The work on this page was all a part of my Master of Fine Arts Thesis Show. There are stories that accompany this work. You can find the text laid out in chapters to read as you look at images of the work!




(in art or literature) construction or creation from a diverse range of available things. 


I create abstracted modular sculptures, assemblages, and collages that playfully reference utility, using salvaged materials and carefully fabricated objects. My sculptures are considerately composed, elevating the materials with a determined focus on how each disparate part connects to the next to become a meaningful whole. I have a reverence for all of the objects and materials I use, no matter their origin, and thoroughly consider how each of their forms, textures, colors, weights and other formal and physical qualities integrate into a whole. With the use of recognizable utilitarian objects or components the sculptures take on an implied function. The work creates a space for the viewer to pay attention, and to consider what they are seeing. The positions of the ragpicker, the djobbeur, and the bricoleur as tropes of reclamation resonate deeply with me. These figures take action with urgency in the face of adversity. They are driven by imagination. I understand these figures as timeless, their responses to reality perpetually relevant in our world and my own as an individual with consistent experiences of trauma, and adversity. I do see myself as a bricoleur, though I know that I do not live with the level of deprivation that these historical figures did.

My work often takes off from the interactions I have with decaying architecture, that I collect, record, and treasure. I feel a similar sense of urgency and adaptation in these architectural structures as I do in both the process of my work, and the actions of the ragpicker, the djoubbeur, and the bricoleur. These structures, held up solely by determination, clinging to the last shreds of life, provide moments of reciprocal buoyancy. Starting from my chest to my toes, my whole body feels the textures in these all but inadvertent compositions with their once whole windows and rusty hinges. Their precarious existence is mirrored by that of the physically and visually balanced sculptures in my work, the reality of relationships, and the stability of life. The accumulation in decay is a form of growth and comfort is found in how we both rest in our ability to crumble. Seeing potential is a form of vitality and the encounters I have with these decaying structures have become a unit of my own survival. I might be one of few to spend time considering these homes and sheds but the beauty, solace, and resonance they give me in return is ineffable.

The language I use in the texts accompanying the sculptures, and in the transcript of my artist talk, is intended to create an entryway to how I experience creating the work. Bricolaging or bricklaying, I build with what I collect emotionally, intellectually, mentally, and physically as material representations of how I experience the world. The care and attention I long to give and receive is fully embraced as I work, agonizing over details, celebrating imperfection, and cherishing chunks of materials left behind or thrown in a dumpster. As I reclaim and build, I am making a declaration of worth as I treat each material as if it is the perfect solution for the job at hand. The materials do not have singular roles and at times I preserve specific qualities from each and cover or transform the materials at other times when the composition needs it. A high level of craftspersonship is important to me when working with each material as it reinforces the concept of care in my work. I use materials in unexpected ways and many materials that may not usually be considered “art materials” in holistic sculptures, assemblages, and collages as a greater approach to creating work as an artist. By using materials this way I am dismantling or flattening material hierarchy, creating space for the viewer to reconsider the materials and objects they see. My intention is for this to lead the viewer to reconsider the world around them and to find the extraordinary in the ordinary.

My work is powered by imagination and desperate observation as I keep records of what excites me and glean what I want and need. I am captivated by the design of tools and other useful items. My interest goes beyond simple utility, like a combination square with its finessed curves of metal when a simple connecting rod would do. My love for tools and the aesthetics of use is directly transferred to the work as playful references to something familiar, implying that these sculptures have a utilitarian purpose. Removed from their original purpose the components dance past efficiency or production. By titling the sculptures with references to use and a specific purpose I am reinforcing the idea that they matter, and in a silly way, that they were intentionally designed to do something specific, to be something specific. My compositional sensibility, concerned with balance and other formal qualities, with abstraction as a catalyst, has developed and changed over time as my exposure to art, theory, and much more has increased. Along with the structural needs of the pieces this sensibility determines how I construct a piece as a dependent whole, connecting it to the larger civilization of sculptures. The collages and wall assemblages in the show are very direct examples of the way I map out a composition, creating dynamism and rhythm.

