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In my work I am concerned with finding empathy and complexity in situations that are often polarized and oversimplified. As an artist whose perspective has been informed by my family’s military heritage, I look to add a more nuanced approach to necessarily critical but discordant conversations. Through painting, video and participatory works I address these dynamics within a larger, multi-faceted cultural context: one of complicated family webs and communities, structural pedagogy, systematized aesthetics and the tenuous space between control and protection.
Recently, I rediscovered letters my father wrote me while serving in Iraq during Operation Desert Storm. Over 25 years later the letters import an even deeper significance personally, historically and politically. In rereading the letters, I was reminded of the family bonds that held us together despite the emotional, political and geographical distance between us. Through the series, Correspondence, I attempt to embody my Father’s perspective through methodically recreating the letters in watercolor. In the process of transcribing the documents into painted objects, I find empathy for my father where I once was an angry and confused teenager. As I painted, his words brought on new meanings and associations as he dispatched fatherly advice, beliefs, doubts and experiences of a war that continues to impact our lives.
With this series, I work with military surplus materials that I have inherited and purchased. Painting, cutting, sewing, stretching, and folding the used (or issued) duffles, equipment bags and errata, recontextualizes the surplus materials and allows for a place where personal sentiment and critical dialogues emerge, conflict and hopefully resolve.
Based in the history pastoral California landscape painting, and injected with remains of the regions complicated military history, the paintings imagine the decommissioned bunkers further dissolution into the landscape and highlight their isolated and largely forgotten past. My further interest in them is their former function as observation outposts: always on guard, looking out for a threat that never came. As objects of protection and defense they also carry the weight of militaristic control. For me, along with those dialogues, they are a metaphor for the artist – an active but stationary observer.
With the series “Cadence”, I focuses attention on the role instruction plays in indoctrination and the forming of a communal mind. Using text culled from military cadence songs with images from training films and field manuals, the work addresses the dynamics between control and protection, and how we sacrifice one for the other in order to feel safe, and at times, part of something larger than ourselves.
The Banded series came about from contemplating the dynamics of protection and control. When I first encountered bird banding I was immediately struck by the conflict in the action. It is ultimately a protective act but also intrusive and stressful for the bird. Much like the protective dynamics in a relationship. The titles reflect the juxtaposition of the power-play and intentions found in parental or amorous relationship. Sometimes we hold too tight, sometimes not enough. It is an interesting dynamic that I continue to explore.
This work deals with conflict and the natural course it takes in our lives. For good or bad, conflict is part of life – the unbridled push for domination and balance found in nearly every species on the planet. It is represented in this work in a “natural”, animal form but shares a great deal with human behavior, whether personal or political, we are at the core animals as well.
The Collision series began after a night I drove home from the studio. At the end of an exit ramp, was a car that wrecked into a lamppost. The driver was alright but the car looked like a crushed can. When I saw that, the sense of security I felt in my own car was shaken. I realized that what I felt when seeing that wreck was similar to the ideas of control and protection I was working with in other projects. We drive in these sealed in environments, feeling in control, protected and empowered but in a moment that can change.