Discovering the medium of sculpture gave me a new language with which to talk about things that I could not describe with words. Working in three dimensions is paramount to my work, allowing the viewer to experience the work in real space and time, through all of the senses. Recently, my work has changed in scope from large-scale installations to smaller, more portable works, as well as in material usage. However, there has been a common thread woven through the work from past to present.
Moving to New York City five years ago had a profound affect on my artwork, in both the way I work and my choice of materials. Though the changes have not been drastic, more of an evolution than a departure. I have moved away from working in installation due to spatial constraints of work and living space in New York, but I have retained many of the same sensibilities that I utilized in installation. Installation provided me with a way to engage the viewer as a participant, not just an observer. Engaging my audience more actively added another dimension to the communication of an idea: experience.
Gravitating to smaller works now, I have had to come up with ways to maintain my engagement with the viewer. I continue to use found objects, a practice I began years ago as an undergraduate. I employ found objects in my work to utilize their inherent history, which serves to support the concepts in my work. Through recontextualizing and altering an object (i.e. filling a suitcase with wax), I change its original physical function and imbue it with a new conceptual function. Natural objects such as dried leaves, soil, and branches, available in abundance in Colorado where I lived previously, have given way to more manufactured or "civilized" objects such as maps, pill containers, and clothing.
Previously, my work always grew out of autobiographical stories. Then, I would use research (into history, mythology, religion) in order to find symbols to develop the stories further, flesh them out, make them universal. Now however, I seem to work in the opposite manner, pulling my ideas from external sources, such as images I am bombarded with in the city or information that I read. Currently, the struggle lies in making the universal idea reflect a personal dimension.
I strive to achieve this goal in several ways. I feel a need to create personal rituals in the art making process, which I attribute to my upbringing. Ritual in art making speaks to me of concealment and revelation. The process of personal ritual can manifest itself in many ways, such as repeating a cutout shape or applying layers of wax slowly with a brush. The ritual process allows both the viewer and myself to experience the therapeutic effects of repetitive action. At the same time, it reinforces the idea on many levels, adding metaphorical layers to the work. Using vessels, such as an oyster shell or a suitcase, as metaphors, I describe experience both of and through the body, adding that personal layer. While no longer engaging the viewer by physically walking through an installation, I engage the viewer by the way they must participate in the work in order to view the small details included within. One may have to read obscured text inside the oyster shell or open up an object contained in the suitcase to see what is inside. In this way, the ritual becomes not only important on the level of myself the artist creating the artwork, but also in how the viewer interacts with the piece when one must perform a ritual in order to view the work. Finally, I always try to maintain a balance between the familiar and the strange in my work. This push-pull draws the viewer in, but instead of answering questions with a one-liner, it leaves enough space for the viewer to fill in the blanks later.
I gain inspiration for my work from a variety of sources. Ritual objects, such as medieval saintly reliquaries, have provided inspiration for me in the past few years. Finding discarded objects gives me ideas of the stories they could tell. Travel abroad has been an abundant source of ideas for me, borrowing from both the landscape and the culture. Even the daily rituals that people perform involuntarily intrigue me. All these things and more inform my work, providing a rich soil where ideas can grow, and creating a bridge from past to present.
Through these ideas, I strive to communicate concepts in my work that deal with paradigm and paradox: making the public private, the vast intimate, the unspoken uttered, and the ancient modern. Making art for me encompasses four factors. First, commemorating and remembering. Second, finding a way to engage with the world around me. Third, crafting an identity for myself. Last, carving out a comfortable niche for myself in which to exist in society.
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