I am especially interested in how the acts of imaginative reclamation, adaptation, and creation that the ragpicker, djoubeur, briocoleur take operate as a declaration of the surmounting vitality we have as humans. All of this is centralized around the idea that many individuals making assemblage art are taking back agency, and subverting oppression through generative acts, fully of their own design. An example of work like this is the assemblage art and film created by black individuals in the 1960s and 1970s in Los Angeles, and London during and after severe racial and socioeconomic upheaval. These artists were building with carnage from their ruined city. The ability that we have as humans to adapt and endure in the face of trauma, untenable circumstances, cruelty, devastation, ruin, collapse, and all other forms of hardship is awestriking in an amazing and saddening way.

In his book “Arcades Project”, Walter Benjamin writes about the ragpicker’s abject existence in society during the industrial revolution in London and Paris. This figure, as described by Benjamin, would collect refuse materials and detritus left behind by the Day-to-day movements of people filling the cities. I see this historical figure as an artist and a historian as they collect objects and materials. This figure is making astute choices based on what might be of use to them or what could be fastened into something different to sell. They claim agency as they act on their own desire, imagining a new life and reinvented purpose for reclaimed materials. They see and collect potential. For the ragpicker their creative and generative process starts with a chosen cast-off object or material.

Djobbeur translates to “day laborer” or “handyman” in English, a person who works by the job. In “Poetics of Relation” Èduard Glissant writes about this figure living and working on plantations, answering to the needs of the people living and working there. These needs were not tended to by the plantation owners, and the individuals working on them had limited to non-existent resources. The djobbeur would acquire skillsets necessary to complete the djobs and solve the problems at hand. It is important to note that these individuals spoke different languages and created new ways to communicate. An example of this is the Creole language. Out of necessity and the desire to communicate they created a bricolage of language. The djobbeur starts with the need, often in an environment of scarcity and they are their own means of survival.

Bricolage is a French word originating from the word “bricoler” which means to fiddle or tinker. There is no English equivalent of the word “bricoler” and bricolage is a loanword, meaning it is the same word in French and English. Oxford dictionary defines bricolage as: 1) the process or technique of creating a new artwork, concept, etc., by appropriating a diverse miscellany of existing materials or sources, also in weakened sense: a miscellaneous collection of accumulated objects or detritus. It is a word commonly used in art or literature to describe the construction or creation from a diverse range of available things. In the contemporary moment, bricolage means DIY in French and the word “bricoler” refers to the activities that a handyman would carry out.

It can be said that the ragpicker and djobbeur are bricoleurs living in environments of scarcity. As humans, in environments of scarcity or abundance, we may all act as bricoleurs when change or catastrophe cause us to make use of what is available in ways we have not needed to before, or when we decide to bring something together using different and diverse materials. This definition of who a bricoleur can be is not dependent on and does not give credit to the circumstances of an individual but rather the generative acts and decisions of the individual. Knowing that these things can be any material or immaterial thing of an individual’s choosing emphasizes the value in all forms of intellect, emotion, belief, and imagination. The importance is placed back on the individual and the idea that they are acting on their own desire and thoughts. Their choices are not reduced to “necessity”, “making do”, “making something form nothing”, or other phrases often used to summarize bricolage. Similarly, when thinking of these figures and their acts this way, the use of words like “innovation” and “improvisation” are understood as having the ability to condone a forced marginalized existence.

The reality of these three figures, connected by trauma and deprivation of the material and immaterial (not necessarily for the bricoleur), and their choices matters to me as it speaks to how much of the world has lived, lives, and most likely will continue to live. The timeless relevance and vitality of these characters will continue to drive my work. Although I have not lived through a similar period of scarcity or need, I am consumed by how much of the world inhabits these tropes as laborers and everyday people. This dominates my thoughts and emotions. The visceral compassion I have for the experience of others is mirrored in the way I tirelessly obsess about the placement, connection, and consideration of every material, object, and formal detail in my sculptures. While my work can be appreciated from a purely visual and formal standpoint, this would not constitute a comprehensive understanding. My reverence for aging homes, sheds, and garages found in the neighborhoods I have lived and live in acts as a unit of my own survival, a starting point for my work compositionally, and a distillation of how I experience life, the world, and people around me.

Chapter 1: Introduction (artist talk transcript)

This text serves as an introduction to the work in “Brick Collage”, my MFA thesis show, my work as an artist as a whole, and was read aloud at the reception for “Brick Collage”.


