stand for the right of Palestinian refugees to return. The title has a dual meaning - I see Palestine apart -- hide (Apartheid) and hide this map (this map should be censored because it doesn't fit the mainstream narrative).


September 9, 2018

Seven Sculptures Reimagined

"The important thing is this: to be able at any moment to sacrifice what we are for what we could become."    Charles Du Bos 

All of the sculptures, with the exception of Amphitrite's Son, were begun in Taos. Several of them have objects on their head that act as an identity marker or that symbolize an emotion. As I reworked them, with the help of time and distance, I reimagined their meaning and allowed new stories and interpretations to emerge. Many of them have been retitled as well. My two-dimensional stitchwork evolved gradually from experimenting with thread on some of these.

Square Squash, paper pulp, rice paper, wood, 26"x11"x8"

Square Squash

This piece was once the top part of one sculpture titled 'The Burden of Joy' along with what is now George As King Kong underneath it. It's one of the pieces that went through different versions as I experimented with materials and techniques (including glass mosaic tiles), and is unrecognizable from its original form. I decided to make the whimsical final version using hand-cut rice paper on the surface, playing with the contrast between the squares and the organic squash shape on the head. The surface closely resembles traditional tile mosaic but it's all paper, and it sits on an elegant square base. 

George As King Kong, paper pulp, paint, rice paper, wood, 21"x10"x18"

George As King Kong

Originally the bottom part of a sculpture titled 'The Burden of Joy' with what is now Square Squash on top, I set the pug free and approached it as a portrait of my pug George who was the direct inspiration for it. I added the Kong (toy) to his head along with a crown, making the visual joke 'King Kong' that refers to his love and even obsession with toys and suggesting that it's a role he's playing or that I'm projecting on to him.

Playing Vixen, Paper pulp, paint, rice paper, wood, 25"x20"x12"

Playing Vixen

This sculpture was originally a portrait of an aspect of myself, depicting an identity story of feeling judged and shamed for my sexuality: William Tell's apple on the head as a target and the term 'vixen' used to describe a certain kind of woman. Later, I understood the piece to be a more general expression of the archetypal feminine itself attacked, Eve and the apple and its associations of sin.

For this final version, I retitled it Playing Vixen to indicate that so many of our personal identity stories and collective beliefs are not solid or true, but are instead just the roles we've been conditioned to take on. I added hand-cut rice paper leaves to the figure that represent Spring and renewal, the idea that every moment is fresh and fluid. Now the apple represents the abundance and generosity of nature.

Blue Pear, paper pulp, rice paper, thread, wood, 27"x15"x11"   

Blue Pear

This piece is similar to Playing Vixen because it's another portrait of an aspect of (and/or an emotional state about) me. Like Square Squash, it has been through many surface changes. I tried different materials: from paint to glass tiles and beads, and now in its final version, stitched thread on rice paper and small cut pieces of rice paper. 

Originally it was about my depression personified, a portrait of a seemingly fixed identity story. As I reworked it, although I didn't retitle it, I found a new understanding of it. I added the stitched ants to represent the acronym 'automatic negative thoughts', breaking up the solidity of its initial meaning and adding some humor even if it is a private joke!

Pughou, paper pulp, glass beads, rice paper, yarn, wood, 22"x8"x17"


I now understand this sculpture to be about the relationship between a human and their pet, both how we project ourselves onto our companion animals and how they reflect ourselves back to us. I began it during the Iraq war and it was originally titled Buraq after a hybrid creature from Islamic tradition because that war got me interested in Islamic culture. I wanted to make some connection to it in reaction to the overwhelming propaganda and demonization of Islam during that time but I now see that it was a much more personal piece. I changed the title to Pughou, a play on the Chinese mythological hybrid  'Penghou' which has the body of a dog with a human head.  It is based on my own pug dog, so the Chinese reference is fitting because pugs are thought to originate from China, but really it’s a self-portrait of sorts.

The surface is mostly how I made it originally except for the hair which was fabric that had faded to grey. I covered it with blue rice paper and added some yarn. I also added rice paper to the legs and feet to freshen up the color. The main body and face are covered by glass beads which I applied in my typical painstaking way (which I love) and I think it was influenced by Islamic design. This is the only sculpture from Taos with the original glass beads on the surface. 

