Artist Statement and Teaching Philosophy

I create because I question the world around me, want to see it differently, and long to connect to others via my unique expression. I have no ties to a particular medium, and choose the material that is right in from of me. I have navigated sculpture, painting, printmaking, paper-making, performance, and social practice. I have always prided myself on my ability to adapt - and I believe is the true foundation of an artist - adapt to your surroundings and the material will find your narrative.

 

Painting and Printmaking

"Painting means the continuation of dreams, by other means." - Neo Rauch

For the past decade, I have been exploring how multiple histories collide in timeless fashions. This concept has become a catalyst for my painting and printmaking compositions that explore and expose the boundaries between reality and memory, between chronologically lived experiences and simultaneity. Fishing as a young boy and serving a tour of combat duty in Iraq converge inexplicably. The icy platform of Minnesota fuses with the ruin-dotted deserts of the Middle East. Fish become mortars and mortars become fish. A white landscape is thickened with earth tones to provide a sense of terra firma, yet it is also dream-like. This convergence questions the continuity in life experiences, no matter how different.

Vitality and action are breathed into my images through the recurring themes of active figures stuck in time, surrounded by unstable bombs. These bombs, posing as fish, threaten the characters representing me, all against backdrops of disjointed landscapes from multiple histories. Simultaneously as a young child ice-fishing and as a young adult fishing for bombs in Iraq, my memories are no longer the past and develop into a new present tense. This unstable paradigm seemingly becomes a labyrinth of simulated possibilities presenting a world for my characters to contemplate and choose their destiny, yet their fate is as fragile as the convergence of bombs and ice. These paradoxes create a visual tension, and nonetheless, these bombs could explode this fragile world of ice and ruins, blowing it all sky high. In a blink of an eye, my memories, experiences and reality could all cease to exist.

My work is not only a look into my own narrative, but also a look into how we as a society can find similarities within different cultures. This can teach us how our different histories collide, mirror, and repeat themselves; and we come to realize that as diverse as the world is we all share common histories and behaviors. These similarities are passed between cultures, across paradigm shifts and through simultaneity.

 

Connective Practice

"The act of creating art is a way to study how humans function in the world."  - William Kentridge

I have been making and teaching handmade paper from rag as a participatory art and connective practice, for 7 years. Specifically, as a veteran, I have been making paper from military uniforms, connecting veterans and non-veterans in transformative participatory workshops all over the country.

My interest in connective practice comes from extensive fieldwork in the area where participatory art, critical pedagogies of transformation and craft as community intersect. In my practice, I use a participatory art process that utilizes a multi-disciplinary approach of hand-papermaking, writing, and printmaking to connect people that otherwise may not connect. To challenge public participation and educational space, these art-making workshops are held in many different public areas such as main streets and pop-up warehouse spaces. The ensuing transformation of individuals making together facilitates a different view of the world and opens up profound dialogue among participants and witnesses to unite communities toward a common social good. This connective practice can form a usable and adaptable practice for social change.

 

Teaching

You must know your neighbor before beginning to learn. - Inspired by Paulo Friere

I am a stickler for understanding material and medium - mastering a discipline and all fundamentals before breaking it. They can happen simultaneously, as long as the artist has vocation to their craft and their material. Understanding material is essential to understanding a sense of place, which instills a grounding for students to both open the mind and also be resilient in their purpose. 

In my experience teaching, much emphasis is placed on individual mobility rather than community good. I feel that participatory art-making in a re-imagined connective teaching space can bond students to each other and to others outside the classroom, opening the minds of faculty and students alike to value individual outcomes and community-well-being as synonymous. While this sounds like a natural strategy for an art school environment, the real challenge is to take the art school mentality out of the traditional studio classroom to engage and connect all students through a connective art practice. I feel a deeper understanding of how the history, philosophy and art of these disciplines intersect, in both theory and practice, can give us a strategy to work toward a more connected society.

Understanding material, craft, participation, communicaiton, narrative and community lead to a more resilient artist.