It’s hard to decide how to tell you about my work. It’s an interesting task to try and pick the right words to tell you about everything in my head and in my heart that shows up in the things I make. Should I start with telling you about where I have been and the jobs I have had, my family and life? Or with what I make? I come from a large, complicated family that I love. I grew up in Colorado and have lived all over. I make modular sculptures using found materials and fabricated objects. I play with creating implied function or the idea that the sculptures do something. I think this makes the work funny and playful at times and it helps the work stay afloat. Sometimes I make collages, or pieces that hang on the wall. Other times I make assemblages, that exist in the round. They have a front and a back, you can walk around them, maybe interact with them. Open their doors, hear their hinges squeak. I’ve always been pretty fascinated by hinges. They’re so active, a piece of hardware that holds something together while allowing it to move closer and farther away. To open up and close again. And there’s so many special types that can do things that the other ones can’t. I like thinking that the work can be goofy, and that it can be understood in different ways.


Or maybe I should start by telling you all my secrets. Honestly, I would if you really wanted to listen and wouldn’t use them against me. Or should I start with the images I take of the decaying architecture I’ve seen on my daily walks in the places I’ve lived. I’d call these images research. And I could tell you all about how I feel when I discover a new window filled in with bricks, now a wall, or a shed that looks like it’s only held up by determination. I just really love to get to know these buildings. To notice where their paint is peeled, or a brick is missing, and how they are just clinging to the life they have left. One time I found water moving through this old building right down the street from my house. Inside it looks like a home, but from the outside it looks more like a shed or garage. You can see some mattresses all crunched up inside and hear water coming in one side and out the other. It’s like the house has become a waterfall.


I collected the wood for the platforms under the sculptures from the waterfall house. I wasn’t sure what kind of wood was under all the grey weathered surfaces but once it was dimensioned and ready to be built into something a friend helped figured out there was ash, hickory, poplar, maybe some cottonwood, and maple with beautiful spalting [1].


Or maybe a good place to start would be for me to tell you about composition and how I use it to build my work. I start with a background shape and color, or a specific form that I can see in my head. Then I start thinking about what could break up the background or hold the form in space in just the right way. And then I just keep responding to what is there, adding what I think it needs. Using colors for their weight, anchorage, and contrast. Texture as a base, a depth, a relationship. Instead of excessive, it’s just enough. Yes, it is all necessary, how else would these arches be rightfully held up?


My heart aches when I spend time with the old houses and sheds. I am consumed by them. Full of sadness, solace[MB6] , a bit of joy, and love, all for them. It’s exciting to see all those layers and textures piled up. Accumulated over time a record of their aging, our movement through time tethered. To call these scenes inadvertent would be to deny the fact that they’re very much alive and full of collaboration. Accumulation as a form of growth. I don’t know if they are at peace in their decay, but I know they are resting in their ability to crumble.


I could tell you about the processes I use and how much I enjoy obsessing over details and creating extravagant solutions and problem solving. I just need the outline of a plan or idea to get started and then I solve each problem and answer each question one at a time. It’s important that people can see how much each decision and treatment of the materials matters. It’s important that the joinery is done well, that it’s all considered. Sometimes it starts with one little spark, the shape of a tool I love, a specific juxtaposition of refuse materials or a drain I walk by every day. An old soup can becomes exactly what’s needed to fill a gap or hold some color.


I collected the railroad spikes over an entire summer. That summer, they replaced the big wood railroad ties that go underneath the tracks and hold them to the ground. It was pretty violent, like a bunch of teeth getting pulled. There were these incredible piles of the ties stacked up next to the tracks, all of them soaked in tar. You could smell them a block away in the summer sun. I think it’s amazing that I got to see the tracks get ripped apart and put back together while I lived next to them.


And next I could tell you about what you might not feel or think about right away when you experience my work, the deeper stuff. Like how I think about the ragpicker [2] and their ability to make something desirable again, collecting trash left by the rush of the day to day. Or the djobbeur who has to work with what they’ve got to fix things and solve problems that come up. This makes it sound like they don’t have a choice or rather that they don’t make one. But they do. They chose the materials and tools, and they chose to fix the thing. I could tell you about how I see the ragpicker as an artist and the djobbeur as an artist. The direct translation of “djobbeur” is day laborer.


I collected that maroon wood from behind a house that’s across the street from where two of my friends live. The landlord next to my house told me about it, probably one of the only messages I was happy to get from him. He used to text me when he was drunk about how he wanted me with him and he’d linger too long when he came to do yard work next door and tell me how good I looked. He tricked me in to going on a car ride alone with him to the dump once and always talked about me and to me in a way that made me never want him to come inside my house. I can’t remember if he ever hugged me or touched me. Probably, and it was probably real slimy. At first I thought it was cool to know someone in the area and that he’d be a good resource for house maintenance stuff. Turns out I took that wood from the wrong house, but it was in the trash anyways. I really love how that short piece of it is notched into the other wood just so, all snug.


