detail: Everything Comes to Nothing, 2015
The grey film of dust covering things has become their best part.
–Walter Benjamin “Dream Kitsch”
The mind and the terrain shape each other: every landscape is a landscape of desire to some degree...
–Rebecca Solnit Storming the Gates of Paradise: Landscapes for Politics
I am currently expanding on a series of drawn, painted, and sculptural pieces that explore landscape, memory and value. I believe that drawing is an extension of touch, the hand. Whatever the medium for drawing—pen, thread and cloth, or glitter and paint—I think about the haptic gestures made and recorded on, in, or through a surface. My recent body of work inverts notions of soft and hard, fixed and malleable, structure and collapse.
Memory plays a role in this body of work, although not nostalgia. I am interested in the way memory shifts and is rather slippery, yet stands as a landmark of sorts. Collective, as opposed to individual memories interest me—the way it was; the way we were. Memory can be dark, idealized, and distorted by desire, distance, or time. The work considers multiple ways of viewing and thinking about personal geographies, past and present.
I grew up in the heart of Pennsylvania coal mining country where everything of value is hidden beneath the earth, covered in black dust. Returning to Benjamin's quote, I wonder what it would mean if dust were glitter–if all the residue of history was reduced to sparkling, iridescent flakes.
Glitter is little more than dust. It was created around the time of the Second World War from scraps in a machinist's shop. The machinist, Henry Ruschman, was determined to find/create something of value out of discarded material. This is an impulse that is echoed by my current studio practice.
Glitter, as a fine art material, is often seen as a kitschy element–a material better relegated to grade school art classrooms, gaudy gifts, and holiday decorations. Sometimes the value of a material lies beneath the surface and must be unearthed, like mining for minerals or precious metals. I want to imbue glitter with value, to transform it into something spectacular that is not so easily dismissed.
Similarly, it is important to me that the materials for the cloth sculptures I make are primarily found, donated, and repurposed from other sources. To give the cloth and clothing I collect from other people—often complete strangers—a second life is part of my ongoing investigation of where value resides in the material world.