Ligature (Ties That Bind)


One of my favorite paintings recently found a new home with a great person I went to Old Dominion University with. Here is part of the statement I shared with him and his family.

Ligature (Ties That Bind) - 50 x 40 Inches

Ligature (Ties That Bind)
Started and Completed May 2012

lig·a·ture (noun)

1. Something that is used to bind; specifically: a filament (as a thread) used in surgery.
2. Something that unites or connects; a bond.
3. The action of binding or tying.
4. A compound note in mensural notation indicating a group of musical notes to be sung to one syllable.
5. A printed or written character (as æ or ƒƒ) consisting of two or more letters or characters joined together.

- Merriam Webster

Usually I name the painting before I begin, and I often research the words I’ll use in the title beforehand. I wanted to depict connectivity between people with this piece as well as further explore my visual interpretation of romantic poems for my husband Stephen and sometimes loving journal-type entries for my daughter or other family members. The word ligature came to mind, and when I looked it up, I liked how the many definitions could exemplify the concepts of the work. I also liked how it sounds close to literature.

Ligature often invokes criminal or medical meanings, but I was definitely fixated on meaning 2 above. However, meaning 4 resonated with how I flow from one to word to the next, stream-of-consciousness style, often without lifting the charcoal from the surface. Visual and aural cadences influence my mark-making, so I really liked the musical connotation. The connected letters described in meaning 5 reinforced that analogy for how I often write on the paintings.

Sometimes I plan most of my text before I get started on the canvas, but that’s not the norm. I prefer instead to riff off the title and improvise with intuition as my guide. But you can see some of the phrasing, and you can see that I jump from third person to first. Because most of my work deals with memories and how we interpret them over time, I like to keep points of view fluid… looking inward as my real self, but just as easily sliding outward to see myself or my relationships as others might see them, such as these lines from the piece:

Just one eternal line
connecting them
tying me
binding me ever always
to you

While the above strongly reads as romantic (which is accurate), it equally reflects my fascination with a decades-old poem by a Japanese schoolchild:

I think the country grandmother
was born from another grandmother
way way out in the country.
It goes all the way back—just women.

It makes me think of how far humankind goes back, and how far we can go forward into the future. It makes me think of how we are blank slates molded by genetics and our environments. 

This piece is from a series I originally called Veils in which very thin washes are applied to a monochromatic field, but this series was absorbed by my Evidence series. The initial thought behind Veils was to make what I write more legible, to be more transparent about my intentions. But I found that revealing my private self in a public way made me feel too vulnerable and also took it too easy on the viewer; they couldn’t bring their own history to the piece. And I hope knowing the stories behind the piece doesn’t color your interpretations too much.