Artist Statement

January 5, 2020

Artist and Work

The combination of visual image and narrative is basic to my art. As a sculptor, I deal primarily with the figure. It can be animal, human, or somewhere in between. As I work on a new figure, I am trying to define its nature. I want to know its name and circumstance.

For smaller figures (2-4 inches), I work on a diorama-like stage set, placing several characters in a scene together to focus on their interchange. The emphasis is on gestures and personal distance. I construct the landscape as an image of the interior mind. The juxtaposition of found objects in these scenes can have a surreal effect. I use the sides of the box to focus on the phases of the story or to show another perspective. I like to incorporate text as a set of clues to further the story.

I make articulated puppets because they are meant to be held, and animated with voice and movement. A puppet can serve as an interlocutor, to tell the story, or it can appear with other puppets in a drama. In a gallery, the puppet is fixed into position, and the movement is implied. I like to present a puppet with some dialogue on a placard beside it, to draw the observer into the story.

Sometimes, I work abstractly on concepts like the chaos factor or the balance of opposites. I try to understand the dynamic by giving it concrete expression. In the last few years, I have been exploring video as a medium for combining my puppets and sets and creating a narrative sequence that transforms through time. Video offers many opportunities for manipulating the images. The intense focus causes me to look more carefully at my artwork and see how it can be improved.

I use found materials, natural and industrial, in my construction. I begin a piece by binding a few elements together. I am looking for a configuration, meaning a set of objects that reads as a whole. I add new elements until one seems ‘wrong’, then I remove it quickly. This is the point where the character begins to assert itself. I use white glue and cloth on frames of wire and wood to build the structure, adding new layers and incorporating new materials. I work to establish a color scheme, textures, and shapes. When the figure is ready, I look for a base, or find a way to hang it; I may add props and icons.

When a character seems mysterious, I try another version of it. Poseidon is frightening to me as the domineering father, who controls and sequesters his daughters. The dragon is a pervading figure in the Chinese cosmology, as the image of the mind unbound. I experiment with familiar images, like cherubim, and place them in unfamiliar contexts (what is this cloud?). I study the shape of boats to see how each one determines a journey.

I consider Peter Schumann, the founder of the Bread and Puppet Theater, as my mentor. His simple, iconic imagery and pleas for earthly survival are essential for our times. His work challenges me to be more focussed and direct with my imagery and to be more active in sharing it.
Certain artists have a strong influence on my choice of materials and my technique. I am awed by the finely-tuned craftsmanship of Joseph Cornell’s boxed scenes. Robert Rauschenberg is brave for his unusual combinations of objects and media, including boxes, and for his incorporation of paint and collage into his surface layers. I admire Stephen de Staebler for his physical relationship to clay, and for his interpretation of a landscape as a dynamic of earthly forces. I am drawn to folk art for its respectful use of natural materials. I like to see how art-making can be an integral part of community life, and certain figures are regarded as the embodiment of the spirit.

I use recycled materials because I like how each object comes with a history and creates its own associations. New materials require new techniques, and new methods to assure their permanence. My intent in using cast-off materials is to generate a sense of ecological awareness. I want to encourage people to look more closely at their environment and see its creative potential. I teach people to find their own materials because there is an excitement in realizing how available these materials are. I believe the experience of making art should be available to everyone. The earlier that connection can be made, the more willing people will be to explore their imagery. I like to explore different sites for making art; it is interesting to see how my imagery changes in response to the materials I find.

I like to collaborate with artists, students, and teachers to develop art projects. The communication between the people involved gives a sense of momentum, and the feedback is invaluable. Participants can expect to be jolted into a new perspective, and find unfamiliar ways of using their skills.

I finished my first film Spectre’s Bride in August 2019 and I am making a new set of puppets and preparing a scenario. I am building a team of videographers, costume and set designers, performers, and musicians. I am looking for ways to share my art, and for new ideas to try.

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