I make colored pencil drawings by improvising around a set of rules – in this series, only horizontals and verticals and three particular colors. I still faced infinite choices: how to hold the pencil, how hard or fast to move it, what colors, what intersections, how close to make the lines, and so on. Each new drawing changes me and my subsequent decisions with the pencil. Here, I interpreted “horizontal” and “vertical” more and more loosely. I made marks according to the sound of the pencil hitting the paper. And I improvised with my wrist as if I were a dancer.
Little bike sculptures
I’m a frustrated mathematician/physicist who builds sculptures to learn how matter works. In my Little Bikes series, I combine toy wire bicycles and cut-up photographs that I take of cotton fabric submerged under water. These are my research tools. My work is a state of inquiry. With each new series I return to two primary, unanswerable questions: “Why is there anything?” and, “Where does the landscape go?”
As a researcher, I go where my tools take me. Bikes initially appeared in my work as an element of my paintings, often as an object appearing out of nowhere in the dark sky. Bikes are also significant to my personal memory. Riding one for the first time, I relished the feeling of entering a new dimension that defied gravity. Part of the appeal of working with bicycles is that they provide an absolute sense of scale – the bike is the human element. As I strive to engage creatively in my process with building blocks of matter – the Periodic Table, electron bonds, and other unseen yet omnipresent properties – the sense of universality associated with these larger concepts resonates with me.
The fabric photos come from my experience of photographing clothing underwater. The action of tossing clothing into a moving current, like a water burial, produces a transformation in the refracted light below the surface that is an aesthetic event. Even when I cut the photographs into curvy strips, I imagine that there’s a memory somewhere of the original photograph, and behind that, the fabric under water, and behind that, the fabric.
Weaving represents my best attempt to imitate my surroundings. The associations of weaving – the warp and weft of thread in a loom, knitted yarn of a sweater, intertwining vines on a trellis, and even interconnections between people – help me access the dynamics of chemical and other bonds in nature. They also help me demonstrate the principle of objects and space as one continuous fabric. Weaving serves as my metaphor for everything that is.
I am drawn to the mysterious nature of my tools. They allude to dimensions beyond the grasp of common logic, dimensions such as “beyond death,” or where “above” meets “below” at the surface of water. I am interested in unknown dimensions the mathematicians hold by lock and key as well as the landscape of certain spatiotemporal logics – how a place might exist infinitely far away from me, while I am infinitely far from it. If the so-called universe expresses itself in minute details, my role as an artist is to engage with matter in my studio as I would an empty room – to go inside and search for what is there beyond sight.
Most of what I discover during the creative process functions as rules, such as “don’t be a hero,” and “compromise.” Even cut up paper has a path to follow, like a vine that can’t be forced. I listen. I refuse to the take the easy route, the ambitious route, or the road in between. I sense there are even bigger Laws of the Weave connecting my materials with larger structures, some of which I obtain glimpses of simply by building. I try to learn from experience, while being willing to ignore it. I move toward that magic point of complexity beyond which the sculpture can no longer sustain itself. I am at my best when I exist like matter itself, trying to do what matter does.
I make sculptural paintings out of sheet aluminum and bicycles. I weave the six inch wide strips of the metal in an under-over pattern, driven by my sense of the universe as an infinite landscape fabric of matter and energy.
The practical challenge of the pieces is to obey the "laws of the weave" while navigating obstacles of wheels, spokes, and frames. My inspiration comes from squash vines, which climb twenty feet or more next to my studio, seeking the best route to sunlight. Each strand of my weaves seeks the most efficient route through the obstacles, while maintaining a minimal warp and weft. The result is an exercise in compromise.
Many of the “weave” pieces are freestanding sculptures made of greenhouse building materials, bicycles, and river boulders, as well as aluminum flashing. The bicycle wheels turn in the wind (or indoors, in HVAC air currents). The boulders honor their made-on-earth origins and keep the sculptures from falling over.
I photograph patterned clothing that I’ve placed under water. Standing at the edge of a swimming pool or stream, I manipulate the fabric with a long stick while looking through the viewfinder. The clothing changes shape in the current and moves in and out of sunlight. An insect, button, or sleeve may enter and exit the frame. Every shot is an interplay between the surface and what’s below.
For me, it’s a richly suggestive medium. I’m interested in the way a stable structure – such as stripes or plaids – becomes distorted as the fabric bends and the light refracts below the surface. I’m also interested in the way the images evoke landscapes – receding from a recognizable ripple or pine needle to an unfamiliar, even infinite, landscape with stars and black holes.
These photographs are all about fabric and pattern, so they make no explicit reference to water burial or the human body. Still, clothing remembers the body, and my impulse is to merge it, and us, with a universal and infinite fabric.