I could spend even more time telling you that I care about those buildings I walk by. Those walls of peeling paint and crumbling bricks. Those saggy roofs and forgotten doors. I think about what’s on the other side of those windows. I don’t imagine what’s there, I just think about the fact that there is or was something there, they’ve got an inside. I guess I hope they can feel it, me caring about them.


The photo of the pattern from the shifted pipes and electrical stuff on the back of that red building in Baton Rouge, gets me every time. I’d like to go back to that building so I could look closer at the pattern, what parts are created by the sun bleaching what isn’t covered by a pipe and what parts are just a slightly different paint color on top. Maybe it’s hard to tell if I am talking about my work, the old houses, other people, or myself. But I think that’s nice, because it’s probably all four.


When I worked at the nursing home there was this old lady named Birdie. She always wore satin muumuus[3] and said “you’re an angel” every time I got her back in to bed. She had me put her headphones on and then her cd player and tissue box in the same spot each time so she could get to them when she needed to. She could barely see and whenever we said bye she loved to say “see ya later alligator”, “in a while crocodile”. When she said “you’re and angel” she really meant it. She was telling me that I was an angel, sent to take care of her.


It’d be good for me to tell you that I pay a lot of attention to proportions and balance in my work. I glean fragments from my everyday life, through desperate observation of the things and I see and experience. When I am building it’s important that I distribute things effectively, I don’t want certain solutions to be too predictable. It’s important for all the parts to be dependent on each other. Lots of precarious relationships stabilized just enough. And then we could talk more about the formal qualities of my work, like how mass and line are used and stacked. I think it’s nice that the work can be approached purely visually. It could be appreciated solely in this manner , but that wouldn’t constitute a comprehensive understanding.


I could probably write ten pages about blue tape. I think most people have used a roll before. I used to paint the house with mom. She liked to repaint often. I remember it was a big thing to be good at using the blue tape to create really clean lines. I was nervous to use the blue tape and not get a clean line. But then I grew up and learned that I can actually just go and get good at things if I’ve got the chance. Put me in a room with whatever, leave me in a ditch, I’ll figure it out. I’ll stretch all the shapes and add lots of wheels. Bricolage-ing or bricklaying, I’ll find a way to fashion something together and it’ll probably be pretty fun!


I took that PVC out of a dumpster and saved it until an idea came along that seemed special enough to use it. I’d never seen that color of PVC before and learned that it’s rated to be sewer line. That’s why its walls are so thick.

Pretty cool, green equals sewer.


The blue tape piece and those PVC tunnels make me think about riding my bike and scooter through the river and drainage tunnels at the park by my house growing up. The drainage tunnels were big enough for us to walk through. They were dark with lots of spider webs. I remember it was a big thing to be able to walk through them into the dark, it made you tough and brave. I remember being able to tell myself “just don’t be scared, just turn that off” and I would. I could. I could just flip a switch and not run, if I felt scared or my heartbeat quicken, I knew how to just keep going, unphased. I kind of wish I would have turned around and ran sometimes.


I always loved peeling all the blue tape up. There were always those little spots where the paint bled. I loved thinking about how whenever you clean and sweep or peel up the blue tape, there’s always a bit of dust and imperfection left behind. Something about this just feels good.


I could tell you that the colors I use often come from special places or things. Like aged construction materials, and the paint colors I had left over from painting the rooms in my house. Recently I learned that those big drainage tunnels are called culverts.


At the nursing home, Vern always asked for like four cookies at a time. I was not about to skimp him on his cookies. He was often sad; he cried a lot. He really liked to sit outside, but you had to make sure you didn’t forget about him out there while you took care of everyone else. So, one day I brought him out there when he was crying and I sat with him for a while, then I asked him if he believed in God because I remembered him mentioning it. He said yes. So, I pulled a chair up on the other side of him and said that he wasn’t alone and that God[MB18]  would sit next to him in that chair for as long as he wanted. Whatever he believed in or didn’t, I would have wanted him to know he wasn’t alone.

My favorite colors show up in the early part of the sunset. I use all those oranges, pinks, and corals a lot in my work. The Papercrete [4] acts a lot like clay. I can make hollow forms of concrete out of it! I love the way the cardboard cuts like butter with a saw after I laminate it together.


