During my travels to different countries in Asia, particularly India, I was seduced by the concept of enlightenment and the possibility it offered for looking at the world in a different way.

The poetic metaphor central to this body of work is based on my study of the Upanishads, a collection of ancient texts that reveal the nature of reality and describe the character and form of enlightenment. A particular verse of the Mundaka Upanishad advises an aspirant to approach a “guru”, or learned teacher, with wood (fuel) on the head in order to take the first step toward enlightenment.  (First Mundaka, Chapter Two, verse twelve). The image of walking with “wood on the head” allowed me to metaphorically describe a personal journey. A literal interpretation of the verse provided the departure point for configuring devices to assist in that walk. 

To this interpretation I applied my conceptual interest in the body, craft and the domestic. The wood is presented as actual logs and twigs, and as wood forms fabricated from cloth, stoneware and porcelain. To carry it, I fabricated constructions of wood designed to measure my own body. These evolved into structures of metal, lighter and easier to navigate. While shedding one’s earthly attachments is generally prescribed for seekers of enlightenment, as an object maker I could not ignore the urge to carry a few precious possessions; hence the bags that dangle from the structures. The garments - cape, hood and hat - act as the carriers within the structures. As a group, these sculptures function as both objects of contemplation and props for performance. 

The portraits shot by Ave Pildas present an enlightenment fashion show of sorts. They demonstrate the utilitarian aspect of the sculptures and culminate the project. I first employed the practice of inserting my own likeness in Fall 12: An Autobiography Considering Charles Ray’s “Fall 91” my eight-foot appropriation of American sculptor Charles Ray’s iconic, Amazonian mannequin. My intention was to accomplish a personal, twenty-first century makeover: as well as replacing the mannequin head with a scaled–up likeness of my own head, I draped the torso with an orange silk sari. The sari, an article of clothing worn by women in India for more than five thousand years, invokes the principles of devotion, service, meditation and knowledge, the pillars of Hindu philosophy. (Fall 12: An Autobiography Considering Charles Ray’s “Fall 91” will be exhibited at Craft & Folk Art Museum, 5814 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles 90036, opening May 23, 2015. A live feed will be visible on a monitor at LAM Gallery for the duration of this exhibition.)  

The fact that the mix of multi-media sculpture and photographs is presented in both a contemporary art gallery and a museum that specializes in craft is significant. Embracing both the categories of art and craft has been an aim of my practice, and exhibiting simultaneously in these venues is part of “walking the walk”. 

Phyllis Green

May 2015