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