I guess what I am saying is that I believe in the viewer. If that is you, then I believe in you. I believe in you to see things, to notice them and then to feel them.


I could tell you more about why I like to use the materials I do, and how strong cardboard can actually be, but their role depends on the piece. Sometimes the wood is the support structure, sometimes it’s a vehicle for color, sometimes it’s the body of the piece, or maybe a little of all three. The clay loves taking on texture and volume and I like to think I am building with layers of the buildings from my photos. Everything has been put together and the whole thing is ready to move.


Brick by brick I’ll get the job done, one arch at a time, it all becomes building blocks that I’ll collect, and I’ll hold in my heart and in my hands. And then maybe I’ll tell you my work is really about caring. It’s about our incredible capacity, for emotion, for adaptation and our ability to endure. It’s about just building a way through with something to show for it. And next, we’d talk about what that something is.

[1] Spalting is any form of wood coloration caused by fungi. Although primarily found in dead trees, spalting can also occur in living trees under stress. Although spalting can cause weight loss and strength loss in the wood, the unique coloration and patterns of spalted wood are sought after by woodworkers.

[2] A ragpicker or chiffonnier is someone who makes a living by collecting refuse materials left in the streets for salvaging. Scraps of cloth and paper could be turned into cardboard, broken glass could be melted down and reused.

[3] The muumuu or muʻumuʻu is a loose dress of Hawaiian origin that hangs from the shoulder and is like a cross between a shirt and a robe.

[4] Papercrete is a building material that consists of re-pulped paper fiber with Portland cement or clay and/or other soil added.

Chapter 2: Thoughts from The Brick Maker

Everyone needs a roll of blue tape.

A friend said it’s funny that the blue tape used to be useful as tape and now it’s not, but it’s useful again as something else. As a focal point? As a starting point of inspiration or as something to laugh a little about. As a ring of vibrant blue, reminding me of painting the house in the summertime and that folded piece hanging from an eye hook in the big wall assemblage. A dangling celebration of that saturated blue, existing as a crucial part of processes in the shop and the home.

Another friend said, “what happens when you need that tape, because you’re going to need it”. I did need it. I needed it right here, right now, just how it is. Filling a space, a whole structure built around it, depending on it. Without it, how would the bricks get made?

When my younger brother and I were little, I remember finding about a half sheet of chip board at the side of the house. I think we spent the better part of two weeks trying to think of a way to build it in to something. I remember wanting so badly to find a way to make this piece of wood work, or rather to work with it. To construct something like a fort. To be able to make it into pieces I could build with. I wanted the satisfaction of seeing something come together. I didn’t know how to use any power tools yet, but I knew we had them in the garage and I wanted to be like my family members who did know.

I got those pocket door handles at the same salvage yard that the purple wood came from. Pocket doors, like the ones in Grandpa and Grandma’s RV and the bathroom in the tiny house next door. The concave cavity of the handles becomes the convex volumes of a brick.

So, I’ll make some bricks. I’ll make some orange and dip them in iron oxide and borax washes¹ to make sure their texture cannot be missed, and I’ll wonder what they will be for. No matter how tired I get, legs close to the edge, I’ll keep at it like cleaning all the buckets at the end of the day because without them the next one can’t start.

My younger brother and I used to go sledding at the park by our house. There was one day we went and ended up getting worn out pretty quick. To head home we would cut across the park, jumping down the cement blocks and retaining walls and then over the cement canal we always called the river. When we jumped over the river, my brother fell in the water and was swept downstream and got stuck under the big metal grate that connected to the sidewalks on either side of the river. I remember being terrified and frozen. Up until about a year ago, I thought he had climbed his way out and then we had walked home together, him so cold and wet. But my brother has talked about two different times I’ve saved his life. The first time was that day, when there was so much runoff from the snow melting that the little river became big enough to pull him in. He said he remembers me pulling him out from under the grate. All I know is that I am so glad that day didn’t end differently and that I loved having someone to go sledding with.

The proportions of the table in this sculpture are only my own, and the shape of the scrap wood: stacked, and compressed around the blue tape is a particular one with a chosen slight curve on top. I’ve become more and more interested in composite materials. Flakes, layers, chunks, and bits of a thing all gathered, pressed and glued together to become something new. To become stock.

