This is an excerpt from a question and answer about the show "Diaphaneity" that I did with Platform Gallery director Stephen Lyons:
Diaphaneity refers to the degree to which a material interacts with light. How did you come to choose this as a title for this exhibition?
The image that best describes diaphaneity in my mind is the act of holding a shirt that has become threadbare to a light and the manner in which the light shows through the fibers. To me it tells of a state of decrepitude. Standing inside an old structure such as a barn, on a sunny day, observing the light pouring through the bare timbers, you can say the structure has taken on this diaphanous quality. If I might take a latitude with the word, I could also say that memory itself becomes diaphanous, because it does not retain everything, but rather only the most pertinent information. The large barn is about memory for me, it is an image from as far back as I can remember and it is not airtight, like distant memory.
Your work in the past has referred mainly to the landscape or nature while this body of work relates directly to structures made by people, specifically people who work the land. Talk a little bit about how you made this leap.
I find everything about the landscape interesting- and that includes human endeavors. A grain silo standing out in an open prairie has a significant interaction with the landscape- it has an impact and it influences how we are apt to observe that environment. The structures become that landscape and how I come to recall it in my minds eye.
The objects in this exhibition share a bit of the reference to minimalism that the landscape-oriented work has, but there is a mixture of humor and sadness in this work. Is this intentional and if so how did you come to this expression?
All the pieces in this show relate in that they are symbols for various stages of life. The fact that they are agricultural stems from the fact that they are images from the geographical locale I grew up in and have become an essential element in my visual language. The stages and elements of life the pieces represent for example are age and decrepitude, youth and vitality, hope and guarantees against the uncertainties of the future, memory , humor and sadness. They are all intentional and I think I've come to these expressions by long hours at the wheel, driving through areas that are rife with these sights. Somehow life becomes very tenuous in rural areas- more so now days with the advent of large corporate farms swallowing up the little ones. I see one of these small farms and wonder how the hell they make it with so many variables working against them. In this sense, the farms, structures, silos etc, become symbols of the greater joys and struggles of life.
In the grain elevator series, the objects grow from small to large. Can you talk about the reference to abundance and storage as it relates to the actual scale of these objects?
Grain elevators are interesting idea- because they come to represent the combined hopes of many. The silos are a central hub, located next to a railroad, drawing in all the fruits of labor in that region. They also represent to me , stockpiling against the uncertainties of the future. The farmer starts out with seeds, dirt and hard work and if all goes well, ends up with a shipment of wheat come harvest. The wheat mixes cooperatively in the silos, then shipped by boxcar to larger places, such as the grain elevators along the Seattle waterfront near Myrtle Edwards park. From there they may be loaded into container ships and sent Asia or wind up in our cupboards as pasta or bread. The point is, it's always bigger,bigger, but the idea stays the same- farming wheat is a wonderful symbol: taking a perishable grain and creating containable goods that may counteract instabilities on the horizon.
The large barn has as much non-materiality as it does materiality?that is the spaces between the slats equal the space of the slats themselves. What are you working with in terms of presence and absence in this piece?
Part of the reason I am suspending the barn is because I want people to be able to see the framing inside. The other part of that reason is the barn is about memory- and what an ephemeral thing that is. As I said previously, the memory has holes in it, it is diaphanous. Some of the information passes through and the most colorful stuff stays, forming the structure of your memory. Memory as well, is not tangible and is certainly not permanent- it floats out there somewhere, available for random access, but by no means tethered to the ground. Formally speaking, I do enjoy the way the piece is made up of air as much as wood. It was my intention to give the piece a certain mass while retaining an appearance of weightlessness.
The wobbly barns feel solid and substantial. What gives them their wobble?
The wobbly barns are like studies. Their lurch and wobble is wholly dependent upon their lines. They are somewhat like my drawings in that the bold, simple line defines their essence and that's it. Originally, they didn't have the roofing on them, but I tried it out on one of the barns and it lent an air of authenticity to the general decrepitude.
In past work, you've both presented objects as natural wood and objects painted so they look completely unnatural. What is the significance for you of this and how did you decide whether or not to alter the surfaces of the objects in this exhibition?
With this body of work, the imagery is so specific, that I decided that color would become too forefront and somehow influence the idea. With my landscape work, I have sort of an ambient-intuitiveness that guides me in coloration- more and more however, I am wanting the different species of the woods to have the biggest say in tone. Choosing different species is also guided conceptually. For this show I chose poplar predominantly because of its neutral and austere qualities.