Gasoline Can, acrylic and enamel on basswood
From the Street: Artist Statement
Mindfulness “functions in an atmosphere of detachment…[and] aspires
toward a pure objectivity, an awareness which reflects the nature of
objects as they are, without adding to them, without elaborating upon
them, without interpreting them through the screens of subjective
evaluation and commentary.”
Bhikku Bodhi, American Buddhist Monk
My works in the ‘From the Street’ series are carefully crafted, carved and painted, trompe l’oeil depictions of everyday common objects I find on the street. The finished pieces are a result of close, careful observation, and celebrate the quality of being, the ’isness’ of each object. They are portraits of quotidian, humble objects, but their painstaking recreation elevates them out of the ordinary. On the back of each piece is a description of where and when I found each particular object, so they provide a record that mirrors my movements through time and space.
In the most obvious sense these pieces speak to commercialism and consumerism. They reflect contemporary state-of-the-art-graphics and one can almost sense the well-planned and psychologically tested strategies to sell the products. They are a testament to the effectiveness of that marketing, someone made the decision to purchase the product before consuming it and discarding the packaging. What happens next, though, is of greatest interest to me. These pieces undergo a unique series of events that lead to their individuation.
Each of these objects was at one time a near-perfect clone of millions of others of its type. It was designed and manufactured to exacting standards. By the time I find it, it has become a study of opposing forces; mechanical geometric precision is altered by organic twists, bends and folds, the inherent rationality is overlaid with elements of chance, the sparkling clean surfaces are smudged and marked by everyday dirt, grit, grime, tire treads and footprints. No two objects have exactly the same journey, so no two items are marked in exactly the same way. These works record harsh realities and the effects of exposure to natural elements over the course of time. Each wears a record of its own particular history, has become unique. It is this difference, this particular story of this particular object that I want to capture. These objects have a life span so to speak, if not an actual one at least a metaphoric one, from their production through their usefulness to their ultimate disposal. As such, they act as ‘memento mori,’ subtle reminders of mortality and the transience of all things.
These works also express and capture the Japanese idea of wabi-sabi, a philosophy that embraces imperfection, impermanence and the passing of time. Wabi loosely translates as simplicity, rustic or understated elegance. Sabi is taking pleasure in the imperfect and the appreciation of the passing of time. Together wabi-sabi is the acceptance of what is, and the embracing of the imperfection and impermanence of all that is. It is a beauty of things modest and humble, and finding beauty in things not often thought of as beautiful.
As time inevitably marches on and everything, trash included, continues to change, my pieces ‘From the Street’ will become increasingly of a time. They will become increasingly esoteric as the popularity of products ebb and flow and certain products disappear altogether as wants, needs and lifestyles change. My works are handmade objects in a postindustrial culture, so already they are a bit anachronistic. They are markers of a particular time though, and as such will become a tiny part of the fossil record, a small archeological artifact. They are a small, hold-in your-hand object, a solid, 3-D, reminder of this particular time and culture, an idea I find strangely comforting in a world that is increasingly electronic and virtual.