Works on Paper:
My drawings are influenced by my work as an occupational therapist and my interactions with patients and their caregivers. In painting on transparent papers, I progressively layer my images to address reoccurring struggles in healthcare that are outwardly hidden or forgotten. With my family members as models, I hope to convey the loss of identity that can occur as degenerative illnesses affect one’s ability to complete self-care or functional movement. The underlying layers represent the obscured sense of self that attempts to overcome those difficulties.
Recently, my drawings have become more personal as they depict my mother’s struggle to care for my father who had Parkinsonism and was homebound. The life-sized images, which are cut out and attached to the wall, represent the mounting difficulties my parents faced, made worse by the pandemic. I overlap translucent layers to signify my father’s gradual evanescence, using the vastness of the wall to represent my mother’s perseverance, hardship and love. Windows represent those fleeting connections to the outside world, made more precious as my father was unable to leave the home. Since my father’s passing, the assistive devices remain as witnesses to the weight my mother bore, both physically and metaphorically. The layering of film symbolizes the passage of time as she embraces the memories of what was, yet acknowledges the impermanence of what is. In sharing my parent’s story, I hope to elevate those who have had such an impact on our past, while making visible those caregivers who make the present possible.
My paintings question what makes an act heroic in the midst of daunting circumstances. By amassing hundreds of figures, I depict scenes from nature, symbolizing situations that are literally and figuratively beyond my control. Many of these situations reference my work as an occupational therapist, as I struggle to accept what I cannot change. I explore this struggle through multi-figured narratives that comprise the landscape. Some of the figures include saints and young women, who attempt to rescue those in need. Other figures resign themselves to the risks at hand by turning away or denying aid. Using animals as metaphors for strength and danger, I juxtapose layered allegories in an attempt to ask and resolve: Does it take more courage to be selfless or self-seeking? If assistance is warranted but not wanted, should it be abandoned? Is it more heroic to accept the uncontrollable or attempt change in the midst of futility? Through the dichotomous nature of the work, my intention is to provide a balanced perspective between giving and receiving, especially when caring for others.
Porterfield has exhibited both nationally and internationally at venues including the Lim Lip Museum in South Korea, the Phoenix Art Museum, the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, the San Diego Art Institute, the Hyde Park Art Center, the Kohler Arts Center, the Figge Art Museum, the Dubuque Art Museum, the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art, the Rockford Art Museum and the Weatherspoon Art Museum. Solo shows have included the Hofheimer Gallery (Chicago, Il), the Packer-Schopf Gallery (Chicago, Il), Indiana University-NW (Gary, IN), Concordia University (River Forest, Il), the University of Illinois (Urbana, Il), Elmhurst College, and the West Valley Art Museum (Surprise, AZ). Honors include three Illinois Artist Council Grants, a City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs Grant (DCASE), a Puffin Foundation Grant, and three Chicago Community Arts Assistance Program Grants. Porterfield teaches at Northeastern Illinois University and received an MFA from Arizona State University. She is represented by the Hofheimer Gallery in Chicago, Il.
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