Artist’s Statement—January 2010
An eyeblink of time is all we have. It’s a short thrill ride. The hair-on-fire vehicle of art-making is my chosen ride. The pressures are intense, but this ride takes me places I wouldn’t even know existed otherwise. It soars and plunges and jolts–challenging me to see with Pandora’s eyes, to look unflinchingly at whatever passes before me in this pageantry, and to intuit why/where/how everything fits together. Where the matrix of possible meanings intersects, a sculpture materializes.
I look for balance by exploring extremes, dualities: violence/peace, weak/strong, savvy/innocent, alert yet calm, vulnerable but hard to catch, speaking truth to power, “authority” vs. free thinking, nationalism vs. global community, and so on. What is the best way to be in today’s world? I don’t expect definitive answers; I do expect the process of examining the questions is the most important part.
Curves, volume, scale, patina, shadow and light…all coming together to establish the flow, rhythm, lyricism, gesture and mood of a piece, whether by forethought or in-process revelation… Aesthetic appeal alone is often enough to entice me to sculpt a particular concept even if deeper meaning hasn’t yet coalesced into words. Left Brain grabs the frolicking aesthetic infatuation by the horns and shakes out a big enough pile of hints of meaning to keep itself occupied, head down, brows furrowed with first-child conscientiousness…while Right Brain hops up and cavorts giddily off and creates something else with no known why. Right Brain is hare, left brain tortoise…linked together by a long strong cord which jerks tortoise from his complacent inertia, and helps prevent hare from falling irretrievably over cliffs and down rabbit holes. Hare and tortoise each elect not to sever this cord they’ve grown up with, grudgingly acknowledging that they need and respect each other.
I start with a sketch or maquette, which I enlarge to make a full size 2D pattern. Using the pattern as a guide, I then construct a sturdy armature. Although the armature will never be seen, I take satisfaction in this part of the process every bit as much as the actual sculpting. I then build up the form from solid clay. Next I slice up the solid clay sculpture into 10 or 20 or more pieces, carefully hollow out each section, and then re-assemble them and allow to dry thoroughly for weeks. Next comes kiln firing to around 2000 degrees. Next I fine tune the piece and apply a patina. After all this, I’ve only arrived at the beginning of the most difficult part: finding the right place to display my finished work, transport it there, and wait for the right someone to come along who resonates with the piece and takes it home with them, so I can start the cycle over again.
Artist’s Statement, November 6, 2006: “Transcendence”
‘Transcendence’ has been an underlying theme in my recent work, but this realization did not come easy. I had to sit with the unnamed feeling, replaying it over and over for months. I also struck poses in the privacy of my studio with my own skeleton and skin trying to emote the gesture of the inner amalgam of yearnings, desires, arisings, waves of inner motion and emotion that eluded naming. It took returning again and again to the question, pushing through feelings of futility and frustration, before I finally identified ‘transcendence’ as the motivating force.
I’m always torn about writing a ‘statement’ such as this—reducing the enigmatic process and product of artistic expression into words on a page. Part of me feels it diminishes and demystifies something naively beautiful and intimate that I would rather experience than explain—because once explained, I can never return fully to the mystery. On the other hand, I do wish to rationally interpret my own intuitive work; to honor the work enough to try to figure it out. It’s a strange process to give three-dimensional form to an inner mind-state, an urge, a vaguely defined but palpable drive to form the clay this particular way, run the heel of my hand firmly up that way, now exaggerate the gesture by twisting the torso a bit more there, but why? Is there even anything there worth inquiring about?
In this case, the payoff of delving into the meaning of my work has been huge for me. Persistent examination of my mind-state when sculpting has helped me see that the innate human capacity for imagining, and then yearning for, transcendence is perhaps the main motivator of human behavior. Many people view earthly existence as a treadmill of chores that lead to not much. But by merely substituting an imaginary belief system for actual reality, life can become a very different experience indeed. If one truly believes there are entities and possibilities beyond the realm of physics, there is no limit to the motivation available to her/him; for the human imagination—which is both the producer and consumer of such notions, as well as the source of motivation—is itself infinite.
My typical expression of a ‘transcendent’ gesture might be the upthrusting of a figure’s thorax, with neck and arms trailing back, as if trying to burst out of one’s own upper ribcage and become something else entirely; as if trying to leave the corporeal body behind and be free of physical limitations (which many myths/religions speak of, perhaps not coincidentally); to suddenly take flight, instantly gain all knowledge about the universe, become one with all that is, and so on; or, on a more scientific level, to discover how to access a brand new area of the brain, learn to harness the vividness of night dreaming for visualization while awake, break through to alert meditation for hours on end, reverse or delay symptoms of aging, and so on. Such fantastic notions inspire energy and motivation several levels of magnitude greater than the mundane prospects of ‘normal’ reality. Just the possibility of escaping some limiting aspect of physical reality can propel us to extraordinary efforts. Indeed, the power of imagining transcendence is, for many, what it means to be human.
In this scientific age, we are privileged to know much about the cosmos. Personally, I find an abundance of wonder, mystery and beauty within the realm of ‘normal reality’ in our natural universe. I am overwhelmed with the privilege of existing and observing all that is around us. I am the universe, observing itself.