Tell me a bit about yourself. (a quick history/bio, where are you from?, what's your backstory?, how did you get to BFP?, etc.)
I was born in South Florida and grew up in a small town that was being developed out of a swamp. My family didn't have a computer (and internet wasn't around yet) during my childhood, so I spent a lot of my free time exploring outside, drawing cartoons, and creating things. As a kid, my dream job was to work with animals and be a Disney animator, and that was my goal until half way through high school. When Toy Story was released I was completely infatuated with the movie, but also recognized that the traditional execution of animation was never going to be the same again.
I moved to New York and attended school at Cooper Union. I spent my time there experimenting and reevaluating what my next step would be. I began collecting natural history items, and by the time I graduated I had a collection of several hundred different animal skulls. I taught myself how to clean and articulate complete skeletons as a hobby, and this skill led me to work as a medical illustrator and creating museum level fabrications and displays.
I moved back to Florida for four years, where I was an artist in residence teaching A.P. drawing at the same art school I attended. I returned to NY, and spent a few years focusing and eventually revisiting and combining previous practices. I converted a spare bedroom out of my apartment into a studio, but quickly outgrew the space and found my current workspace through a friend. Currently, the walls in my studio are covered with canvases mixed with skeletons and taxidermy taking residence on the floor.
Can you describe your work? What do you do? What's your process?
In my work, I create a catalog of pieces that are characterized and defined by how they are preserved or paused in a specific moment. The works' narrative is captured in purgatory between the history of the previous existence and the interpretation of the current state.
In my head I am always referencing my shared interests of being enlightened and challenged with trivial facts and entertained through immersive stories and visuals. There is an aspect of showmanship that helps to ground both worlds individually and together. This also gives me the freedom to play around with accuracy versus fantasy and abstraction versus figuration.
My process and vehicle currently involves painting and sculpture work. My painting is a continuation and evolution from a series I began over ten years ago titled "Phylum of Paint," where I built up forms that were reminiscent of a Rorschach test. The paintings reflected a lot of the natural forms in the environment I was surrounded by at that time. They had an entomological feel to them that was made more direct by the decision to frame them. My current painting still utilizes the frame, but is now incorporated as a part of the piece instead of an accent. The rectangle frame balances the rings and organic forms, as well as containing the forms within the composition. This parallels the connection of a tv screen and mounted display.
In my sculptural pieces I like to brainstorm and think of the weird dioramas and models you would find in a museum if physics, accuracy, and value were not considered. They belong in the same world as my paintings and involve the same process, but incorporate a structure that once spent a lifetime fulfilling another purpose. I acquire animal skeletons from different ethical sources (usually zoo casualties), articulate them in positions just a few degrees out of accuracy and rebuild the muscular structure accordingly. The process is known as écorché and is traditionally a subtractive process and aid for artist, but this process is put in reverse over the real bones of the animal. Using the real skeletons instead of a cast is important in my process, as the completed piece becomes a retrofitted reliquary for the previous life of animal.
What artists do you think about most / what artists are you looking at?
One of the most rewarding aspects of being an artist is the opportunity to incorporate research, observation, experimentation, and study into your practice. I am constantly online, checking out shows in museums and galleries, squatting in bookstores, visiting studios, asking questions and being introduced to new work or rediscovering old.
I can easily write a hundred pages about all the artists I think about daily, but for the sake of time and space I'm going to just mention the artists in my browser from the last month, as well as inspirations and current books I read.
Ernst Haeckel, John James Audobon, Walton Ford, David Hockney, Kiki Smith, Red Grooms, Marc Davis, Chuck Jones, Neil Jenny, Carl Akeley, Honore Fragonard, Juilie Mehretu, Matthew Ritchie, Chris Ofili, Auguste Rodin, Elizabeth Murray, Robert Rauschenberg, Mary Blair, Walter Potter, plastination, dioramas, hand painted animation cells, shadow boxes, reverse glass silhouette painting, the Ware Collection of Blashka glass models of plants, and finally books are Kingdom Under Glass by Jay Kirk, Savage Harvest by Carl Hoffman, Gardner Heist by Ulrich Boser, Amusing The Millions by John F. Kasson, and Still Life: adventures in taxidermy by Melissa Milgrom.
What advice would you give to other artists?
Keep believing in yourself and sharing.