Personal Statement

by Alice Dubiel

Tools for Change

We have some technologies for aiding our quest toward consciousness, toward life-death-life cycle affirmation. These are the technologies of symbol making, experiencing community as spirit, infusing wildness with cultivation, blending the natural and the cultural with conscience. I believe that visual traditions and themes create a kind of language that exerts a powerful effect on social consciousness. I am interested in the Western landscape tradition, especially in its ability to distance the viewer from the outdoors and other people.

Because I am fascinated by the politics of art making, I think of my work as primarily directed toward public issues and contexts. By integrating texts and imagery, I incorporate the intimate and the reflective, to ponder the ways images or ideas affect us and support responsible actions. To better express the complexity of ideas than is possible in individual paintings, I prefer to work in the visual art genre of installations when exploring themes with ecological content. In the search for a different visual language for landscape, I have been inspired by many traditions including Roman and Byzantine mosaics, Japanese decorative art, indigenous Australian paintings and shrine technologies of many cultures. In works such as Views and Reviews, I like to think of some contemporary tourist destinations as shrines, offering visitors a share in their meaning: Mt. Rainier, the US Capitol, Graceland, the Oregon Trail, the Grand Canyon.

I think of my work over the past ten years as expressing a theme--Land Use: An Alchemical Treatise. I use the term biocenology because it is the study of communities and member interactions in nature. Some of the works explore the connections between our belief systems about society and how we treat the planet, each other. Others examine the ways traditional cultural practices--landscape painting and the concept of Arcadia--have contributed to contemporary land use practices.

Currently I am working on acrylic and mixed media paintings, part of two shrine series, one about Frederick Douglass, the 19th century US orator, and the others about land use. In these works I am interested in exploring the intersections of human activity, ecosystems and geologic presence. In my painting and shrines, I am trying to develop a visual and symbolic language of seeds, sprouting forms, land shapes, fish and female figures to explore the contradiction of diversity and overlapping multiplicity within a culture whose dominant ideology expresses conflict in individualism and capitalism. Each painting is framed or scrolled as though it were a laboratory specimen box, reflecting the culture's attempt to contain such truth and control it. In installations, some large works essentially become wallpaper and are not at all necessarily contained.