This body of sculptural and photographic work revolves around the inevitable chemical reaction that happens when iron (in the form of steel) and oxygen meet. Oxidation causes steel to change, to become something other, something less. Billions of dollars are spent each year attempting to alleviate the effects of rust on our infrastructure. My husband, a car lover, despises rust and calls it a cancer.
I began working with steel in 2003 when I signed up for a metal fabrication class at the Maryland Institute College of Art. I learned how to use a MIG welder to create life-sized steel animals that would become outdoor sculptural installations. For the next thirteen years I struggled with how to protect these sculptures from the eventual deterioration of rust. I tried powder coating my works, painting them, and using other harsh chemicals to delay the inevitable. I found that these surface treatments were ultimately unsuccessful in stopping rust. I realized that permanence was not possible. With a sense of relief, I decided to embrace oxidation instead of fight it.
I am fascinated with the visual signs of aging and impermanence, both in myself and in the world around me. Rust has become my muse and my medium. Using rusty steel, fibers, polymer clay and objects found on my farm, I create sculptures that explore my feelings about the change, decay and destruction I observe. Rust has its own life and each sculpture incorporates that life into its story.
Sometimes I see brief moments of unbelievable beauty in the transformational process of rust and the only way to capture it is with the camera. I zoom in on the textures, colors and patterns of rust that aren’t easily apparent. The design elements come together to create a sense of drama and mystery which delights me. And as I study these photographs I am inspired to use rust, paint and steel to create new ephemeral sculptures that speak to man’s desire to postpone decay and destruction.