My work is about loss.
Rebecca Solnit once wrote that we are constantly losing throughout our lives – keys, earrings, notes, jobs, friendships, people – and that in this loss, we find the richness of human experience.
I believe that an artist’s job is to be honest about the world and how we exist in it, telling the truth about the beauty, despair, and joy that make up our days. In my artwork, I create spaces to explore the emotions and experiences that connect our lives, trying to get at some kind of truth about them. One artwork might be about the loss brought about by the passage of time. Another might be about the desire to preserve the fleeting moments and feelings of a day or hour. Sometimes my work is simply about facing the wild unknown and stepping forward into it.
I see my artwork as spiritual work. In it, I find myself exploring gray areas and what the Celts call “thin places” between one world and the next. This can be taken in many ways — between one passing moment and another, between life and whatever comes after it, and so many other thresholds.
My visual vocabulary pulls from the outdoors, the regional lore of the Shenandoah Valley and Appalachian Mountains, and my family histories. I also consciously work with references to my ancestors’ material culture, which held a strong tradition of handcrafts, sustainability, communalism, and embodied knowledge. While my artwork often has representational subject matter, it is there as a stand-in for a bigger conceptual thought process. Beehives might represent the human body. Hand-drawn maps might stand-in for stories and how we tell them. No matter the visual reference, I’m always interested in the longings that make us human, the inner worlds we navigate, and the narratives we construct throughout our lives.
I value making my artwork mostly by hand as a way to ensure I’m referencing a connection to the human body. I also make an effort to present them in a subtle, delicate manner that asks viewers to take time with my work, becoming intimate with it. I rarely frame things, and often install my artwork in a site-specific way. This choice is made in order to underline the ephemerality of each piece, as a way to talk about the transitory nature of our lives.
The little ceremonies of our days are far more special than many of us realize, and too often we only see that fact in hindsight. How many times have each of us spoken about someone we’ve lost, repeating the idea that we miss the simple parts of having them in our lives? And so we end up holding onto them and other losses through objects, images, and words despite the fact that all these fall short of the original experience itself.
What we lose shapes us, and by understanding it we move forward. Heraclitus said that one can never step twice into the same river. Benjamin spoke of the angel of history, winged forward on the winds of progress while watching the past laid out behind her. My grandmother spoke of the sureness that “tomorrow is another day.” To me, all these speak of the same things – that what we know is always changing, what we understand is in retrospect, and what we can count on is the steady march of time.
In a sense, then, my artwork is a reminder to be present in our bodies, hearts, and minds, and for each other. As I’ve said before, use the good dishes often. Bake the person you love a cake, despite it not being a holiday. Hold tight to the things that connect us and move us all through this life. Because ultimately the archives we collect will disband and so will we — and if I’ve spoken some truth as an artist in the meantime, I believe I’ve done what I came here for.