Artist’s Statement

If asked to find a unifying theme among the disparate conceptual paths that I follow, an idea of navigating danger would be one answer. We are tender and fragile and look for safety and armor. What are the ways we negotiate the world? Memory and history, psychology, natural sciences, mathematics and physical sciences, fairy tales and myths are all tools and systems. 

Another answer is more abstract. In an essay on the qualities that literature might possess, Italo Calvino writes about “the poetry of the invisible, of infinite unexpected possibilities—even the poetry of nothingness.” In an essay about the poetry of post-war Poland, Czeslaw Milosz writes “there is a search for a line beyond which only a zone of silence exists.” These are things I would aspire to capture---a delicate edge, a thing almost invisible, almost intangible, and heartbreakingly tenuous.

Always mindful of the unclear nature of this quest, I find that intuition is my best guide and that subtle attention to each formal element is essential. A color, a texture, a juxtaposition or a pacing can add or detract. Metaphor is often a useful tool; a simple image can be rich with meaning. A folded leaf, an animal’s paw, a chart or a graph, a hand wrapped in a bandage all says more than literal meanings imply. But the key may be to find a way to invite viewers to enter the mysterious abstractions of their own minds filled with hidden fragments of memory and dreams.

Notes on “Affine"

“From a real body, which was there, proceed radiations which ultimately touch me, who am here . . . the photograph of the missing being, as Sontag says, will touch me like the delayed rays of a star.” Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida

There is a lovely passage in the Grimms’ tale of Brier Rose, better known to us as Sleeping Beauty; as the princess falls asleep, the rest of her world quiets and becomes still. Time stops. In a photographic image time stops as well.

The first power of a photograph speaks to ephemerality and absence. There is pathos involved—the photograph is essentially naïve, innocent of a future, its people and places locked into a lost time. But in our hands, a photograph is a miracle of visual privilege. It allows us to see what was once real but now gone.

In scientific terms the photograph is evidence, the physical testament of a set of photons that once hit and object and bounced back through a lens to create an image.

I began this project by mining through nearly a thousand photographs collected in large lots from antique sellers. I selected images that attracted me beyond subject matter, those with enigmatic appeal—perhaps color, tonal quality, shape, paper surface or texture. Most of the photographs I chose to work with come from the immediate generations before my birth, years at the periphery of my experience.

There is poignancy in the anonymity of found photographs. What were records have now become specimens, obfuscated by separation from original context and meaning. When I made this body of work, I was aware of my hand in creating new contexts for this found imagery. Sometimes I followed an impulse to restore meaning by grouping and arranging photographs into fictional narratives but more often I sought to create a poetry by further distilling them into abstract shapes and compositions.

Notes on "Creating the Archive: Walks"

For an artist interested in finding ways to record bits of everyday experience, the question becomes how to structure a response that remains faithful to specific details but also creates a visually interesting result. In the summer of 2010, with the recorded walks of early conceptual artists On Kawara and Richard Long in mind, I playfully assigned myself the task of marking the paths of my evening walks, adding a treasure hunt component by collecting bits of appealing street ephemera on the way. I then screenprinted shapes of the area circumscribed, used the found paper as a color guide and tagged them to the image. The result is a recording of nothing important, but a true record nonetheless.

Notes on "New Bestiary"

In the Middle Ages, monks created bestiaries---compendiums of animals---for the purpose of teaching Christian values or warning against vice. They were not particularly interested in natural studies or in the impulse to catalogue or organize that would later spawn the natural history collections of the Enlightenment.

My interest is in the deeper psychological relationships that we form with the idea of animals, not with those that we live with in the natural world but with those that we imagine, that we dream of or know from childhood stories or myths. These are creatures, beasts, protectors or threats; they are enticing, bewildering, elegant or dark.

In this installation, fairy tale imagery and the history of museum collections come together. Fairy tales charm as strange mixtures of endless potential and brutal fatalism and, of course, are populated with animals. The conceptual basis of early museums lies within the assumption that all things outside of Western understanding are of a common group---curiosities to be housed together by virtue of being different. To current Western though, this isolation of object from context and seemingly random juxtaposition seems naïve yet can still suggest a psychology of wonder. And in these early collections, we also find animals—taken in and displayed as marvelous oddities, in need of analysis and explanation.

Notes on "The Children’s Home"

The work in this installation came from one of my personal interests, the psychology of a child placed away from home life and into an institution. This had been my grandmother’s story and when she later talked of those years, of the “home” and its matron, it was always with a mix of emotions - affectionate nostalgia and unmistakable bitterness.

As I looked into literature about early 20th century orphanages and came across many primary sources written from a caregivers’ perspective, I also began to wonder about the psychology of the adults who worked with these children and the complex emotional relationships that must have developed between the two. How does one who takes the job of caring for a displaced child balance the tangle of necessary distanced authority and personal emotional involvement? Perhaps no amount of well-intentioned organization or care could prevent what the child must have felt---loss, fear, grief, loneliness, isolation, regimentation and confusion. These are issues that I address with this body of work.

"Sugar of Milk, Sugar of Lead
considers the intertwined psychologies of child and caregiver.

"Child Keeper" addresses the idea of individuality in the midst of congregate institutionalization.

The various "Transitional Objects" address emotional relationships to objects, place and people that make up a “home.”