The way in which we navigate space, both public and private, is an integral part to how we perceive things around us. Subconscious and conscious parallels are drawn to that which we encounter—it is an innate human instinct to automatically process visual information and relate it to our own personal experiences. In the words of Leonard Mlodinow: “In all our perceptions, from vision to hearing, to the pictures we build of people’s character, our unconscious mind starts from whatever objective data is available to us—usually spotty—and helps to shape and construct the more complete picture we consciously perceive”.
Most of my work combines representational content with textures that are consciously ambiguous and conducive to unconscious projection. Typically, these surfaces are made with multiple layers that are both abstract and specific. They embody a dynamic conjunction of the uncontrolled and controlled hand in the work, utilizing: paint bleeds, blotting and other organic qualities—in addition to the conveyance of recognizable information that refers to something veritable. In my work, I tend to employ a limited palette and some constraints, as I prefer the economy and unencumbered directness that these restrictions afford me. As a result, dichotomies are welcome; the work can be minimal yet optically complex and stylistically genderless while depicting constructed masculinity. The stark contrast between heavy content and fragility of materials adds to this idea.
My process begins with research and includes many common ways, such as: examining history, archiving visual references, recalling stories, writing notes, keeping sketchbooks, investigating memories and experimentation in my artistic processes. Meticulous exploration is vital to my practice as an artist. I believe that being cognizant of what is happening in our surroundings—both in the art world as a whole and in our natural or societal environments—can bring more substance to the work.
After the research, but before the engagement of studio practice, limitations and parameters are set up. Ideas of content come first, as it is essential to my process that I internalize whatever it is that I am intending to work with. Understanding subject matter allows for an ataraxy while selecting poetic materials and choosing a strategy with which to maintain conceptual unity. With these preparations in place, I can thereby work more intuitively.
While process leads to discovery, having a sense of place is paramount and central to sustaining one’s development as an artist. Where one works affects how things carry out in the studio. I have traveled in Europe and worked in San Francisco, Providence, Provincetown and New York City. When I settled in the Pioneer Valley about 15 years ago, Holyoke interested me because I saw a rich community in the arts and an opportunity in which to really settle as an artist. The mystery behind all of the wonderful architecture, the nature, the interesting history behind the city, the diversity and the city's close proximity to other historically and culturally rich neighborhoods were all very appealing. In 2008, I was bestowed the Blanche E. Colman award, and with that I moved to Holyoke to establish my studio. My identity as an artist is grounded here and in the wonderful surrounding communities of the Pioneer Valley.
The way in which my art occupies space is another concept that I find to be very important, as context certainly affects the content. Describing a recent example of a gallery installation at Fordham University in New York City may help to clarify how my work exists in space after it leaves the studio. A curator asked me if I could contribute a German landscape to the show titled "All the visible features of an area or countryside or land, often considered in terms of their aesthetic appeal". This caused me to consider how the curator’s request would affect the general narrative of my work. I wrote in a statement about the piece that: "It is a time-lapse that chronicles a period of 77 days in the studio between 2010-2013. There are 24 drawings to a sheet, one per day and an accompanying backdrop of a partially imagined landscape". Although the northern German lake scene I painted had a deeper meaning for me, I preferred to keep the language ambiguous enough to allow for a more open exchange that is not closed off by a single point of view. A landscape usually represents a specific time and place, but the ambiguity of this piece allowed for different ways of seeing. My lesson, ultimately, was that it is better not to over-think or force a narrative but rather, to see where it leads me.
The themes that I predominately employ and have worked with in the past include: patterns, divisions, familial history, stereotypes, constructed masculinity, projection, symmetry and the unknown self. The work that I create is a narrative in and of itself. As people receive the work, new stories are generated through projection on the viewer's behalf. I see this as an enriching cycle, filled with imagination and I often use this as inspiration for creating new art. To see patterns broken down, various interpretations and the unveiling of previously unknown meanings helps in my search for self and sense of identity in an always-changing environment. The wide range of responses that comes from my audience pleases me.
The reason most artists feel the need to create work generally has to do with communication and the conveyance of a concept or experience that is not easily shared through verbal language. Like most artists, if I am unable to process or say something verbally, I look towards expressing it in a visual language. Things felt, and yet unknown, become tangible by working through and confronting challenges. Painting and drawing are meditative activities for me that allow ideas to slowly emerge and evolve. The fortunate by-product of this ritual is that something from nothing is born into reality.
My ideal audience for the work that I make consists of people who are receptive and curious. If those who are affected can be influenced to do something positive, like: make art, tell stories, celebrate and acknowledge diversity, discover something new or lift someone up—then I am fulfilled in my role as an artist. With the kind of dialogue that art helps to facilitate, the road in life is not a narrow path—rather a unique, experience filled journey with many options and stories along the way. When an artist is true to his or her experiences, no two stories are identical, just as no two fingerprints are the same.