In my work, I play within a spectrum between trickery and frankness. I use the iconography of animals and the various connotations that we bring to each creature to display harmonious contradictions. Sheep, foxes and frogs are some of the animal stand-ins that I use to explore my past, tackle the present, and make propositions for the future. These creature-characters move between alienation and assimilation, balancing complex polarities of high versus low, fabricated versus found, precious versus quotidian, without versus within. Narratives of mythology, folk art, pop culture, faith, and childhood are embedded in these works, opening up endless discussions and difficult questions.
My initial use of animals as medium came from my practice of physically locating and photographing store-bought lawn ornaments found in their “natural” habitats in peoples’ yards. I interviewed homeowners to find out why they made their choices of ornaments, how these objects had been selected and where they came from. Generating a formal and conceptual typology led me to study the work of Bernd and Hilla Becher, Candida Hoffer, Andreas Gursky and others from the Dusseldorf School. This initial interest was in the objectivity of the documentary-style approach slowly developed into composing my own scenes with purchased lawn ornaments. This transition, which coincided with my move to Los Angeles from the Midwest, was pivotal in finding my own voice and augmented the former use of ready-mades.
The expansion beyond truth-telling into story-telling has now led me to painting, sculpture, performance, street art, and installation. In more recent work, the message or concept dictates the medium and technical approach. Each project feeds the next and the conversation continues into acrylic painting, spray painting, bronze, steel, ceramics, resin, t-shirts, and stickers. The evolution in my use of materials and process has a lot to say about high and low art and the importance of subject matter. More than just elevating kitsch, it brings value to the individual piece and elicits a rainbow of possible meanings.
My current works highlight the importance of an artwork coming from many angles, where equal importance is given to material, words, titles, personal branding and even this statement. For example, the Half-Ass Sheep mashes up two creatures that are commonly found in a nativity scene. Mythologies have often used sheep to represent innocence, sacrifice and even deity. They are simple, graceful followers who are easily distracted, prone to wander and get lost. Conversely, the donkey has symbolized obstinance, ignorance and sloth and yet many cultures have held the donkey in high esteem, and revered it as the mount for princes and kings. The dynamic symbolism of each animal varies from culture to culture and from time to time and likewise, the sculpture brings all these references into one place. The sculpture presents two persons within one body, the dualism of mind/body, spirit/flesh with a sprinkling of 21st century American perspective.
In its original installation, the Half-Ass Sheep were available for purchase and collectors carried them around the gallery after buying them. Visually and conceptually there is a resemblance to the work of Tara Donovan and Felix Gonzalez-Torres. The limited edition facsimiles of mass-produced items references Andy Warhol’s Brillo Boxes. The Half-Ass Sheep sculpture has been a jumping-off place for a series of related works, including wall mounted installations, a mobile white cube venue, screen prints, t-shirts, stickers, and stencils for the HP Series.
In my Gander series, the allover nature and repetition of forms stems from the idea of a world where lawn art is pervasive and inescapable. It's a place where we are overwhelmed with color and shiny objects, akin to Jeff Koons or Lynn Aldrich, and intrinsic value is bestowed upon what was previously overlooked. The title “Gander”, being a noun and a verb, is especially important because it introduces the multifaceted nature of the work. The HP Series comes in response to seeing the large spray paintings of Howardena Pindell, which in some ways function as color field paintings. Before seeing her work, I had been drawn to the idea of layering spray paint, but uncertain of direction and method. Pindell had used a standard hole punch to make her stencils, whereas I substituted animal grids.
Ultimately, the conversation that my work engages in comes from the realization that the world that we can see, taste, and touch is all artifice. And by extension, almost everything is fair game to be copied, borrowed or questioned. In an effort to connect with the audience in a comprehensive way, I intend to blur the line between high and low, fun and serious. My attempt to elevate lawn art into characters to be revered and followed, akin to a celebrity, flips cultural power dynamics. What if there were a maximalist world where lawn art creatures were central figures in our lives? By promoting them this way, I draw attention to the arbitrary nature of the things that we imbue with value. It is a ridiculous and hopeful proposition: to make this fun and engaging for the audience, while also giving them something to take away with them.