The chip board used in the sculptures and in the platforms under them is a composite material, the laminated cardboard too! I saw that blue door for the first time one morning when I lived in Maine. It was dewy and beautiful. I would walk up the hill, between the two farms and around the corner, along the tracks to the railroad bridge. When the trees around the tracks open up to the bridge, the shed with the blue door sits to the right. There’s a broken window up top and the sides of the shed are covered with slats of wood weathered to a wonderful grey. The blue door is the most saturated part, that color holding on for dear life. Each morning I would walk to the blue door and then turn right, around the loop and back up the hill to work. That shed and I saw each other every day that summer, each time the door reminding me to push through.

For a long time, I didn’t know that the park by our house was designed to help with flooding. It was like a small valley in our neighborhood. It connected to other trails and parks and the cement blocks, retaining walls, waterfalls, and rivers (cement canals) are all meant to direct water toward the culverts we used to walk through at the far end of the park. The roll of blue tape reminds me of the big cement circles in parking garages. Is the circle meant to allow wind blow through the garage or do they add strength as the building contracts and expands?

I didn’t know the rivers that we rode our bikes through at the park in the summer, with the moss we called seaweed, were full of runoff and drainage water. They were meant to guide the water out. Drainage systems as a part of our infrastructure are so visceral to me. They are essential, their design so important to the functioning of a city. Often, they are tucked away and disguised. They aren’t things we usually comment on or point out. The images of drains and grates I have collected are some of my favorites. With their repetitive and substantial purpose and structure, they carry a weight.

So, I’ll keep making bricks and I’ll keep carrying on. A pile of potential, these bricks could become anything.


¹ An iron oxide wash is a mixture used in ceramics consisting of water, iron oxide, and a flux (melting agent) that can be applied like a patina or glaze. Similarly, borax (like the laundry detergent) can be mixed with water to create a speckling affect because of how the granules of borax melt in the kiln.

The Brick Maker

Materials Used (The Brick Maker)

Salvaged Materials:

Walnut, poplar, cedar offcuts, 2x4

wood, white PVC, chipboard, and other wood from waterfall house: cottonwood, ash, maple, hickory, poplar.

Blue tape, pocket door handles, hinges, wooden wheel spokes.

Additional Materials:

Cone 5 ceramic, papercrete, screws,

dowels, washers, bolts, nails, latex

paint, paste wax, fabric dye, pickling

wood stain.

Chapter 3: Thoughts from The Lamp Tower

More than just a pipe dream.

Am I a powerhouse or just a pile?

There’re no secrets hidden in all those tubes of PVC but feel free to deposit some as you leave, if you need.

In my research to find out what the green PVC is used for I thought it was interesting that it’s listed as green. I originally searched “turquoise PVC”, but I guess that turquoise color is like a cousin of green.

The wood with the purple paint came from a salvage yard about an hour away with a giant sign in the yard that says, “Roaring 20s”. It used to baseboards. I super glued down all the edges of the colored paint and that purple started a wave; it was an important color to introduce into the work.

Have you notice all my hinges yet?

A foot from a chair becomes and knob for a door, and a thumb tack is perfect for the same job too. That grey PVC pipe is called “Charlotte Pipe” and its specifically for chemical drainage, it’s walls even thicker than the green PVC. And the yellow PVC with thicker walls yet, is for gas.

Grey equals chemical, yellow equals gas.

I remember the sound of the evening in Juarez. At the end of the day, I would sit on the balcony up the stone steps on the edge of the hill next to the cinderblock bunkers with the triple decker bunkbeds where we slept. I couldn’t tell if the balcony hadn’t been finished, bricks missing from one side almost completely and at the other tapering off at the top, or if it had been damaged. Bricks knocked down by time and weather or maybe an event of intense impact. I like thinking about that, is it unfinished or was it knocked down? I’d sit on the edge in between the missing and tapering bricks, looking out at the city, and listening to dogs, children, and cars. You could see lights in some of the houses, the ones on this side of the border were yellow. The border lights were bright white along with everything on the other side in El Paso. That balcony will always be one of my favorite places I have gotten to sit.

This tower of sculpture can keep growing and become whatever it needs to be. And as it grows, I’ll think about the Torre de David in Venezuela¹ and the Favelas² in Brazil. That little orange shim with the knot, steadying it all. It’s not all too much, it’s just enough and there’s comfort in finding all the places new details hide.

Just keep looking.

Have you noticed all my hinges yet?

