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artist profile: Christina Conrad

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Clay Icons by Christina ConradBorn in New Zealand (12/18/42), Christina Conrad is an internationally acclaimed poet, playwright and "outsider" artist. She is the author of three books. Her poems have appeared in numerous journals and magazines in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the U.K., and have been widely anthologized (The Oxford Book of Modern New Zealand Poetry, Kiwi and Emu, and The Penguin Contemporary New Zealand Verse). Conrad's first book, this fig tree has thorns, is considered a modern-day classic. A French translation, published in Paris in 1996, sold out within two weeks. She is also represented in the Bloomsbury Book of Women Writers (U.K.) and has been the subject of several documentary films, including one that is now in progress (directed and produced by jazz filmmaker, Burrill Crohn). Conrad's paintings and clay icons have been exhibited in major galleries in the United States, Australia, New Zealand, and Europe.

(a statement by Christina Conrad)

"i was born on the edge of a new zealand summer before the cicadas shrieked
twas not until my 27th year i started to paint obsessively
twas fear of myself that i abstained for so long
i was afraid of my shadow."

Clay Icons "in the silence of my 27th summer, vision came to me
a blue flame leapt between my eyes
tables sprang across the room
great bursting teapots howled
my knees spun like mandalas
everything was created out of little particles of light
i forgot the self that haunted everything i did
the paint sang on my brush gradually it began to sicken me
my ego flailed like a snake
each day, heavy with child, i crept to my studio
room of wind & darkness
the trees walked up from the black creek and walked around me, like pale tombstones
windows of blood-red
i gave birth midst twisted paint tubes
not long after this i discovered clay
taking it in my hands, the masks of many lives came to me
great pots like beached ships leapt out of the clay
with red women racing round and round
amazed at themselves
their eyes shooting sparks
their vaginas, dark caves
for one year i made only red women
at the end of the year i made
one penis
shooting up the centre of the pot
one weeping eye
most of these objects were blown up in a brick kiln, like a sealed coffin"

"you ask me about my painting
this curse
this sweet bitterness
i have lost everything for this obsession:
i start without rules or knowledge
i must expose life in her galling duality
i care for nothing else
my studio becomes a bloody stage
the leading actor clad in sack apron, appears at the edge of a precipice
ah! Paint! its life
its blood
i love it
i hate it
the bristling prudery of brushes inhibits
using my fingers, i pass through secret barriers
crossing milky & maddened seas
i know the hazardous unreality of life..."

"i hid my paintings in cupboards instead of food
I fingered them blindly on long, dark nights, seeking the heart
I called up the serpent
one look back and I would fall
the lid was torn off the top of my head
I painted for my life
the paint smeared and clotted, scarring the naked shroud of my canvas
I did not show my paintings until my 42nd year
in my 56th year I bow
my eyes marbles
on a collapsible stage."

Go to Christina's Gallery
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