The thread underlying my art is interactions between species - both in the ideas behind the work, and the physical embodiment of the pieces. I find it interesting to wonder, when looking at a piece, “which species are interacting here?” In the paperwasps, maybe it is humans and wasps. In the whaleships, maybe there are two: on one side of the hand the idea of whales and ships, brought together by a continuity of form and humans hunting whales from ships, and on the other, the interaction within the sculpture itself between human (whose hands make the work) and trees (whose bodies are the wood).
My work is made from these conversations between artist and material. The process of creating a piece involves discovering how a material behaves when worked with in a certain way, finding how the wood bends (and when it breaks), how the cloth lays, how the paper folds; using methods to modify those properties (steam bending, epoxy coating), and sometimes deciding that a material doesn’t want to talk about what the artist wanted to talk about. Each form of each type of material has its own properties and contributions, and specific viewpoints to bring to the work. The three materials I work with most are wood, paper, and cloth. Each combination of these materials facilitates certain forms and conversations.
I find this way of working lends itself towards an iterative process, where planning fades into the background - first I build the piece in my mind over weeks or days, then imagine the materials taking the forms present in the mind-built image. I then check it over (mostly to make sure there is enough space for light bulbs and enough structural strength to maintain the shape. After turning the piece over in my head for enough time that I feel confident (I’ve learned the hard way that an over-enthusiastic and premature build often ends in collapse), I build the piece using paper and cardboard, trying to mimic the thicknesses of the final materials, which allows for the reality of the materials to confront my assumptions about them and make any final adjustments.. This paper version is then disassembled, and the final piece is cut out of the final materials and reconstituted and finished.
I also work, when I can, with natural materials provided by other species. While I am largely unable to understand the motivations, thoughts, and feelings of these collaborators, using their materials allows some amount of co-creation - though at this stage, it is mostly their work followed by mine, rather than an ongoing process of reciprocity, which I would love to know how to develop.
I find the idea of conversation to be present in my other work (evolution and genetics), especially when we think about forces that interactions play in the evolution of species. Dogs are the result of a ‘conversation’ between wolves and humans - the crops our society depends on are a conversation between the plants, the landscape, the climate, and the ones doing the farming. Even diseases and pests which have evolved to thrive in the environments we create (either inside our bodies (viruses), in our fields (insect pests), or in our walls (i love rats)) and which we regard with dismay, did not emerge fully formed, but have evolved along with us as we converse.
Work - as it happens!