About recent work:
Growing up participating in many geologic field trips and camping trips, ironically I’ve been more interested in “fake” places since I was a little kid. I love theme parks, and have even worked on restoring one in Oakland, California. I love the feeling of experiences abstracting and displacing actual geographical travel, although I feel weird about they way they seek to elide many political, economic, and ideological tensions visitors would normally confront by actually going to real places. I’m both comforted and disturbed by the way that fake wilderness spares its audiences the inconvenience and vulnerability of confronting the sublime.
Romantic images of the American landscape from the 1860s, by painters like Church, Bierstadt, and Moran, are also pictures of idealized places. I’ve been looking at these paintings for many years because I love how they capture a sense of fantastic adventure, using color and light to imply grace amidst overblown weather and terrain. The places they depict also emphasize greatness and magnificence, as if a national “will to power” could be embodied in the land.
I often use compositions from American landscape paintings as guides for collages using my own photography of theme park landscapes. With Photoshop, and sometimes actually hand cutting and pasting these pictures together, I make new cohesive landscapes out of the fragments that I have collected and archived. I hope that by making hyperbolic, cartoonish reference to past images of American land forms, the ideological content of our traditional images of landscape can be made more obvious and possibly disarmed.
The Escape is an installation encompassing the entire gallery space at Irving Street Projects, much like a theatrical stage set. The landscape shapes are directly related to the elements I use in my photo collages, drawn from my own photography of artificial theme park landscapes, and painted by hand on thin MDF that has been cut to shape with a jigsaw. The backs of each shape are painted solid colors related to the rest of the installation, so that the landscape image visible from outside the gallery becomes a abstraction as viewers move through the gallery interior.
It’s important to me that The Escape’s correctly assembled image is only viewable from very specific angles, and otherwise breaks apart at the seams when viewed from other vantage points. I also wanted to reinterpret my own photo collage work thought a painting process that is ironically still related to typical theme park construction methods. I am curious as to how or why a collective idea of landscape became more abstract and infantilized over the past few centuries, disconnecting from reality. Taking things apart and putting them back together seems like a good place to start.
About Visitor Center:
My recent work is a conceptual project which began with a simple exercise. I asked my geologist father to describe the formal attributes of his favorite rocks from his collection, which he has been amassing over his entire 40-year career. Then I made ceramic models based only on his descriptions, having no other specific knowledge of the originals. Once I had these ceramic “abstracted rocks”, I then asked my dad to guess which rock sample matched up with which ceramic piece, and got him to tell me basic stories about the places he found each original. I then made dioramas to re-create the scenes he described, and took photographs to document these simulations.
The final presentation is a faux-museum, displaying the c-prints and ceramics alongside the language we used to create them, as well as watercolors made from the original rock samples my dad was thinking of, and infographic paintings elaborating on the ideas and conversations sparked by the process.
My basic goals were to to examine what is gained and what is lost by describing and simulating personal stories, to dramatize one person’s experience collecting objects over a lifetime, and to emphasize a contrast between language and visual information, especially as it pertains to narrative.
This work was strongly influenced by my love of theme parks, Romantic landscape paintings, Travels in Hyperreality by Umberto Eco, Baudrillard’s Simulacra and Simulation, Cindy Sherman’s set and costume photography, Edward R. Tufte, Harrell Fletcher’s social sculpture, and of course, my dad.