Arlene Shechet’s sculptures that proceeded her paperworks were takes on the form of the seated Buddha. Continuing this preoccupation, she produced the Mind Field Series, representations of stupas and floor plans of various Buddhist temples, during her Workspace residency. Once she realized paper was a kind of layering, another skin, she became excited at the possibility of expanding her engagement with process and translating her visual iconography of Buddhist symbols, meditation mandalas and stupa plans into the new medium. Shechet began by drawing the plans of ancient and often extinct Buddhist temples from sites all over Asia onto mylar which she cut into stencils and brought to the Mill. The stupa plans are 2-D diagrams of existing monuments. Mandalas are archetypal blueprints of 3-D places made real by the enlightened mind. On prepared sheets of white abaca, she manipulated various blue pulps made of linen fiber through the acetate, sometimes adding blocks of color or allowing the liquefied paint to seep beyond the edges of the stencil. Because it is important to the artist that evidence of the process of making the paperworks is embedded into the finished sheet, she changed the consistency of the pulp, making it thicker and thinner, to imply various levels of dissolution of information.
Shechet layers and rotates architectural blueprints, turning concentric bands of repeating arches, columns and other forms into a two-dimensional mandala. “As “blueprints,” these images of places,” Shechet explains, “combine the architecture of the mind (mandalas) with real site plans of ancient Buddhist shrines (stupas)…In juxtaposing mandalas and stupas, I build new forms using an ancient framework.” While the use of blue pigments refers to water, this series is named for a special blue and white porcelain, Flow Blue, which is iconic in cultures of the East and West, but originally invented in China. By translating her interests in math, maps, diagrams, and directional elements, Shechet attempts to create a language that exists in the West and simultaneously refers to the East.
Arlene received a BA from New York University and an MFA from Rhode Island School of Design.
Workspace Program artist-in-residence 1996