ARTIST STATEMENT :: 2018 :: STILL
Tramping around neighborhoods with an eye to the gutter; scanning the sides of trails looking for Mother Nature’s castoffs; poking through the overstuffed bins of thrift shops. I am drawn to the potential — and the quiet persistence — of the things we discard. Objects that still remain and that have remained still, until rediscovered. Their “unfinished narratives,” as artist Cornelia Parker says, wink at me and hint that a new ending might be possible.
Lately I have been foraging in abandoned town dumps near my home. I take secret pleasure in spotting the possibilities within the century-old remnants of long-gone households. The domestic objects I find are broken: bits and shards of glass, pottery and metal. I investigate their physical nature, isolate a defining characteristic, and then conduct experiments with new shapes to re-animate something of their native purpose or form.
We live in a broken time: a fractured political system and a divided country; topsy-turvy weather and an unstable climate. I yearn to make it whole again, so I go home, figuratively, to the domestic discards of an earlier time. I bring the pieces into my own home, washing them in our kitchen sink, sorting them in the studio, and putting them “back” together into something new. I have no illusions that this practice can reshape our world; the forces at play are beyond my hand. But this re-organizing of the domestic landscape contains a personal alchemy: through this response I am able to process the big emotions that accompany a changing planet. And this, in however small a way, puts my world back together.
In this work, I count Tara Donovan, Andy Goldsworthy, the aforementioned Cornelia Parker and Aspen’s own Freddie “The King of the Dump” Fisher as influences. Their instincts, process and craft are a constant inspiration.
ARTIST STATEMENT :: 2017 :: HOMECOMING
The story began about a year and a half ago on overland walks with our dog. Tramping a meadow near our home, I began to notice bits of glass and pottery on the ground. Shards lay glimmering in the dirt between the decaying vegetation of October. They piqued my curiosity; I picked them up and carried them home — as many as I could before the snow fell.
Though I didn’t know it then, the project would dig into both the history of our community and the zeitgeist of our time: throwaway culture. These bits of glass and ironstone, which turned out to date back to the mining era, were the plastic of their day.
My art studio began to fill with the colors of sea glass — milky white, aqueous blue-green, Kelly green, amber, lavender, the rare cobalt — and I couldn’t help but wonder: from where did this glass come, and from whom? Archivists at the Aspen Historical Society hypothesized that my stomping grounds were likely the old dumping grounds of a former ranch, pre-dating the valley's municipal dumps. A long-timer walked the land with me, telling the story of the family who came before his, and showed me a vertiginous pitch where others had tossed their domestic waste. With a climbing rope anchored to a tree above, I could safely descend into the cliffy area and haul out my finds.
The pieces of glass began to take shape in my imagination in the form of a miner’s shack, pieced together from the former household waste. Later, the AHS archivist sent me a photo of the original home that had occupied the land I had been “mining” for glass, and it looked eerily like the simple abode I had in my head.
When I’m making things, it’s an intuitive process rather than an intellectual one. I try to follow the flow of ideas. Sometimes meaning comes into focus later. With this installation — a resurrected house I call “Homecoming” — I’m able to wrestle with big questions I have about the ways we are trashing our home. Why do we discard things that will outlast us? What does “away” mean? Can I put this house back in order? Will we?
ARTIST STATEMENT :: 2014 :: SONGBIRDS
On the last day of the year, I opened my hotel room door to find USA Today’s front page declaring a new era: “The Year We Stopped Talking.” The lead story made the case that technology was shifting our humanity, with constant connectivity standing in for real connection. On the same day, 5,000 blackbirds rained out of the sky in Beebe, Arkansas, flocking to their deaths. These two ideas conflated in my mind: What if we, as a species, were adopting technology and adapting the most elemental part of who we are: how we relate to one another?
In the month that followed, the songbird, a communicative species like us, emerged for me as a symbol. I wondered: If a songbird ceases to sing, is it still a songbird?
The birds have become a canvas for my curiosity about the intersection of the digital and natural worlds. They are a litmus test for my own complicity with technology and its seductive/destructive allures. Through these sculptures I explore how wireless communication is changing me and re-molding our culture. They prompt another question: What are we willing to abandon in our race to acquire the next big thing?
It is no surprise to me that the spark for this work came from the written word. Writing is often the source of my curiosity, just as it has been the foundation of my career in public relations and marketing. I am grateful for the stories and ideas of Tim O’Brien, Sherry Turkle, Dave Eggers, Robert Michael Pyle and even Socrates (for I am no philosophy student), all of which figure in this work.
ARTIST STATEMENT :: 2012 :: WIRE
I have been collecting smashed wire for the last 25 or so years. Usually it is a small bit of baling wire that has been tossed aside on a roadway and then run over. I find them on the street, often near work sites. My collecting began when I was a college student, living in a down-on-its-heels San Francisco neighborhood that didn’t get much attention from the city’s street cleaners. The spaghetti-like tangles glimmered at me like treasure in the gutter. “Street drawings,” someone once called them; I nailed them to my walls.
I kept filling my pockets with serendipitous finds as I moved eastward to the Rockies, to ski towns where construction was big business and one could find the wires if you kept ahead of the more ambitious street departments. A sabbatical in Mexico rekindled my interest and multiplied my collection. There, improvisation and resourcefulness are prized skills and so baling wire, the instrument of the jury-rigger, abounds. And the trash truck doesn’t come around much.
When I first started making art, I incorporated these wires into my encaustic collages. I came to realize that one of the qualities that attracts me to the wires is their representation of a single moment. First tossed, then smashed, they mark time: the otherwise unexceptional second when their identity changes from being valuable to disposable — at least in the eyes of someone who uses the wire as a means to an end. On the other hand, I find life and inspiration in them, so in that instant of smashing they become a useful tool for my imagination.
Until recently, I didn’t ask why I collected them. Beauty was reason enough. Now, they are functional too: they embody the unseen ties that bind. The invisible knots and channels and intertwining and snarls and pathways of human relationships. They are visual symbols of both the physical routes — blood vessels and umbilical cords come to mind — and the emotional conduits that unite us. What shape does the electrical current of love take, I wonder? And the other complicated bonds which hold us together, or keep us at arm’s length — responsibility, history, respect, duty, ego, blood, fear, money, among many others?
The found wires continue to draw me in (and probably always will), but lately, I have been working with raw baling wire and shaping it myself. As in my Hole Series and the sculpture, “Promise,” I usually start with a single length of wire, working it like a pencil line that never leaves the paper. My artmaking is about connection and wire provides the continuity. As for my subject matter, the specific ties of personal relationships have given way to the more general covenants of humanity. I am exploring how technology is prompting social evolution, causing us to adapt the most elemental part of who we are: how we relate to one another. Baling wire, which has held us together since farmers first started mending fences, continues to be the connective thread.