As an artist, I want you to care about something as much as I care. To do that I make work that is at the same time familiar, and a bit strange — mysterious and, I hope, poetic. I want the work to be accessible on numerous levels. I attempt that through the selection of materials, treatment of form, use of subject matter and the method of presentation. I remain conscious of how my work rubs up to art across time and how it is informed by that history. The sculptural objects and installations I have produced refer to topics as varied as High Modernism, topical issues, the landscape — both physical and cultural — as well as music, jokes and cartoons. I have consistently attempted to combine art historical references with vernacular influences. As a native of the rural south, I have a tremendous respect for work that is made by the hand and guided by the heart and eye. But I also understand the importance of the mind in this process. To state my approach to the making of art in the simplest and most direct manner, I have used these — the hand, the eye, the heart and the mind.
“Love Between the Atoms” refers to the attraction between the protons and the electrons in an atom. I see this attractive force as something that bonds us all together in this world. It is this attractive force which forms bonds at the subatomic level which makes thing work in the physical world that we experience. It is this attractive force that enables us to build forms with clay and to draw people together and build relationships with each other. In many ways, mutual attraction of one form or another is what enables us to connect and create interactions on microcosmic as well as macrocosmic levels, from the physical to the emotional.
I am interested in the interconnection of the myriad of layers in the world, from microcosm to macrocosm. Maybe it is because I grew up with both eastern and western cultures. I was brought up with the traditional chinese concept of yin and yang that underlies all life forms and energies. This was discussed every day by my grandmother, who also passed on to me the joy of making things. Growing up in Hong Kong and New York, I learned to look at everything through the lens of both cultures.
This interest in opposite ways of perception, the intertwining of dualities, has informed all my work for several decades since I was student. I am interested in the juxtaposition of mass/space, land/air, solid/hollow, male and female forms. I feel I am a hybrid hovering between opposites.
My work-study experience at the Rhode Island School of Design Nature Lab sparked my continued interest in forms and concepts from nature. Most of my inspirations for my work come from my direct observation of things in nature and within my life. Often it starts from a question or thought about some human experience; for example, pondering about how our bodies function under the skin, or fertility, and mortality.
I like to make things. It is my way of experiencing and understanding the world through my own filter. It is like ”tapping,” a term used by the Australian bushmen to refer to a sense of an animal or water nearby. It is a gut-felt, intuitive impulse to puts things that I feel, think about, question, or observe in my life into concrete form.
My artwork is a way to understand myself and the interpenetration of the worlds within and around us all.
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Bubbles of ancient CO2 captured in Arctic ice; mottled landscapes of mold that grew inside houses in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy; trails of fluid formed by the liquid contaminants in urban runoff – these phenomena represent nature in transition due to our culture’s impact on the environment.
The formations that manifest at such sites inspire me, in part because I have always lived at the water’s edge, from my childhood on Cape Cod to adult life in New Orleans and New York City. Hand blown glass sculptures evoke both bubbles in ice, and the fragility of the environment. A series of kinetic sculptures and wall drawings made of tiny black and white-headed pins borrow the patterns of mold in New Orleans after the floodwaters receded; a multi-channel video projected on to glass windows of a service station captures the chemical turbulence on the surface of puddles on the streets of New York, and an installation of over a thousand hand-built porcelain sculptures represents marine barnacles that will increasingly occupy coastal areas as our actions warm the globe and waters begin to rise.
Environments under stress are more than a thematic aspect of the work as the materials themselves have transitional qualities and are subject to interactive and evolutionary change. Ceramic sculptures are bisque-fired, without the final firing that would render them impermeable, leaving them porous and vulnerable. A series of blown glass “bubbles” installed in an outdoor urban lily pond take on water and algae as they become a part of the landscape, and reflect the world around them.
I explore the liminal space between nature untouched by human intervention and the “new nature” we create every day.
My work over time has consistently explored the nature of human interaction with the physical world through architecture and man-made objects. Tools, utensils, buildings and machines eventually become artifacts, archaeological sites and cultural signifiers. I have also been inspired by the whimsical possibilities inherent in animation and contemporary culture, from Japanese anime to the satirical figures of late Guston, which stand at the cusp of what I refer to as “the monster and the child,” something purely fictional and innocent that informs our youthful imagination.
My most current series entitled Talismans brings together many of these interests, with a focus on totemic iconography and the human form through stacked layers of limestone and marble. This layering alludes to the passing of geological time as well as cultural history, while the feet firmly place the sculptural form in the realm of abstracted figuration. Finally, the ornamental brass elements adorn the “heads,” making up a complex array of visual associations that bring to mind everything from Middle Eastern hookahs to Venetian perfume atomizers, Buddhist stupas and African jewelry.