Francisco, a friend I made in Juarez, taught me how to build houses out of cinderblocks and mortar, the kind you can get at Home Depot in a paper bag. He showed me how to trowel the wet mortar onto the cinderblock, set, and level it, making sure that it was in line with the rest of the blocks. These four walls were going to be someone’s home. You could see on one side that the rows of blocks in the wall were all wavy, and I knew that it would need to be redone and that Francisco would do it if he couldn’t ask someone else to. He would tell me he loved me in English, and I would tell him I loved him too in Spanish.

The swell of the arches makes it worth them being made out of clay, not just silhouettes cut out of paper but hollow forms with mass and body. There’s a house that I couldn’t tell was a house for a while on the way to my favorite trail here in Lincoln. It looks like two chunks of a house put together. One half of it is covered in shingles the same brick red color as these ceramic arches and the other half covered in horizontal pieces of wood the same turquoise color as the painted empty spaces in the chiseled tracks for the cross-support pieces of wood down low in the stand, with the old vent cover as a door.

I had been imagining those old combination squares as shelves for a long time and once this whole thing was finally coming together their perfect moment of use arrived.

Have you noticed all my hinges yet?


¹A favela is a type of “slum” in Brazil that has experienced historical governmental neglect. The first favela, now known as Providência in the center of Rio de Janeiro, appeared in the late 19th century, built by soldiers who had lived under the favela trees in Bahia and had nowhere to live following the Canudos War.


²Centro Financiero Confinanzas, also known as Torre de David, is an unfinished abandoned skyscraper in Caracas, the capital of Venezuela. The construction of the tower began in 1990 but was halted in 1994 due to the Venezuelan banking crisis. In about 2007 people started to take up residence in the building and it was damaged by two earthquakes in 2018. It is estimated that more than 700 families have lived in it, many of them permanently. It is important to note that the building is not connected to city communications, the elevators don't work in it and the government began moving families out of the building and into “low-income” housing in 2014. Residents of the tower have created individual power supply and sewage systems, and kids bike around on the roof.

The Lamp Tower

Materials Used (The Lamp Tower)

Salvaged Materials:

Drywall with orange duct tape, brick from corner of alleyway behind house, green PVC from dumpster, beetle kill and plain walnut,

2x4 wood, red wood from alleyway, purple and turquoise baseboard wood, bolts and other hardware, “charlotte pipe” PVC, orange

extension cord, chipboard and other wood from waterfall house: cottonwood, ash, maple, hickory, poplar.

Tin can, tin can lids, one-shot enamel, cone 03 ceramic, old metal vent cover, hinges, door knobs, metal chair foot attachment, metal

pin, combination squares, paint brush, chain, blue pen cap.

Additional Materials:

Cone 5 ceramic, papercrete, polystyrene foam, zip ties, bumpy green fabric, cushioning foam, bolts, screws, dowels, washers, brass

rod, steel rod, latex paint, paste wax, light bulb, light socket, darker green PVC, shellac, paste wax, rivets, push pin, fabric dye.

Chapter 4: Thoughts from The Railroad Spike Carrier

There are times when the perfect thing for the job is a railroad spike carrier!

When they ripped up the railroad ties and replaced them the spikes were scattered all over. Sometimes I would find them in piles near the edge of the tracks. Was someone else gathering them or did one of the men working on the tracks drop them there? I like to think that someone was gathering them knowing that someone else would find and collect them.

How do we reconcile the good and the bad in a relationship?

When you’re hoping the good outweighs the other, and it all just becomes bad, and you wish you could be anywhere but there. Just waiting for whatever is happening to be over.

There isn’t a spike in every hole along the tracks, and there is no pattern to it. Some get a spike and some don’t but somehow the tracks stay stuck down. On the walk home from our favorite trail, my dog and I watch the train go by at the crossing by the house with the dog my dog is scared of and the guy who kept trying to get me to invite him to come with us on walks. He always called me by the wrong name and I never corrected him. Watching the train go by was nice. The tracks bend and sink into the ground and press back up again as each set of wheels goes over them.

It’s like they are breathing.

