I work in an array of mixed media and indulge in process-heavy approaches and materials. That said, drawing, printmaking and ceramics are at the core of my art. My methods are informed by craft traditions and require many of its fundamental materials, such as clay, glass and textiles. Sometimes bookmaking, photography and collaboration factor into my work as well, depending on my narrative pursuit at hand. Music and the performing arts are important traditions in my family, so while working I tend to envision choral, theatrical, even operatic outcomes.
As layers of a musical score feature strata of sounds, my bodies of work feature strata of stories that give voice to the voiceless. I seek-out, then research and materially explore stories that are queer and peculiar, ones that shed light on the people, places and things that common histories have left obscured. This is crucial to me as a gay man living in a world where my very existence challenges the structures of power all around me, in which some of those structures are present to marginalize or silence those of us whose identities don't fit certain standards. As I cobble together and rework ranges of materials and images through slow, deeply manual approaches, I recount and reimagine narratives— layered and coded, and at times parodical — of those who have been overlooked, erased or persecuted. I work slowly, and I hope for my viewers to be slow in their act of looking, to focus closely. Echoing the words of naturalist Diane Ackerman: If a memory, a moment in time is meant to matter emotionally, symbolically or mystically, rituals and artifacts will be close at hand.
The most elusive historical detail might set my mind in motion. One related to the surgical removal and public display of Jean Paul Marat's heart, for example, inspired me to make a large body of work related to this figure from the French Revolution. For this project, I was driven to create everything from ceramic hearts, coins, pots and weaponry to silkscreened wall partitions, mixed-media photographs, costumes and ceramic tableau. It also led to several collaborations, some of them variably performative.
Among my newest bodies of work is A Congregation of Wits, a project that explores the notion of a voiceless choir of citizens in a bleating, raucous crowd, and one that is as much a reflection on the nature of social media as it is a response to today's omnipresent, bellowing, authoritarian leaders. For this body of work, I found inspiration in a place not unknown for its dictatorial histories, Italy. During a visit to Rome, I discovered the curious tradition of 'talking statues.' These are commemorative objects in public places where disempowered citizens voice complaints by leaving behind all kinds of writings, including poems, prayers, affirmations, anecdotes and manifestoes. I was particularly moved by a specific 'talking statue' named Pasquino, who is now the inspirational centerpiece for a body of work that brings together provocative, emotional, quaint and outrageous messages to be displayed together in an imagined public square. I find Pasquino to be an excellent mediator and muse in my attempt to give voice to a voiceless mass, to make a muted history speak and sing.
Art that feels most alive to me is the kind that revels in exuberance of expression and presence, the kind that becomes theatrical in various ways. This is also the kind of art I have always sought to make. I love the idea of, and the material and manual processes involved with, putting on a show — and I love to angle my spotlight at the characters and artifacts lingering in the shadows.