Relief Sculptures, p. 1
An ongoing series of painted wall reliefs derived from natural forms.
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My painted wall reliefs explore the boundaries between categories, which is where the possibility for transformation comes into being. In these transition zones, traditional dichotomies dissolve between painting and sculpture, plant and animal, organic and inorganic, human and non-human. I foster paradoxes, seeking the precise point at which something is both familiar and strange, straightforward but mysterious, playful yet unsettling, cartoony while elegant. I also seek to blur the boundary between object and observer: these artworks are not illustrations of nature, but actively involve the viewers in a dynamic process of discovery, in which they are put in touch with their own creativity as they develop a personal intepretation of what they see.
My source materials include direct observation of plants and animals and antique scientific illustrations of biological forms. I keep a photo album with dozens of pictures taken at zoos, aquariums and botanical gardens of curious details that have caught my eye. These forms are reworked into new morphologies at once reminiscent of lifeforms, but unfamiliar, in that they cannot be readily identified or named. They suggest the hybrid creatures of ancient mythology or unfamiliar organisms, like the strange fauna found in rainforest canopies or deep in the ocean. My creative process is also influenced by recent scientific developments in chaos theory, evolutionary biology and genetic engineering. Chaos theory looks at complex natural phenomena as diverse as the configuration of coastlines, the branching of tree limbs or blood vessels, and the formation of clouds, and finds that while such systems proceed according to general rules, they are never entirely predictable owing to a myriad subtle influence. Advances in science have heightened our awareness that evolution is constant, that stability is an illusion, and that the reality we live in is being replaced from moment to moment.
The process of realizing these works in three-dimensional form begins with sculpting the pieces in plasticine, a non-drying clay. Chaos theory is an apt analogy to my creative process-while I start with a general configuration, the piece proceeds spontaneously and unpredictably as I add and remove clay in my search for the enigmatic zone where it takes on a form that looks both surprising and inevitable. I then make polyurethane molds and cast them in a material called Forton MG, a polymer-modified gypsum compound strengthened with fiberglass strands, which dries to a stone-like finish. Forton is neither fragile nor brittle; it is durable enough to be placed outdoors. I paint the casts in oils mixed with cold wax medium, alert to how the color choices reinterpret the form. The casting process allows me to make multiples, which take on distinct personalities depending on how they are painted. In the series of four works based on the seasons of the year, I bent the mold for three of them so that the resulting casts curve away from the wall in different ways.