The Passion, paper pulp, rice paper, wood, 35"x10'x19"

The Passion

Although I began this sculpture while my dog was alive, he died in 2008 and I now describe it as him in the afterlife. Putti are secular representations of passion, and toys were his passion. I imagine them playing on the 'other side', and I like the tension that it depicts of waiting and anticipation, the putti looking down, and the pug looking up. George had a favorite pink ball once that was lost in the house, I looked for it everywhere and I just couldn't find it. I now know where it went!

Originally the medium was just paint on paper pulp, with glass covering the ball, but for this final version, I added (mostly squares) of hand-cut rice paper to its entirety. 
The dog's legs were unstable and awkward, so I replaced all of the legs and added the base.

Amphitrite's Son, paper pulp, rice paper, thread, wood, 24"x11"x13"

Amphitrite's Son

This piece was begun after Taos when I lived in Portland. I originally planned to make it a glass tile mosaic like The Sacrifice of Gaza, and I started it that way but at some point, I knew that my energy enthusiasm for that process just wasn't there so I stopped working on it. I also conceived it as an anti-war piece, and it had a rocket on its head. I have the rocket and I plan to use it in a future piece, but this just wasn't the right one and it became an entirely different sculpture. I made a paper pulp shell on the head and I experimented with using a round punch for the rice paper on the face to mimic bubbles and I stitched thread shells for the hair. I consider it to be one of the transition pieces into my two-dimensional stitchwork. 

July 15, 2018

Tyche And Her Wheel

"Tyche And Her Wheel" 2018

"The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune"  from Shakespeare's Hamlet, 1603 

I stitched Tyche And Her Wheel in a modified mosaic style, using lines as well as square shapes. I was originally going to title this piece Fortuna And Her Wheel, but I changed it to the lesser known Greek version of the goddess. I also created my own idea of the wheel: it contains both the color scheme and images of vessels from ancient Greece, with depictions of a cornucopia, a hammer, a house, a bomb, a crutch, and a dollar sign. The image of Tyche is based on a figure in a French painting from 1605 by Thomas Artus.

Quoting E.S. Whittlesey from Symbols and Legends in Western Art, the goddess is shown with "a wheel as an emblem of chance, the turning of the year, the juggler of fortune... on some she heaped gifts from a horn of plenty, others she deprived of all they had; her overwhelming aspect was her uncertainty."

Although this piece is mainly influenced by Western mythology, its theme also relates to the wheel of Samsara from Eastern philosophy. In Buddhism, saṃsāra is the suffering-laden cycle of life, death, and rebirth, without beginning or end. It is often depicted as a circle divided like a pie into six realms.

I added other elements that represent both the impermanence and transcendence of mundane human experience: the goddess stands in front of the Tree of Life, holding an hour glass and preparing to spin her wheel, on which a bennu bird -an ancient Egyptian deity linked with the sun, creation, and rebirth - perches. This bird may have been the inspiration for the iconic phoenix that rises from the ashes, symbolizing resurrection and immortality.

March 11, 2018

The Vanishing Kingdom

"The Vanishing Kingdom"  15" x 24"  2018

“It is estimated that one-third of all reef-building corals, a third of all freshwater mollusks, a third of sharks and rays, a quarter of all mammals, a fifth of all reptiles, and a sixth of all birds are headed toward oblivion.” -  Elizabeth Kolbert, The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History

This map is about the human-caused sixth extinction that is happening right now on the planet. I included animals that are already extinct and those that are threatened. I created it in its entirety in what I’m calling the ‘mosaic style’ by stitching squares, rectangles, and triangles that approximate the shapes of mosaic tiles. I envisioned this piece as a future relic portraying some of the animals that used to live on the planet.

I titled it the Vanishing Kingdom because visually it reminded me of a painting I knew from my childhood called the Peaceable Kingdom by Edward Hicks. The placement of the four sea stars on the sides is a nod to the formal symmetry of ancient mosaics, and the letters N S E W on the lower left to indicate direction are surrounding a thermometer that represents the heating planet.

I fashioned the design in stages, using the iron transfer method for the general outline of the continents, then drawing all of the figures directly onto the fabric with a disappearing ink pen, and filling in the land and water around them. It was difficult to choose which animals to include because I had to consider the aesthetics of the overall composition; I began with five and then made decisions about which ones to add from a relatively small list. I based my choices on species diversity and endangered status as well as on color, form and the animal’s geographic location on the map.
Out of all of the animals that I chose for this piece I’ve only seen dragonflies and sea stars in their natural environment, so some, like the rhinoceros, have assumed an almost mythological status for me. The unfathomable loss of this extinction event begs the question: how has the majority of the human species become so disconnected from the natural world? The ecologist Paul Ehrlich states that “in pushing other species to extinction, humanity is busy sawing off the limb on which it perches”.

