I create mixed-media works with materials harvested directly from bodies of water and land with severe shifts in natural environments, including the Gulf of Mexico along Tampa Bay area beaches, rural Appalachia primarily in the state of Kentucky, and most recently along the Kankakee River south of Chicago, Illinois where, until a little over a century ago, there was an everglade as large as Florida’s. Artworks are created by pouring, dipping, and combining hand drawn and painted elements using the materials collected. I work directly from the soil, water, and plant life.
I’ve been able to identify surprising connections between seemingly disparate parts of the United States. These materials are collected from where I live and where my family is from. Through site specific soil, sand and water, as well as particular materials, like tobacco and coal, I’ve been listening and trying to echo the wound and witness of the earth, to see how the environment and its elements give shape to my artistic voice. Throughout my training I’ve learned ways to use and manipulate my materials, seeking to give order to them. However, I’ve noticed when my touch is light – when there is less of me, and more of the earth, the result is far more interesting. Early on, I could not get the material control I wanted with my own hands. In desperation I simply dipped paper into a large bucket of sludge - water from Florida’s Gulf Coast, mixed with mud and coal dusk from Kentucky. The edge of the dip, where clean paper met the soiled and wet paper, appeared like the ridge of a Kentucky mountain, but also like the roll of an ocean wave against the sky. My two homes became one. I let drip dry, allowing gravity to do its work, and the soil materials catch against the grain of the paper. In several of the works fractal patterns emerge after the materials dry, revealing a barren, dry, land. A scene that recalls bald caps left by the process of mountaintop mining. Of course, this is my own echo, shaped by listening as I let the materials follow their course. But it is a symbiotic relationship, the material voice being shaped by my own temporal and spatial influence too.
My recent move to Illinois provided another opportunity to better understand my natural surroundings. For the past few years, I have been developing a new body of work in collaboration with local artists and scientists who have come together to learn more about and bring broader awareness to growing environmental catastrophes that are increasingly affecting the entire ecosystem around the nearby Kankakee River. These grave realities can be overwhelming and difficult to know how to respond. Through artistic production including mixed-media works and photography, in conversation with scientific field research, my project aims to learn from and listen to natural materials, with a hope that viewers engage the world around them with renewed reverence and care.