About the Artist
with La Keisha Leek, January 2019
You've explored the everyday object in your previous work, and have used interesting modes of installation to bring them to life, suggesting movement. Can you talk about the project you've been working on at Wassaic?
Sure. I created an installation that I call The Factory. It consists of a ‘conveyor belt’ which is really just a shelf, and several white tubes of varying sizes with images of objects on the front. The objects are depicted with adhesive vinyl that I cut out with a machine, so the colors are vivid and the lines are precise: I like to think of them as cell animation brought into our reality, similar to the cartoons inserted into live-action footage, like in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
The tubes are similar to product packages, like how tennis balls come three per tube. But depending on the object, this packaging can range from realistic (a baseball) to ridiculous (a martini). Each object on the ‘conveyor belt’ is supposed to be symbolically representative of an idea, while also being a physical object that is packaged as a product. For example, a clock can represent ‘time’ while it can be sold as a physical product; but while cash can represent ‘wealth’ or ‘luxury’, it makes less sense when packaged in a tube. But in reality, there are many products sold simply for the ideas they represent. By mixing physical and symbolic ‘products’ I tried to blur the line between physical products and ideas.
And, yes, I definitely meant to suggest ‘movement’ with the presentation. I installed the works on a shelf made to look like a conveyor belt which never moves but suggests the potential for movement. I like to have my sculptures exist in a space of suggestive potential, because I think that is more exciting for the viewer. The tubes are also opaque and covered in order to obscure the contents from the viewer, and allowing them to wonder what is actually inside, if anything. The suggested movement, and the invisible contents of the tubes creates a tension for the viewer, allowing them to imagine the possibilities and thus enter deeper into the installation.
How has the space in which you are in influenced the making and the form this project is taking?
The space has very much influenced what I am making! I came with a completely different plan to work on a domestic interior, but when I got here the high ceilings and industrial nature of the whole town — from the mill next door to the original condensed milk factory across the street — really seeped into my consciousness and I made my own ‘factory.’
You have a web development background as well. And I can see a bit how that translated through to your sculptures. Are you thinking often about that connection?
I don’t think about the connection a lot but I definitely use my skills with computers to execute my work. I love precision and efficiency, and using the computer to make these projects definitely satisfies that need. First, I roughly sketch each object on paper, but from there I take a photo and trace it in the computer, translating the lines into vectors. I love vectors, because they are like drawings in code: if you draw a vector that is two inches, you can instantly translate it into two hundred inches without losing any quality or changing the form. I use Adobe Illustrator to draw with vectors and then use a hobbyist machine to cut these vectors out of adhesive vinyl (the machine is like a printer, but instead of using ink, it has a small blade). Once in vector, I can cut out the same drawing a hundred times in hardly any time. So, in a way, I do have a little factory of my own.
I'm really interested in the hieroglyphic female figure you've been working on. She shows up in several different contexts. Can you share how she entered your work and how she's in conversation with other pieces you're working on, if at all?
She was another surprise from being able to work in Wassaic. I haven’t used human figures in my work for a while, but I suddenly felt like drawing figures like the ones on Egyptian scrolls or Greek vases. I stylized her to fit my aesthetic, and ended up making her life-size and placing her next to The Factory shelf. She really activates and humanizes this kind of inscrutable row of what look like random objects. Sometimes my work with everyday objects can feel cold or impersonal, probably another hidden influence from writing code and using computers, but she acts as a great entry. People are always drawn to images of people, since we can relate to them. I am using her as a kind of entryway into the rest of the piece. She is holding an apple and walking, as if she is going to place it on the ‘conveyor belt’ shelf. I like the idea that she places things there and they become packaged and sent out to wherever they’re going. So she is acting as the creator, or generator of objects in this instance. I hope to use her in future works as well. Really, the possibilities with her are endless.
What did you hope to gain during your time here? Do you feel like you got there? Were there any surprising manifestations?
I gained a lot. I had the beautiful peace and quiet of winter, which was sublime. I had the time to let my mind ramble, and like I mentioned earlier, I got to surprise myself, which was really pleasant. I had the space and time to focus solely on my practice, which was much needed. I also was able to be surrounded by really interesting and wonderful peers, and I made some lasting connections. I am really grateful for my time at Wassaic.
Photos by Jeff Barnett-Winsby