The thirty-four animals in The Vanishing Kingdom, listed in alphabetical order:

Adelie Penguin, Barbour’s Seahorse, Black Footed Ferret, Black Rhinoceros, Blue Racer Snake, Dragonfly, Dall’s Porpoise, Elkhorn Coral, Euphrates Jerboa, Fin Whale, Giant Armadillo, Glaucous Macaw, Great Auk, Gunlack’s Hawk, Hammerhead Shark, Kawekaweau Gecko, Krill, Laysan Duck, Leatherback Turtle, Malaysian Snail, Monk Seal, Narwhal, Numbat, Panamanian Golden Frog, Pangolin, Polar Bear, Pyrenean Ibex, Quagga, Red Breasted Goose, Sea Star, Siberian Crane, South China Tiger, Tecopa Pupfish, Walrus

Here’s a link to The National Geographic’s Photo Ark website to see some of the astonishing and immeasurable beauty of the biodiversity on the planet, and to connect with the #SaveTogether campaign:

June 21, 2017

Resident Map of Seattle

Resident Map of Seattle, hand-stitched cotton thread, linen, 16"x23"

“We don’t see the world as it is, we see it as we are.”  Anais Nin 

I took the idea of a tourist map and created my own subjective map of Seattle, using images that resonate for me on multiple levels. I reoriented its direction so that East is on the top and framed it on the left side with a construction crane and on the right side with crows in a winter tree.

There are at least 25 stitched symbols within the Resident Map which include:

  • Herschel the sea lion in Shilshole Bay
  • Red-eared Slider turtle at Golden Gardens
  • Ballard Railroad Drawbridge, Ballard Locks
  • Ballard neighborhood: my house, Ballard Library, playground, Corners Park
  • Lenin statue, Fremont
  • Gasworks Park
  • Greenlake Park
  • Magnuson Park, Soundgarden
  • University of Washington canoe rental
  • Black Sun sculpture, Noguchi, Volunteer Park (space needle inside)
  • Elephant Car Wash
  • Louise Bourgeois Eye Bench at Seattle Sculpture garden
  • guinea pig, Seattle Animal Shelter
  • Washington State Ferry
  • Giant Pacific Octopus
  • Smith Tower
  • Beacon Hill Veterans Hospital
  • Mt. Ranier
  • Boeing Field
  • Hat & Boots, Georgetown
  • Duwamish traditional lands, Longhouse
  • Alki, Statue of Liberty
  • Harbor Island, shipping containers
  • Amtrak Cascades
  • ArtXchange Gallery

  • January 28, 2017

    Memory Map

    "Memory Map" 2017

    The child I was is just one breath away from me. - Sheniz Janmohamed, Firesmoke

    The concept for this piece began in a class on art and intuition that I took years ago when I lived in Taos. In one of the exercises, we drew the floor plan of a childhood home from memory. I chose to draw the house that I lived in from ages 2-12, and this allowed strong visual images to arise from that time as a child. Memory Map is the result of a long incubating idea for a finished piece.

    I stitched the floor plan on two-thirds of the piece starting on the right side, filling the rooms with objects and images. Some of these I created in simple line while others are much more detailed, referencing both photographs and my own recollections.

    The general design of the left third of the piece is created from a photograph of me and my sister on either side of our two cousins, posing under a tree in the backyard. To this I added pets, the iris, and my bicycle. The varied colors of the leaves represent the changing seasons and the passage of time.

    A white fence extends from the backyard into the center section floor plan and signifies the malleability of memory and a child’s deep connection to imagination, nature, and outside play. The swing set, framing the bedroom, acts as a symbolic representation of my sister and me. A print of Renoir’s painting "A Girl With A Watering Can" hung in our room, and my detailed reproduction of it became a central image by default and not necessarily because of its importance. To me, it depicts an idealized world of order and childhood innocence, thus both intersecting and contrasting with the real life represented around it. The framed mushrooms above it portray the first and only needlework project that I made from a kit when I was around 8 and that was displayed in my parents’ bedroom for years.

    December 4, 2016



    I am currently working on many projects at once. In addition to creating new thread on fabric pieces, I'm also reworking earlier paper pulp sculptures that I made - with the exception of one - when I lived in New Mexico. This photograph shows them in varying stages of completion.