Ex Uno Plures 2, 2020, encaustic on paper, 35.5 x 25.5 inches
Moriarty: Mima's Favorite
I am an Irish Italian American, but my cultural upbringing came wholly from my mother's Italian family. My grandmother, Anna Policella, married my grandfather, Pacifico Roccio, a cook on a Navy ship, and they had two daughters. My grandfather was a storied rogue. All the kids called him tadone [Abbruzzese dialect for grandfather] and thought the sun rose over his head. During the war years, my grandmother worked in a hat factory in Beacon, New York, and raised their daughters alone, while my grandfather was off having three more daughters with another woman—the youngest one is the same age as me. So in all he had five daughters, but among the family's grandkids, I was the only girl, and the oldest, and that was enough to make me my grandmothers' favorite.
I spent most Saturday nights sleeping over at her house, watching Lawrence Welk on TV, going to church with her in the morning and 'helping' her make homemade macaroni, braciole, and gravy for our big family Sunday dinners. She always made extra gravy and let me stand at the stovetop dipping endless chunks of crusty Italian bread into it. I also accompanied her on many trips to the Bronx to visit her brothers and sisters and stock up on special ingredients. Many of them lived together in a big, loud, multifamily brownstone near Morris Park.
Every Christmas Eve she made a massive feast and the whole extended family came together at her table, including my grandfather and his other family. Everyone was always very excited about my grandfather because we saw him rarely. They retell his colorful stories to this day as if they are the stuff of legend. But they never amused me much because I always saw the reverence he was held in as a slight to my grandmother, who stoically put up with it and never said a bad word about him. She taught me things about grace that are so deeply instinctive I cannot even put them to words, but I know her influence is indelible.
I think my studio practice is inspired by what I would call kitchen culture, with all its communalism, ritual, improvisation, nurturing, and traditions. And the processes—like laying out fresh noodles on trays carefully sprinkled with cornmeal and set out on her sunporch to dry. For me, studio activity is always like cooking and brings me back to Mima’s.
Implement 3, 2020, 7 x 4.5 x 3 inches
Tableau for Thomas Cole, 2016-18; pigmented beeswax, black sand, metallic pigments, powder charcoal, installed at Cedar Grove, the former home of Thomas Cole, founder of the Hudson River School of Painting, with Cole's paintings on the wall