I have always been drawn to the beautiful, the crafted, the decorative. Historical research on crowns of several cultures and dynasties played a significant role in this project and supplemented my enduring interest with the decorative crafts and culturally inspired patterns from various countries that inform my painting.
Visually delicate, yet fiercely constructed, crowns invoke both magic fairy tales (Cinderella, Lady Diana) while simultaneously emanating unparalleled supremacy (Henry VIIIth, the Shah of Iran). This extraordinary dichotomy is exampled by the design elements on crowns: they can either reference a territory with which the ruler wants to form an alliance, or a foreign/strange territory the ruler has already conquered. The poetic, lyrical terms for design elements on crowns, fleur de lys, arabesque, or everlasting knot, belie the resounding authority and political autonomy a crown symbolizes.
Environmentally, crown designs reference both the familiar and the foreign: flora, fauna and architectural elements from local sources. But also, in parallel with the actual act of conquest and alliance, rulers also appropriate on their crowns design elements of exotic patterns and motifs plundered from distant conquered empires. This appropriation also extends to the use of a conquered country’s mineral wealth. Maltese crosses (Germany) and the fleur de lys (France) have decorated the crowns of the English monarchy since 1672, gold and emeralds plundered from the Andes decorate Spanish crowns. Created by anonymous artisans to canonize everlasting dynasties, crowns are testaments to conquest, foreignness, cultural migration and assimilation.
As one of the first invited artists in the new Greenwich House Pottery Residency for non-ceramic artists, I chose to work with a black porcelain clay body for its own palimpsest of regal symbolism. To move beyond literal renditions of opulent jewels and precious metals, and to underscore their nefarious narratives, the crowns are all black and rendered on a larger-than-life scale.