I think of my work as a continuum. Projects and series are almost never truly finished, but evolve into the next iteration of themselves, resulting in contiguous pieces that are all related and allude to the same overarching concepts with varied focuses. The result of this continuous retooling and lucubration means my work becomes increasingly expert, leading to a familiarity, that in turn drives variation and evolution.
Much of my work is based on repetition. I gravitate toward processes that require a constant level of hands-on physicality. Before I began to incorporate sculpture into my artistic practice, I was fascinated by traditional woodworking. I would spend hours working with hand tools alone to turn unprocessed logs into perfectly smooth blocks. After chopping, chiseling, planing, and sanding I would set them aside for possible future use. This strenuous and aggressive process was nevertheless calming, a form of anxiety relief. The subtle joy of sliding a hand-plane along a block of walnut to slice off a paper-thin ribbon of wood is intensely satisfying. Even though the two experiences seem to be at odds with one another – aggressive strain on the one hand and joyful calm on the other – I feel the satisfaction and contentment stemming from processing a rough log into a smooth board is comparable to that of strolling through an empty forest of towering oaks.
This preoccupation with wood, particularly salvaged wood, found its way into my sculptural practice. Finding cut logs along roadsides, trails, backyards, etc. I would bring them home and process them down. Sometimes I cannot help but feel like a pioneer woodsman in my treatment of these natural relics, as I collect their dismembered limbs and inflict my humanity upon them through axe and saw. Conversely, the salvaging and repurposing of the felled tree also feels like a meditative ritual in which I give the tree new purpose. By creating these art objects with the potential to exist for hundreds of years am I, in a sense, depriving the forest floor of additional organic material that could otherwise be converted into life-giving hummus? I strive to understand my place within the natural world in the larger context of human and non-human interaction.
Timothy Morton highlights an unnatural view of Nature by capitalizing the “N.” He distinguishes “Nature” as an “over yonder” concept, a “reified thing in the distance, under the sidewalk, on the other side where the grass is always greener.”. In his book -The Ecological Thought, he explains how historically, mankind has idealized Nature as a resilient concept, both eternal and harsh. Our ecosystem is neither of these things. We cannot pit ourselves against this concept of nature for we are part of its mesh and we must strive to understand and accept our place within it.
The need to conquer wilderness is an expression of toxic masculinity . This refers to the adherence to traditional gender roles, which include but are not limited to ideas dictating that men should assert dominance and display no emotion. The most pervasive personification of toxic masculinity today is the image of the backcountry outdoorsman. Men are taught from an early age that to be manly is to be self -reliant, strong, and outdoorsy. “A man who cannot split a log and start a fire is no man at all,” the thinking goes – and has gone for generations. Theodore Roosevelt equated wilderness and outdoorsmanship with hunting and claimed that to succeed in the wilderness one “must be sound of body and firm of mind, and must possess energy, resolution, manliness, self-reliance, and a capacity for self-help." For early American frontiersmen, these skills had value and could mean the difference between life and death. Today they have mostly been delegated to pastime. In the book and movie Into the Wild, Christopher McCandless travels to Alaska to dabble in rugged male individualism. Chasing naively after this idea of wilderness, he consumes seeds that end up being poisonous and starves to death; roughly 15 miles from a major highway. Kidding ourselves that the frontier is still alive and well is absurd. We must instead have a realistic understanding of our place within the mesh, and bend our minds toward co-existence. Toxic masculinity opposes co-existence and relies on structures of dominance, fueling a drive to prove oneself both internally and externally.