Parenthood provokes a heightened awareness of every moment, motivating a shift in the content of my work to emphasize my family’s culpability in consumption. The lasting impact of waste is illustrated through imagery featuring my children as stand-ins for humanity’s impulsive, short-sighted nature. My creative practice has evolved to include greener, thriftier practices to reduce impact, and to model behaviors for a more sustainable future.
Recent work expresses the pride, anxiety, and comfort family provides. The pandemic—paired with a new baby born weeks premature—reinforced a desire to hunker down till viral and political storms pass. At the same time, our growing family strengthened my resolve that the best way to assure happy, healthy kids is to create bonds with and promote an equitable future for neighbors, community, and society at large. I reject the trope “good fences make good neighbors”, preferring a literal and metaphorical neighborhood that respects privacy but rejects partitions that make it easy to abstract and dehumanize the folks on the other side.
Keep Up/Keep Out is the central dichotomy of the United States today. We are conditioned to strive for material success, hoarding our things while hiding ourselves behind baroque walls, carefully contrived avatars, and confident public personas. The McMansion is useful as a symbol of conspicuous consumption and a fortress of solitude, no matter how tight knit the cul-de-sac. Keep Up sounds like an invitation but creates castes as folks fall behind. Keep Out implies isolation and aggression, though in the age of social media and social distancing it is also a phrase of resilience. This work protests and challenges the strictures of a prevalent, restrictive world view in the hopes that we can tear down those good fences to become good neighbors.
To that end, community engagement and curatorial efforts are a crucial part of my creative practice. My partner and I work together in teaching public workshops, organizing exhibitions, and creating matrices and goods for social advocacy like service to area BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ organizations. We see these endeavors as ways to serve our neighbors, providing our skills as a conduit for their voices, or teaching creative tools to help others make themselves seen and heard in a new way. The Keep Up and Keep Out protest flags, for example, were produced in a community print and fiber workshop that generated a collaborative protest banner exhibition. For most participants the workshop was their first experience in printmaking, sewing, and their first exhibition.
Contemporary theory and techniques, including craft and post-digital approaches, are incorporated with established printmaking processes in my studio practice to create work that is at once linked with the present and the past. In this way, my creative work parallels my interest in evolution and natural history, with drawing as the foundational bedrock that synthesizes experience and excavates ideas from a primordial aggregate. Compositions and motifs occasionally nod toward art historical precedents, while loud colors, and new-fangled techniques place the work firmly in the contemporary milieu. Relief printing on alternative upcycled substrates, lithography using more sustainable materials, and digitally informed execution in a variety of media are but a few generations in my recent evolution. My recent position running a letterpress space and access to a recently compiled maker’s space allows exploration of new modes of production like 3D printing, laser engravers, and risograph. This summer, I will begin to make paper from fabric and paper scraps left over from previous projects to reduce the environmental impact of print practices. I will also investigate creating my own inks using printable pigments derived from sustainable plant sources. These research endeavors will further efforts to reduce my impact, leaving less mess for my neighbors, while connecting to printmaking’s roots.
The collaborations offered here use the nuclear family and consumption of natural resources as complementary metaphors. Domestic bliss, as celebrated in America, is reliant on outmoded, gendered roles and division of labor. Methods of extraction, manufacturing, and consumption of resources are equally tired and inefficient. The warmth and comfort gained through old modes is potentially volatile and wholly unsustainable. To extend the theme, the day-to-day labor of child-rearing, and new mouths to feed, means a bigger mess to clean up. My work is often executed using craft methods and repurposed remnants from the home, reinforcing the domestic metaphor, while thwarting our baser instincts toward quick consumption. The trash and packaging materials that compose Leftovers and Remains—compiled and donated by university art programs in the exhibition host communities—highlight our collective unintended environmental impact, its hidden costs in resources and labor, and the lasting consequences on the landscape. Crocheted pieces incorporate proofs on fabric, used clothes and linens from our home, our friends and family, and even strangers. The resulting Footprints document the detritus of our shared lives, literally linking the contributors together, emphasizing our shared history and considered future. The conservation employed in these projects, and throughout my work, challenges the “everyone for themselves” mindset, instead promoting a practice that ensures there are resources for all and messes for no one in the neighborhood.