I come to making art with the perspective of a therapist. Just as a good therapist can act as a catalyst for change in a client, good art should elicit a strong reaction in the audience, provoking them to explore the reasons why they’ve been affected.
I usually find my materials at local flea markets. I start with the artifacts of daily living, things that most people discard or overlook: battered globes, worn shoes, dilapidated tools. I’m drawn to old materials because they foster purposeful imperfection in my art, an attribute that’s connected to their previous lives. I use them for their connotative, associative or narrative possibilities. My installation work is tactile and handmade; as an artist, I focus on process and on topical, issue-based content.
Viewing my artwork is not meant to be a passive experience; it involves reading, deciphering, taking the initiative to engage physically and psychically with text and objects. I use materials that challenge my audience to consider multiple references in order to understand the full meaning of a piece. I want people to be caught up in the experience of my work, just as I am, in making it. My goal is to have them come away from an encounter with the work knowing something new about themselves.
B. 1953, St Louis, Missouri.
I grew up in a house full of stuff; although neither of my parents were artists, they were both collectors. My father had his tightly defined area of interest—pre-Prohibition brewery advertising from St. Louis, Missouri—and very rarely strayed beyond it. His narrow area of focus reflected an attitude honed by his day job as a commercial loan officer for a large St. Louis bank. My father –-who grew up in St. Louis, and never really ventured outside of Missouri—would judge pieces that he was considering acquiring the same way he reviewed loan applications; looking only for quality, without emotional influences. On the other hand, my mother had much more eclectic interests. She was a voracious but impulsive collector, to the point of being obsessive. As an only child from a wealthy family, she was always able to indulge her whims; the result was scattered, seemingly disjointed collections of everything from antique plastic animal toys to southwestern kitsch.
Over the years I have nurtured two diverse careers, working as a mental health professional while making art. How I see as an artist has been shaped both by my parents and by my experiences in the field of psychology. Like my mother, I can be drawn to new objects, without a clear idea of why I am attracted to them or how they will fit in to the larger scheme of my work. Like my father, I need at times to step back for a moment and try to balance the emotional attraction with the larger picture.
As an artist, I’m self-taught. I’ve cobbled together skills from classes I’ve taken over the years: photography courses at the Kansas City Art Institute; a furniture design class at the University of Texas in Arlington; off-set printing at the Kala Institute in Berkeley; and machine shop at the Crucible in Oakland. I taught myself how to weld, how to make urethane rubber molds and cast polyester resin. My wood and metal working skills come from spending most of my high school years in the industrial arts building instead of other classes. My influences are also as diverse, from Robert Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol, Jaume Plensa to Joseph Cornell and Marcel Duchamp.
A central element from my psychology background has become an intricate part of my art: my belief that viewing art is equivalent to therapy. The individual is as much an equal partner in the art-viewing process as they are in the therapeutic one. Through the use of text, Braille, or Morse code I challenge the viewer to commit the time and energy it takes to read or decipher elements in my art to discover it’s full meaning. As in therapy the individual has to meet me half way.