I create mixed-media works using materials directly harvested from bodies of water and land in environments undergoing significant natural shifts. These locations include the Gulf of Mexico along Tampa Bay area beaches, rural Appalachia primarily in the state of Kentucky, and along the Kankakee River south of Chicago, Illinois, where, until just over a century ago, there was an everglade as vast as Florida's. The artworks take shape through processes such as pouring, dipping, and combining hand-drawn and painted elements utilizing the collected materials, engaging directly with the soil, water, and plant life.
These materials are not only sourced from where I currently reside but also from the places my family hails from. By employing site-specific soil, sand, water, and specific materials like tobacco and coal, I aim to listen and echo the wounds and witness of the earth, exploring how the environment and its elements influence my artistic voice. While my training has equipped me with techniques to manipulate materials, I've discovered that a lighter touch, allowing more of the earth's influence, yields more intriguing results. Early in my practice, unable to achieve the desired control with my own hands, I resorted to simply dipping paper into a concoction of water from Florida's Gulf Coast mixed with mud and coal dusk from Kentucky. The outcome, where clean paper meets soiled and wet paper, resembles the ridge of a Kentucky mountain and the roll of an ocean wave against the sky, merging my two homes into one. Drip-drying allows gravity to play its role, causing soil materials to catch against the grain of the paper, revealing fractal patterns reminiscent of barren, dry land, echoing the aftermath of mountaintop mining. While this is my interpretation, shaped through attentive listening to the materials, it represents a symbiotic relationship where the material voice is also influenced by my temporal and spatial presence.
Living in both Florida and Illinois has uniquely informed my understanding of natural surroundings. Over the past few years, I've collaborated with local artists and scientists to address growing environmental crises affecting the ecosystem around the Kankakee River. Through mixed-media works and photography, in conjunction with scientific field research, my project seeks to learn from and listen to natural materials, fostering a hope that viewers will engage with their surroundings with renewed reverence and care.
In the summer of 2023, I integrated traditional watercolor paints with water collected from the Gulf of Mexico, Tampa Bay, and regional freshwater lakes. Painting plein air with water sourced on-site has deepened my connection and intimacy with both land and sea.