"I often gravitate toward objects which have outlived their intended utility and have become the mere remnants of human activity."
Could you tell us a bit about yourself and your background. Where did you study?
I grew up in New York and studied painting. After finishing my BFA at Alfred University, I moved around the east coast working as a screen printer, an art educator, and held various positions in a number of museums and galleries including the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I took four years off between my BFA and MFA so that I could save up money and get some experience outside of academia.
I obtained my MFA from the Sculpture + Extended Media Department at VCU. Since graduating - I’ve been living nomadically for the last two years – bouncing between residencies, exhibition opportunities, and visiting artist positions. I currently live and work in New Mexico.
Often your work and the objects you use have a feeling of something that has been lost, cast away and even an apocalyptic edge to it. Could you talk about the objects you choose and what you do to them?
I’m drawn to the overlooked and forgotten. I often gravitate toward objects which have outlived their intended utility and have become the mere remnants of human activity. I think these types of obsolescent objects exist in a liminal space between familiarity and unknowability.
Although each body of work is fueled by a different set of questions, the common thread through these diverse projects has been a drive to reactivate materials in an attempt to coalesce object, site, and narrative in physical form.
Your major installation titled "Reverse Arrival" is situated in a large abandoned grocery store, consisting of bright yellow brick walls, wooden partitions and paintings of blinds. Could you tell us about this installation and your thoughts behind it?
I made Reverse Arrival, in the spring of my first year at grad. school. At the time I was learning 3D rendering software and quickly became enamored with the ability to manifest very real and very physical objects based off of nonphysical virtual data sets using 3D printers and CNC machines. I knew early on in the project that I wanted the installation to have a primary object which would embody a kind of circular logic between digital and physical. This core object was an anvil made from an amalgam of melted down aluminum tools such as the backs of iPhone 1s, CPU heat sinks from computers, and parts from automobiles melted down and poured into a digitally fabricated mold. I liked this conflation of the archaic anvil and contemporary technologies merged together into one form. I also loved that the anvil (a tool traditionally used to make other tools), is a cartoon symbol we’ve come to associate with impending catastrophe.
For the installation, a 10,000 sq. ft. abandoned grocery store was gutted out, white washed, and compartmentalized into various smaller “rooms”. The anvil rested on its own reflection in one room. A projected video looped in one of the smaller rooms in which a 3D rendering of the anvil infinitely falls past wisps of white clouds through the sky – never reaching land. In another section a wool baseball hat was slowly being digested by moth larvae inside of a vitrine made of yellow plexiglas and two way mirrors. Across from the hat, I displayed a store shelving unit that I carved out of wood. On the shelving unit were “paper bags” and “plastic bags” actually made of metal along with hyper realistic resin casts of rotting bananas. Throughout the installation - several large, bright yellow brick walls (again created entirely from digital files and carved by CNC machines) were displayed amongst exposed wooden studs, and paintings of window blinds were rendered hovering above a gradient of yellow.
This has been one of my most ambitious projects to date weaving together a complex web of ideas and objects.
How do you go about naming your work?
Sometimes the title of a piece comes before I even make the work. Other times it takes months after I’ve finished a piece for a title to really stick. In general, I’m interested in utilizing titles as a means of linking the piece to the research I’m engaged with. For example, I had a show at Ditch Projects last spring titled Javelin in which many of the works are titled after patents and news articles.
When I moved from New York to the dessert, I began noticing these cell phone towers in the form of faux palm trees around Texas and New Mexico. They are such absurd objects – not at all convincing but oddly beautiful in their attempt to mask these technological devices. I knew I wanted to learn more about them. In the process of learning more about them, I stumbled upon a local news article detailing the story of how one of the faux palm fronds had fallen from the fake metal tree and shattered through someone’s car nearly impaling the driver. The caption under the image in the article reads “The faux palm frond became an unwelcomed javelin as it sliced through the windshield of a motorist’s car in El Paso, TX”. I ended up painting images of the accident, recreating the palm frond, making drawings of the patents for that particular type of fake palm tree cellular tower, and I even remade a custom version of the newspaper. The entire exhibition grew out of that caption and image.
Tell us a bit about how you spend your day / studio routine? What is your studio like?
I’m a total morning person! I love to wake up while its still dark and get out of the house and into the studio as early as possible. The sun dictates my day, so I definitely get more work done in the warmer months.
The studio is like a multifunctional laboratory for me. Some days I am purely brainstorming with a sketchbook, some days I’m getting lost down rabbit holes online while researching and some days are spent handling emails and logistics for exhibitions. Other days I’m experimenting with materials and of course there are the countless days when I’m working toward fabricating sculptures and objects.
The studio I’m working in shifts depending on where I’m living. Last year, I spent several months abroad and worked primarily from my computer on a video/performance project. This year I’m working as a visiting artist in the sculpture departments at the University of Texas in El Paso and New Mexico State University where I’m fortunate to have a studio and access to all of the facilities. This summer onward – I’ll be back on the road and traveling for a few different residencies.
What artwork have you seen recently that has resonated with you?
This is tough! I would have to say the work of one of my students this past semester – Ruben Rodriguez. He recently made a sculpture in the form of a chandelier which he constructed out of specific articles of clothing and organic matter from the dessert – it was stunning. Ruben’s studio practice revolves around a poetic engagement with found materials and performative gestures working to subvert conceived notions of masculinity while unpacking issues of labor, race, and sexuality. The work feels courageous in its honesty and vulnerability - its some of the most exciting work I’ve seen!
Is there anything new and exciting in the pipeline you would like to tell us about?
Yes! I just completed a new installation at the Rubin Center, which opened last week in El Paso, TX. This new piece is part of a much larger project revolving around “the mirage” as a taunting illusion.
It takes the form of something which does not exist in an environment when the viewer might need it most. The mirage can not be obtained, it can not offer sustenance in the form of water, and it can not be reached. I’m working to create a connection between the mirage and concepts of “the virtual”. Both are immaterial, unknowable, and beyond our ability to touch. There will be a performance component to the project this spring, where I’ll be working with hundreds of community members to make our own mirage.
I’m also preparing for a solo exhibition at 1708 Gallery in Richmond, VA opening on March 23. The exhibition, titled In The Purple, will unpack the historical significance of the color purple specifically tracing the ancient dye – tyrian purple – (which was made by crushing up sea snails). I’m really interested in unpacking how we ascribe value to arbitrary and often subjective resources.
I have an upcoming article being published in issue 8 of Peripheral Vision this spring. This summer - I’ll be collaborating with visual anthropologist, Kim Craig on a project at Wavepool in Cincinnati, OH. In the fall I’ll be traveling abroad to Seoul where I’ve been invited as an international artist in residence at the Seoul Museum of Modern Art and then I’ll travel to Finland for the winter where I will be a resident artist at the Serlachius Museum. While abroad I’m embarking on a long term project that I’m really excited about – exploring archive systems.
All images courtesy of the artist
Interview publish date: 15/02/2018