Over the course of my career my art and ideas have focused on the intersection of the built and natural worlds. The resulting work has taken varied forms: biomorphic wood carvings, mechanized natural forms, interactive/kinetic light sculptures, and mixed media installations with audio components.
Some years ago, I started collecting broken china shards, landfilled industrial waste that I found while walking along the shores of a local lake. After a while, these acts of stewardship triggered something in my conscience. I came to feel that prior to this activity I had been, in a sense, exploiting nature for my own (art) purposes without contributing something in return. Enjoying micro aspects of nature at a lake that was so polluted it was designated as a superfund site, while turning a blind eye to the environment as a whole, presented a complexity of feelings and ideas for me as an artist and human that I couldn’t escape.
It was at that point, that my creative practice began an important transition to address what I saw. I became intrigued by the idea that a SITE could be a new way to approach my recurring theme of the intersecting natural/built world in my work. I committed to study interdisciplinary subject matter, embraced citizen science, and utilized activism as new critical components in my creative practice.
I have made seven hundred research trips to the lake, thoroughly documenting migrating and breeding bird species, (indicators of habitat health), observing their behavior and daily life. My documentation includes data and media archives: lists and species records, photographs, and audio recordings. Creating these data sets allows me to make contributions in art through my creative work, and in ornithology through eBird, a global citizen-science data base. The project is run by Cornell University’s Lab of Ornithology and used for scientific research and in support of conservation measures.
The field research and media archive are the foundation for my new studio work. I’ve created a work in progress installation including colored pencil drawings of birds and eyes on the porcelain shards that I collected. The mingling of individual birds and human eyes is representative of my continuing intersection theme, eyes symbolizing human conscience. Large photo lithography and screen-printed works show federally watch-listed birds layered over a map, representing the site of the human/built world intersection. Realism is a key visual approach in this 2-D work, enticing viewers and connecting to individual birds. Provocative sculptures, created from plastic collected on site, use material to convey additional meaning, including a Bald Eagle constructed from a washed-up bleach bottle, cool whip container, and tampon applicators. Interactive photo-books present statistics and environmental challenges for each species found at the lake. My goal is to create work that is beautiful, but that also provokes a sense of unease in the viewer regarding the status quo.