My playful installations create the sensation of defying gravity while really exploiting the laws of physics. While working, I stack sculptural objects, lifting and leaning them against each other to achieve height and a sense of precariousness. While testing my own physical limitations, I come up with ways to create leverage, or ways to hold things in place temporarily until I can secure them. This process has several benefits. Because I have to make things balance until I can secure them, the configuration already has gravity on its side, even if it seems precarious. Another benefit is that the process requires me to be responsive to what works and what doesn’t. I embrace the fact that I can’t predict exactly how the final work will appear, because I know that having to adjust during the process leads to configurations I would never have imagined at the beginning of the process. In addition, the process is really an adult extension of the way very young people use play as a way to test boundaries. Whether it’s a five-year-old who stacks blocks until they fall over, or a thirteen-year-old who jumps from higher and higher precipices on the local playground, people test their own limits by testing their environment. As adults, the limits tested are often emotional and psychological. We grapple with love and loss, very different experiences that are inextricably bound to each other.
Each installation is site-specific, even those that are free-standing. For example, Fragments of the Unreachable was designed specifically for the gallery in the Peoria Riverfront Museum. When I learned about the opportunity to exhibit in this space, I knew it was time for me to cut down my slender willow tree to make a work that would reach up toward the black ceiling. After cutting the tree, I peeled the bark from all the branches to reveal the bone-colored wood underneath. When lit, the tree glows against the darkness like a shot of lightning. The eyes are drawn upward, and viewers contemplate the beyond.
Fragments of the Unreachable also has much of the playful attitude of other works. References to treehouses and a ladder at the core of the structure seem to invite viewers to climb the piece. Yet access to the ladder is blocked, and the steep angles of the wooden platforms deny sitting or climbing. I create these contradictions in the work to focus on the difficulty to accept apparently contradictory states of being. In the most recent works, I am addressing specific relationships and losses, and the conflicting emotions that fill my daily life.
Throughout all my installation work, my versatility with materials marks the work as my own. I often mimic one material with another. Painted insulation foam mimics wood, and cut painted canvas or strips of fabric sewn together mimic foam. Motifs will move fluidity across mediums, as in To Carry, To Hold, in which curves made from tubing flow into curves sewn onto flat surfaces. Triangular net structures made from different materials, painted canvas and cut garden hose, weave in and out of the curvilinear structures. A stripe motif moves rhythmically up and down the walls, creating the effect of a mural painted behind dimensional elements.
Another part of my process that distinguishes my work from other installation artists is the particular way I repurpose materials from one work to another. Rather than just reusing materials from one piece to the next, I am continually reinventing the materials themselves. Using To Carry, To Hold, as an example again, it has repurposed PEX tubing from installations made a few years ago. However, to change the color and to abstract the material from its original form, I covered them in sewn sleeves that can then be painted as well. Reconfiguring is not enough; for me, the materials must be rediscovered.