Vermont Arts Coun

I’m excited to share that I was awarded a Vermont Arts Council Creation Grant to make lanterns of the 13 state listed endangered or threatened bird in Vermont. I’m planning to work towards making lanterns of all 52 species of endangered species in the state, birds and all.

How can visual artists help to overcome apathy about the well-being of other species? We hear more and more about the accelerating extinctions of plants and animals which we humans are responsible for, and coming to terms with the grief and fear that attend these losses is a monumental challenge. With one million species now at risk of extinction, can a focus on the plants and animals we share our local home with provide a pathway to contemplating our impacts? We have learned in recent years that simply providing facts and statistics about environmental issues is not enough to motivate change, and this project aims to use art to foster a sense of deep connectedness with the nonhuman kin who share our landscape with us. As artist Todd McGrain has said, art “can touch each of us in a way that ideas and intellect alone cannot. At their highest levels, the performing arts and the visual arts have the power to ignite an awareness of deep connectedness”. My project, titled ‘Ghosts of Extinction Yet to Come’, would be the beginnings of a large installation of illuminated sculptural lanterns representing all of the species who are endangered in Vermont.

When complete, this project will include at least 52 illuminated sculptures - one for each of the 52 endangered species of animal here in Vermont. The list currently includes 6 fish, 6 reptiles, 17 invertebrates, 8 mammals, 2 frogs, and 13 birds. While I plan to make lanterns for all of these species, this creation grant would fund the completion of all 13 species of birds currently endangered with extinction in the state of Vermont: Spruce Grouse, Bald Eagle, Upland Sandpiper, Red Knot, Black Tern, Common Tern, Eastern Whip-poor-will, Common Nighthawk, Loggerhead Shrike, Sedge Wren, Rusty Blackbird, Henslow's Sparrow, and Grasshopper Sparrow. Each lantern will be life-sized or larger, and will be created using a method I have been developing over the past years to create robust, weatherproof lanterns from cloth and resin. The birds will be shown in flight, so as to be installed indoors or outdoors above viewers, creating an immersive experience within the glow cast by the light of the birds. 

This project draws from a long history of using public art, especially lantern and light festivals, to bring communities together to inspire collective action, contemplation, and conversation. For example, the River Clyde Pageant in New Glasgow, Prince Edward Island, evokes discussion and generates community by creating a “celebratory and inspirational rather than didactic or polemical” way to consider our environmental impacts. 



Here are a few photos, of process and at the end, of the Tentworks project I have been working on as part of the Feverish World Symposium -

Fossil Bed: the dead provide a home for us living

made from wood, cloth, light, wax (dead trees, dead cotton, fossil fuels, dead plankton)

This piece explores the ways in which our ‘shelter’: the present planet Earth is formed and made up of the past – both living and dead – and how our current use of fossil fuels, which are themselves a gift of the past dead, endanger a human future that the past made possible. The walls of our shelter are made of the stratigraphy of rock, embedded with a gradient of entangled fossils, and roots, which are illuminated when viewed from the outside, as we burn the bones of our past. The title recalls the way masses of fossils are often found together, in ‘fossil beds’.

fossil layers, sedimentary…

fossil layers, sedimentary…

one of the sides, laid out for gluing

one of the sides, laid out for gluing

one little triobite

one little triobite

the artist at home

the artist at home

different forks, different mugs

In reading A Pattern Language and A Timeless Way of Building, I am struck by the feeling of full camaraderie, as if I have finally found someone who understands how I approach building and living - and provides me with concrete reasons and examples for how to present the reasons why I feel strongly about certain aspects of life. I find that many aspects of capitalist modernity feel, to me, like hopeless and sterile cells, though other people will say, "oh, that's nice". 

One example is the pattern, one of the last - "Different Chairs". I've lived with this feeling not only about chairs, but about any number of 'things a house has more than one of'. Growing up, we had three different intermixed sets of silverware - and I had preferences on which fork I wanted for certain foods, and which spoons for others. Later in life, I encountered houses with a uniform set of silverware, I was grumpy at being forced into a tyranny of whatever weight and length the forks were, and not at all feeling freed by my lack of having to make a choice. The best fork and mug and plate are the ones you pick from an assortment, just suited to the task at hand, and shaped by the preferences of the user. Most people, I think, will have a variety of these things naturally, gathered through a lived life. Why go out of your way to rid yourself of a menagerie of utensils and dishes accumulated through gifts, old roommates, garage sales, or made yourself? Why replace this rich and varied history of your life in the service of a new box of boring uniformity provided by capitalist supply chains?

So don't stop at chairs - Different Forks, Different Mugs, Different Plates, Different Pillows, Different Cups - many patterns.



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montreal eclipse ring!

Just got back from a trip up to Montreal - we had a chance to go to the Montreal Contemporary Art Museum ( where the highlight for me was this beautiful shadow eclipse by Olafur Elliason: 



I've been thinking about spotlights recently (partially to avoid cords!) and I loved to see this...

Chrysalis Lanterns

I made a new batch of chrysalis lanterns for Art Hop this past weekend, and hung them in the back hallway and filled up our big streetside window with them. They were certainly my best-seller for this Art Hop (my first as a participant!). Each is made with a "fabric-mache" method that I adapted from a paper-mache method I learned from Thom Haxo many years ago at Hampshire College, which provides a rather sturdy form, and creates that wonderful glow. I added wings to many of them, and an LED light bulb rests inside each one, and provides a method to hang. 


I had many comments and questions about what they "were" - the most common was dragonfly, but I also heard fish, shrimp, bee, and pokemon! Really they are inspired by my love of insect-like forms, and these specific forms drawn by my fave, Moebius!  (drawings of his down at the bottom)


Artist Statement

My work is a conversation 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 it’s 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.


This way of working leads me to emphasize the process of building and creating, which culminates periodically in the completion of a piece. The final art, lantern, article of clothing, doll, mobile, or boat carries with it the marks of its construction.


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.