You’re based in New Orleans now and I know that you’ve traveled a lot, where are you from originally?
From a very rural town in Idaho. I left there in 2008 and went to Paris, and then I came back here to the States in 2012. I don’t know what my accent is, everybody says I have something going on.
So, you were just out of town on a conference. What was that for?
I was invited to teach at Jacksonville University and to spend a couple of days with the visual arts students and a few days dance department. It was great fun; the dance part especially because we spent that time doing the first part of the workshop at White Oak. There’s a dance studio there that was built for Baryshnikov when he defected from Russia. This man Howard Gilman decided he would help him. He set him up in New York first then eventually he built a little retreat for him down in Florida. Then in the 90’s, Baryshnikov started a company down there. It’s no more but he still goes there and the whole area is so rich with dance culture. It’s a Mecca.
Is Baryshnikov a big inspiration to you?
Absolutely, since I was a little girl he’s always been a hero. I was like “Ah! I get to work in the same studio that Baryshnikov did!” It was surprisingly one of those things that I didn’t know I want to do.
What kind of dance did you study?
In college I focused on contemporary and then later Butoh, out of college.
Butoh is a wild dance technique; how did you discover it?
I was student directing The Tempest in college and the professor we had at the time suggested that we incorporated Butoh. I’d never heard of it so I went to see a performance in Seattle. I hated it! I was really disturbed by it actually, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Which caused me to keep investigating it. Eventually I ended up moving to Japan to study.
The most recent project you did was The Luna Series: An Exploration of Shakespeare’s Women at The New Orleans Shakespeare Festival. Another commitment to Shakespeare, do you find your work has a certain connection with his work?
It was funny when he asked because it had been a few years since I had been involved with any Shakespeare. I think it lends itself well to all kinds of experimental theatre so I tend to get involved with those. And I enjoy it. I always love hearing the monologues, its beautiful. The stories are timeless.
I was glad to see this as your most current work as I wanted to discuss how your work relates to femininity. To me, your work seems intrinsically female, mostly I feel because many of the pieces have this fluidity and shape that really conjure up images of the womb and reproduction. Is womanhood and important influence over what you do?
In that I am a woman. I’m not thinking about stuff like that at all but I think it’s interesting that people often bring it up. It’s just a function of, first of all, that I’m a woman, and second of all, that I’m using my body to create work. It’s probably going to be inherently feminine. I taught some men this last week at the workshop and it was really interesting the see the difference.
How did you come to adopt ‘Kinetic Drawing’ as your primary style?
‘Kinetic Drawing’ is just lack of a better word, any drawing is kinetic, it could be ‘Body Drawing’ but I just stick with ‘Kinetic’. I discovered it through a series of events, the first one being when I moved here from France. I was in a year of transition. I really didn’t want to move back to the States, I came back kicking and screaming. There was a boy involved. I was just having a really hard time so I decided I needed some daily practice that would help me transition. I started to keep a journal and everyday I would dance or do yoga and draw. I decided to commit to it for a year, so I made it public and sooner or later I started winding the two together. Instead of doing one and then the other the just kind of came together. I was doing a lot of drawing in my sketchbooks to music, like dancing but just with my hands on small scale. Then I went to the beach with my son and we were playing in the sand and I was drawing with my toes. That’s kind of when I realised I should go bigger and do this with my whole body. It’s been a long process of discovery finding out what I think looks good and what just looks messy. There’s still a lot left to explore too.
And you have a son! How old is he?
A: He’s 16. He’s usually with me, he’s visiting his dad this summer in Tokyo. He’s in art school here studying Musical Theatre.
There is a huge connection with music in your performance. What kind of music is played in your pieces?
This last show was for Shakespeare, one was playing violin and one was playing cello, kind of experimental chamber music. I don’t know how to describe it! What I listen to when I go for a run and what I listen to when I draw is quite different. I think I generally listen to something more meditative and ambient, like Nils Frahm or Ólafur Arnalds.
Why do you choose to use charcoal and not, say, oils or pens?
I’ve tried all those things. The first thing I used was chalk on the floor because I had some sidewalk chalk and a cement floor in my studio so that was just available and I could erase it. I just love charcoal. That rich black, you can’t really get it with anything else. I tried it with graphite and I didn’t like that because it’s not graphic enough. I’ve worked with pastels and colours; that can be pretty but I don’t feel like I get that tonal range or graphic impact with the end result. It’s too monotone, which the charcoal is too but you get all these greys and super rich black. I used white charcoal on black canvas in my last performance and I really loved how that looked and felt too. It’s something to do with it moving. I tried oil and crayons but I just couldn’t slide with it and it was just getting all over me.
I actually really love the photographs of you after you’ve finished a piece and the charcoal is all over your hands and legs, you’ve got a real connection to the ground you’re working on. Would you say you live a particularly environmentally friendly lifestyle?
I’m a total hippie. A bohemian. I wouldn’t say I pick charcoal for that reason but I don’t enjoy working with acrylics. Before this I was working with Fresco and I really liked dry pigments or earth pigments, that texture of stone, clay and metal. I like those raw materials. I feel like charcoal is the first art supply, it has to be! Somebody grabbed it and drew on the cave wall. It just feels so basic in a really amazing way.
Do you choreograph the process before hand or is it a natural expression in the moment?
I’ve done both. I always leave room for improvisation but I generally will have a shape in mind. I’ll get on the canvas and work out what are the dimensions and where can my body fit and then I just try to become an open channel through improv. Sometimes that works out well and sometimes not but I don’t show you those!
It’s a very honest bodily experience, especially when you’re doing a live performance and you’re on the floor in front of all these people. When you’re down there and you’re being watched do you feel empowered or do you ever feel vulnerable?
I’ve had both experiences where it’s been wonderful and you can feel the energy of the audience. I try not to focus too much on the audience because I like to focus on the piece that I’m making, it’s not performative in that way where you are projecting and engaging with them. It’s definitely more internal even though I’m happy to share it and I’m fine with people watching I don’t see it as entertainment. The camera is watching me usually when I’m in my studio because I document all of them. It’s different to the dance performance I’ve done in the past where I have more of a conversation with the audience. I don’t know whether that’s because I’m drawing but it’s hard to do both. I’ve had bad experiences with audiences being rude and have had too much to drink. That’s really frustrating to deal with. After that one especially I felt really sorry for musicians playing in bars. I wasn’t in a bar but people had been drinking a lot and were being really rude. When that happened it was the first time that when I was drawing I started getting these angular lines and afterwards the photographer I worked with the most was there filming it was like, “Wow you must have been really angry.” I wasn’t angry or upset but I was a little bit confused by it and it definitely affected my drawing. But it was good because in the end it’s become one of my favourite drawings.
And lastly, where do you consider home?
Wherever my son is. We’ve moved so much; we’ve also lived in Bali. He loves to travel too. He’s very adventurous. I think he’s going to go to school in London; he’s applying for RADA.