I view my work as an affirmation of the power of the natural world over us. This is critical in understanding my work, which, as you will see, is not hard to understand in any traditional reason leading way. It’s an odd thing to make this separation between us, humans, and the natural world, a false distinction, but I do so strictly to make a point, which is that my work expresses our lack of control and dominion over the natural world. I cannot emphasize how central this is to my purpose as an artist. I do not want a tightly stretched canvas with neat, crisp corners, taped off sides, firmly painted lines etc all affirming to us the lie that we are in control. That is the oldest practice and purpose of traditional Western art. I reject that whole cloth. I want my work to tell the viewer that they are of the natural world, beautiful, alive, conscious, a miracle within this world but also inseparable from it, indistinct, not above it or in control of it; I am saying that we are meant to decay and rot and succumb to nature, no differently than a tree, or a piece of paper or discarded gum on the sidewalk. We will rot and go away. To be clear: I am saying that we are remarkable creatures and yet we are also remarkably not. I am both questioning our primacy and affirming our sense of emotional value: we feel like the center of everything, and that matters to us and should matter, but it is also false. I am asking for a deep sense of humility from the viewer.
I want to knock the stature of the human down from its absurd sense of dominion over everything so that we may be more truthfully dignified as creatures, not as crazy eyed self-obsessed gods, which we are not; I want to shine light on the truth of our consciousness, the frailty of it, and say loudly that our entire conscious being is perhaps no more stable, no more penetrable, no less vulnerable and no more important, ultimately, then, say, the stem of a leaf. I want to expose this difficult possibility as a contradiction to what we feel. This is why I juxtapose images and I juxtapose emotions. This is why sometimes I stretch my work on canvas, produce video installations and make large artworks on raw tear-away stabilizer sewn together like wounds on a body. I want us to feel confused, because that is our truth; we are creatures that seek meaning where it cannot be found. We are a being in pain from beginning to end. I visually represent this contrast in truths, the knowing and the not knowing, and I do this in the presentation of intricate time consuming detail in the embroidery and the torn edges of the support, its mishapenness, a string hanging like a haphazard suture in the midst of war, a simple line from a marker bleeding at the edge of the artwork, unattended, uncared for.
There is another theme running through my work related to how it is presented and that theme is the underlying requisite violence of empire, the “constant war” as I call it. This underlying violence is in itself, by its very project as a thing at all, a constant war that we are in, subjugated to it by the powers that be, torn apart, as we are, by it, “sewn” back together through or hand wringing, our tears, our funeral processions; this is the very fuel of empire; this is what I want us to feel deeply and unequivocally; I want that feeling to be deeply unsettling and seemingly disempowering so that we may find a new kind of power. That kind of project, as an artist, in my view, cannot be a neat or pretty thing, at least not in the traditional sense of a canvas. I lean deeply on someone like Leon Golub in this respect who opened my eyes to the possibility and the early work of Kerry James Marshall. This is not a tidy project that I present as an artist, not clean and clear and well put together like a beautifully stretched or ornately framed painting. Those artworks glare at me like lies while the violence of empire lives in the background, in the leaves, in the dirt, in the corners of the gallery floor, in the shuffling exhausted feet of the museum guards, in the apparent accidents; violence and corruption are part and parcel of empire itself, fully integrated and insidious, everywhere. I want to tear at that truth.
I am here to say: We are not greater than nature. In the end, this is all complex and messy and confusing. Human agreements are all conjured out of thin air and can only be understood honestly at a deeply emotional, arguably subconscious level. This is why I don’t over intellectualize my work. This is why I don’t rely on linguistic meaning, signals, or overt allegory. I don’t make puzzles. I make things that I hope can only be navigated with the heart, the soul, something pre or post cognitive, something channeled from deep within our animal spirit, from a physical history that has emerged into each of our cells in this particular moment in time over thousands and thousands of years. The only political message I have to humanity would be: feel more. We will not be able to use technology to solve our problem, the basic human problem: which is our quest for meaning. No other problem exists. And this problem cannot be solved rationally. This is the only real human precipice we have ever stood on and it is entirely emotional, entirely psychological, to use the rational term we can understand with the tiny usage of our brain we tend to employ. Technology cannot solve those matters, but it can certainly make them worse, far worse. We have arrived at this moment in time, at this precipice because of far too many stretched canvases in my view, and we will stay stuck here and we will most certainly die here, sapiens, if we do not wake something else up entirely that lies within us. Like leaves we will fall and rot and it will all go entirely unnoticed, and all the well stretched, neatly framed canvases will waste away, burnt by the sun. I hold onto nothing with my work. They are like skin to me, to be read with the heart, unknowable as are the lines in our hands, which will someday cease to be.