“I've always been interested in, and wanting to recreate, the effects of time.”
Interview by Simek Shropshire
Could you tell us a bit about yourself and your background? Where did you study?
I grew up in Minnesota but moved to New York for my MFA in the early 2000s. Before moving here I was a musician for a few years, but eventually gravitated toward visual art. I appreciate the permanence of captured creativity.
In addition to the industrial materials (cement, wood, drywall, poster paper) that you use in your paintings and site-specific installations, you employ a butter knife to layer said materials. Can you elaborate on how your process has developed from a traditional painting method to one that is rooted in everyday, commonplace materials and tools?
Sure. This was a gradual process. I've always been interested in, and wanting to recreate, the effects of time. My early work was more traditional painting, in that I used canvas and paint. Even back then though I was adding various materials to the paint to make it crack and peel.
I was trying to recreate the feel of cement without using cement. One day I found a bag of cement in my studio building and added it to the mix; the result was this tremendous peeling flakey piece that was so beautiful and so broken.
As I became more comfortable with cement, and learned how to manipulate it and control it, I moved away from paint and began incorporating even more industrial materials into the work. A few years ago I wanted to reintroduce color, but instead of paint began adding street posters that I age in my studio to make them look old and worn. I realized they could add color while also keeping the overall aged aesthetic. I also like to add broken drywall over the street posters, material that I again age and manipulate in my studio. I basically speed up, and control, the aging process to create work that looks old and broken and worn. As for the butter knife, I want the work to look organic and not man-made, so I use the knife to ensure that there are no evident brush strokes. The knife applies the material in a very flat, neutral way.
In New York City, architecture is constantly being constructed, demolished, replaced, and displaced. As a result, neighbourhoods are altered from people and cultures moving in response to the shifting cityscape. Are your works at all situated in commentary on the social climate of the city, particularly in regard to the current housing crisis? If so, how does such commentary tie in with the themes of deconstruction and decay that underline your work?
Great question. I wouldn't say my work is overtly political, but it definitely is influenced by the ever changing city. The great thing about New York, which can also be frustrating and melancholic, is the way it constantly reinvents itself. Buildings and stores come and go, restaurants open and close, neighborhoods are constantly changing. It's kind of like that idea that the city was always cooler 10 years ago. That being said, I strive to freeze time, to capture a moment and its effects. To me buildings are the most beautiful when they are completely stripped and torn open; I love looking at the accidental brokenness of materials when construction is happening. New York never stands still, but with my work I try to make it at least take a moment to reflect.
You have created several site-specific installations from cement, including an apartment building and a Volvo. 1 Hour Tooth Whitening is one such cement installation that you exhibited last year at Deli Grocery in Bushwick. Why the choice of a dentist’s office as the setting for such an installation?
I love the cement installations. To me they are the most challenging, but also most rewarding work. They depend a lot on the physical space; the Volvo was originally displayed in a shipping container with the story being that it was being shipped overseas. 1 Hour Tooth Whitening, the dentist office, was literally in an old dentist office. I added tooth brushes, tiny cups, and the pick and scaler to make it feel even more like an office. The larger installations I create onsite, and I spend time researching what the space originally was, and try to tie in its history to the story being told. I guess that is the historian in me, which I studied for my undergraduate degree.
What artwork have you seen recently that has resonated with you?
Peter Mohall, Vojtech Kovarik, Dave Hardy, Bertrand Fournier, to name just a few. So many great artists I've discovered through Instagram.
Tell us a bit about how you spend your day / studio routine? What is your studio like?
My studio is in Manhattan, uptown near Central Park. It is an old textile factory and I am on the top floor, so I am lucky to have these tall ceilings and great windows. It looks out across other rooftops, all of which are crumbling and in various states of decay. Just looking out the window inspires me.
Music is a big part of my studio practice. My process involves adding and removing layers of material, so I need 40 or 50 minutes of uninterrupted blocks of time. Listening to music helps, or other times I will just let me mind wander as I work and have more of a conversation with the work in process.
How did you begin to create your cement installations at such large scales, and how do you go about choosing a particular subject and/or setting for them?
I like to challenge myself, and see how large and elaborate I can make each piece. I have a list of cement installations I would love to make: a stage with guitars, amps and a drum set; a bike store; Tracey Emin's bed... A lot of it depends on the space itself, and how outrageous and unrealistic of an undertaking I want to give myself. I love the challenge, and the way the cemented finished piece thickens the air and slows down time.
Is there anything new and exciting in the pipeline you would like to tell us about?
I'm beginning to plan the next cement installation, working on a new, large street poster painting, and planning a few shows that I will be curating in September or October, which is exciting. I would love to get back to London for a show too, so hopefully that will happen. I am definitely staying busy.
Publish date: 13/06/2019
All images courtsey of the artist