|ves·sel (vès¹el) noun
Artist Statement *
At 19 I knew what I wanted to be. I dropped out of art school and went to work full time at MacDonald's, because I was going to be a rock-and-roll star. Thirty years later, I'm back in art school.
In late 1996 I stood in a gallery in Attleboro, Massachusetts, looking at a series of work that baffled me. Art was, to me at the time, techniques, materials and concepts I would never understand. But here was something different - a series of wall-hung constructions made out of leftover building materials. Strips of plywood and chunks of two by fours, roughly cut and unfinished, were held together by nails and screws. They were priced in the thousands of dollars. Compositionally, I now know, they were excellent. But at the time, it was just a bunch of scrap wood hung on the wall. I felt insulted. How dare the artist call this art and ask so much money for it?
I've done a lot of different things in my life and worked at a lot of unsatisfying jobs. Through it all, I retained a drive for creativity and a love of wood. In 1995, I began to make small furniture items, learning by trial and error. In 1997, inspired by that scrap-wood art, I began a series of conceptually based art furniture; 10 related pieces collectively titled Time Tables. These have been included in a fair number of shows and even a solo show. By 1999, I felt I'd reached the limits of what I could reasonably teach myself. If I was serious about wanting to make art my main occupation, I was going to need real instruction. When I came to the Oregon College of Art & Craft, my goal was to learn better furniture-making techniques, so that after graduation I could open a small high-end furniture shop. During my time here, as I learned more about art history, design and concept, my interest changed. The more I've learned about form and content, the further I've gone from function.
I've always been interested in boats, airplanes and zeppelins, graceful things that take you from one place to another. It's the structure that fascinates me the most, the delicate framework underneath the skin. I've come to see these forms in terms of vessel. Vessels hold things, physically and conceptually. They transport things from one place to another, from one state of mind to another.
In the spring of 2001, I made my first boat. It is a reliquary, and although it has a cloth skin, the underlying structure is evident. Each form is created with a series of more or less parallel wood bulkheads, over which are bent wooden strips that are perpendicular to the bulkheads. The resulting form is open, yet creates an overall shape with an implied surface. The forms have volume and presence, yet are not bulky. That idea fascinates me. If you step inside a skeletal structure, can you truly say that you are contained within that structure, when there is so much open space around you?
I started to fill my sketchbook with possibilities. I began finding ways to use disparate class projects to explore this structural theme. The windmill model I made for an art history class uses this type of structure, as does A Clock for Quixote, the student commission piece for the college's fund-raising auction. My chest of drawers is an upright boat form with drawers between the bulkheads, and my chair design is a boat form bent in the middle.
I like old things. To me, there is an authority that is conferred on an object that has been around for 100 years. Using methods of surface treatment learned here at OCAC, I make my work look old - as if from some ancient culture we haven't yet come across.
For my thesis work, I plan a series of sculptures that explore this structure and the concept of the vessel. I have five major pieces in mind, as well as models for other works. The pieces will explore the ideas of conveyance through air, land, sea, the mind and the body. As well as wood, I plan to use metals, fibers and glass, along with photographic and etching techniques in these pieces. My intention is that they will work on both formal and conceptual levels: beautiful vessels that hold ideas.
|* Note: this Artist's Statement was prepared for my Pre-Thesis Review.|
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