Artist Statements

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Causeway

Waterways, Elemental

February, 1996

The Elemental series is conceived as a set of interlocking, ongoing series based on six elements drawn from the natural world ÷ Dreaming in Stone, Waterways, Aerial Boundaries, Fire Within, Songs from Wood and Animalia. The works in this exhibition are all drawn from Waterways. All the materials for the images were gathered in Maine.

In all of my work there is an obsession with looking at, through and into surfaces. A fortuneteller might divine meaning from the world by reading tea leaves, bones, runes or entrails scattered across a surface. Similarly, I have been engaged in a process of self-discovery and revelation: when looking at drawings and paintings (mine or another artist’s) I find I have a unique opportunity to see the artist revealed; looking at the surfaces of nature yields similar opportunities. I ask myself the question, “What do these lines, shapes, proportions, patterns and rhythms reveal about their creator?” Reading the face of nature is an overwhelming process. It fills one with wonder.

These surfaces were created by nature; a portion of them is beyond me and beckons me to expand my sensibilities. Yet the surfaces in these pictures are not untouched. I have altered them: by inclusion and exclusion, by changing proportion, by eliminating old and adding new elements, by creating a Rorshach pattern and placing its midpoint. I find this a most curious collaboration with the hand of nature. Every photograph or drawing is such a collaboration. The balancing point of this collaboration is one of the things that make it so unusual. A photographer apprehends his subject (a process of recognition and capture); a painter intends his work (a process of conception and rendition). Both modes of expression are subject to their processes (in general one is usually, though not necessarily, more objective, the other more subjective). Both modes are processes of discovery, a revelation of both the internal and the external. The photography that interests me most is the kind that points the lens simultaneously on the exterior world and the interior world. The painting that interests me most brings the language of dreams into sharp focus.

Buried under the surface of these images there are many currents. These images can be seen as ruminations on the attributes of water that one might be tempted to call archetypal. Water has long been associated with the realm of the subconscious. It is a particularly apt element for me to find expression with, as my work is much more an exploration of a psychological interior than it is of a scientific exterior. I am interested in the kinds of statements we make when engaged in exploring in a so-called objective mode; very often they will tell us more about ourselves than they will the object of exploration. But I am most interested in the statements or creations we make without the support of logic, the ones we feel compelled to make without rational motives — for these best reveal our souls and the character of the human psyche.

Water is the sustainer of life. Without it no life exists. Our bodies are chemically most similar to the waters of the ocean currents. Water brings renewal and fruition. So too does the creative process. Each act of creation is a renewal, a revitalization of the human spirit. And so too is the act of conscious appreciation. I feel strongly that every viewing, like every reading of a text, is an interpretation, at its core an essentially creative act. And I encourage this. I am not worried that my original intention will be lost in this process, for I have worked very hard to make sure that it is a presence strongly felt and I trust in the conscientiousness of the viewer’s interpretive process. For this reason I feel very reluctant to divulge my intentions or interpretations of specific images until I feel certain that the viewer will retain theirs even after I reveal mine; I would prefer that a viewer be open to the widest range of possibilities, that they view the process of interpretation as ongoing, not as something that is finite or terminable. Art establishes a dialog between the artist, the viewer and their cultures. I try to establish a stimulating dialogue, one full of complexity and depth.

With its ever-changing surface reflecting shimmering light and its crystalline depths that hold light within, water resembles a living thing, a vessel for spirit. I hope to create a living art, an art that moves and breathes, changing over time but imbued with an immortal spirit. Water is particularly fascinating because at its surface it is form and in its depths it is light and motion, or animate spirit.

The hydrologic cycle is the circulatory system of Gaia. Increasingly, fresh clean water has become a focus for important ecological issues. In a world where desertification and overpopulation are increasingly dire issues, water availability, quality and use have become core issues. It is not that it is my intention to make political art. I intend to make art for the soul — art that is life affirming and sustains the human spirit. But where my work focuses on nature first and foremost for personal reasons —because it inspires me most — it is inevitable that the work I create resounds with the echoes of environmental issues.