Joe, a man I was a caregiver for in Colorado, loved to watch trains. Every Friday after I picked him up, he would point in the direction of the railyard he wanted to go to first. Fridays were train watching days. I would drive along the dirt road next to the tracks or deeper into the railyard until he gestured to stop. He knew all of it, when the trains were coming, what direction they were going to go, and when they were going to switch tracks. He’d been doing this for years. Sometimes the men working on the trains would come up to my car window and say, “the boss isn’t here today”, and ask if we wanted to come check out the inside of the engine car. So, I’d help Joe get his seatbelt off and walk with him, holding his hand to help him balance. The only other time I saw him this happy was when his best friend, John, would make him laugh by taking Joe’s hat and putting it on his own head. John worked at the office Joe volunteered at, delivering mail to people’s office mailboxes, and handing out candy.

My favorite spike is the one with a bit of turquoise spray paint on its head. There’s one with bright orange spray paint back up in the tracks doing its job. Isn’t it crazy how you can long to be close to someone you know you can’t trust? I guess kindness can be rare, but I wish being inconsiderate was too. There’s a tenderness in caring for someone regardless of how they have made you feel. Really, it just feels good to care, to dwell on how someone matters.

One of my favorite parts about this piece is the little blue pieces of wood. They originally were just tacked on to hold the red wood pieces in place while I cut and chiseled the channels for the cross pieces of lighter wood. But then I loved how they worked within the whole of the composition, and they needed to be emphasized with a color that could bring the red wood to life. They act as a remnant of the process and an active member of the composition. Call and response, the components have a dialogue.

I still remember the sign language about trains I learned from Joe. He loved doing the sign for the train horn even though he couldn’t hear it. He could feel it. He could feel the vibration of the trains coming long before I could see them. When I would help Joe volunteer at the hospital handing out candy, Joe always stopped to give the blonde-haired nurses an extra-large handful. If his mom was there, she’d make him put all but one piece back to give them. I’d let him give them the whole bunch.

The shape of that taller railroad spike carrier used to show up in my work a lot. Those two vertical leaning pieces of wood held up and together by two lines, like a telephone wire tower. Or the rust stains dripped down on either side of that horizontal handle on the pink and white fence behind the crooked mail box in Louisiana.

There was a day in the summer when Joe and I were waiting for a train to come that Joe slowly started to cry. He was so sad, the weight of it pressing on my chest. So I sat with him, my hand on his shoulder, wishing I could know his thoughts and I cried too. When Joe laughed his whole body contracted and wiggled, his mouth open wide, mostly silent.

The Railroad Spike Carrier

Materials Used (The Railroad Spike Carrier)

Salvaged Materials:

Chipboard and other wood from waterfall house: cottonwood, ash, maple, hickory, and poplar.

Red wood from alleyway, railroad spikes, metal arche clamps, thin pine wood scraps.

Additional Materials:

Cone 03 ceramic, papercrete, screws, dowels, washers, bolts, nails, latex paint, paste wax, polystyrene foam, gesso, joint compound.

The Bucket Rack

The Coat Hook

Materials Used (The Bucket Rack)

Salvaged Materials:

Old oak fire door, cedar posts, 2x4 wood, tin cans, old curtain

rod holder, multicolored foam, wood wedge/shim, paint

brushes, sand.


Additional Materials:

One-shot enamel, steel wire, dowels, screws, nails, latex paint,

shellac, fine art hanging hardware, rivets, pickling wood stain. 

Materials Used (The Coat Hook)

Salvaged Materials:

Cardboard, wood chunk left over from a friend’s light post

project, cardboard tube, pop cans, metal hook.


Additional Materials:

Latex paint, polystyrene foam, gesso, joint compound, yellow

duct tape, one-shot enamel, screws. 

The Paintbrush Holder

Materials Used (The Paint Brush Holder)

Salvaged Materials:

Chipboard and other wood from waterfall house: cottonwood, ash, maple, hickory, and poplar.

Red wood from alleyway, rusty metal rectangular tube, cardboard, 2x4 wood, paint brush, pinch clamps, vent cover.


Additional Materials:

Concrete, screws, dowels, washers, bolts, nails, latex paint, paste wax, polystyrene foam, gesso, joint compound, ¼ steel rod, hinges. 

Ceramic Closed Volumes

Wall Assemblages

Materials Used (Wall Assemblages)

Salvaged Materials:

Beetle kill walnut, cardboard, plywood, 2x4 and other wood scraps, chipboard, wood siding pieces, wire grid mesh.

Additional Materials:

Steel wire, cardboard, latex paint, patterned craft paper, blue tape, screws, washers, acrylic paint, paste wax, cone 5 ceramic, bolt,

steel wire, one-shot enamel, nails, nut.