Natural materials define their own time and space. They control their destinies so to speak, and it is their ephemeral nature that helps to remind us that nothing and no one, lasts forever.
Memory plays an important role in my work. Not just the act of the mind remembering but the body “knowing” or retaining experiences as well. A physical example of this concept is a piece titled, “He rode off on a horse.” During a residency at the Bemis Center in Omaha back in 2001, I loved taking long drives out in the countryside and this site-specific installation was a reaction to the flat Nebraskan landscape and also of the memories it evoked of my growing up in rural Ohio. A rhythm in not only the physical sense; a horse's sure-stepped, slow movement across a field but the thoughts occupying the riders mind while traversing this open space. Movement; private, methodical and dense.
The installation was executed in the 2nd floor, 3,000 square foot exhibition space at the Bemis. The piece was created from earth. I located an old farmhouse that was undergoing a new foundation and the owners kindly permitted me to shovel up a truckload of dirt for my project. The earth was then turned into clay. A large platform with four foot high knee walls between four of the huge wooden pillars was fabricated. This created a fourteen foot wide by fifteen foot long by four foot high “bed” upon which I laid out the earthen field and slowly stamped text into the clay. I selected eight different passages from various writers ranging from Agnes Martin to Willa Cather which spoke to such concepts as solitude, speed, memory and the human spirit. The passages were repeated until they filled the field. Using old wooden and metal printmaking letterpress blocks, I stamped the text into the earth one letter at a time. It took me over three weeks to stamp out, which gave me plenty of time to reflect on the passages. The piece was misted and covered with plastic at night, so as to not let the earth dry and crack until it was completed. It was an incredibly quiet yet powerful work that lingers with me today.
The above installation, "My Observable Universe in the year, 2000" was inspired by a visit to the Hayden Planetarium at the Natural History Museum in NYC and a chance encounter with a huge roll of heavy silver metallic paper with a kraft backing. Utilizing an intuitive approach, thousands of pinholes were punched by hand with straight pins to create this atmospheric drawing.
Felting, a centuries old technique, is a simple and straightforward process. Water, soap and a lot of elbow grease. This hand hewn ball is made up of over 30 layers of wool and is solid to the core.