cabinet door, sign letters, acrylic
“Reconfiguration” was specifically created as a fundraising donation to the Habitat for Humanity of Northeast Michigan. It was created from objects found in the Habitat for Humanity ReStore. A discarded cabinet door provided the substrate for collage material as well as an integrated frame. Used, exterior sign letters were selected to spell out “Habitat for Humanity,” then cut up into one inch squares. The squares were reconfigured into an abstract formation using predetermined rules based upon both order and chaos.
A Field Guide to the Button Kingdom
wood, thread, cross-stitch material, vintage buttons, acrylic
“Let’s recognize the unity in diversity and the one(ness) in the many.” —Lama Surya Das
“A Field Guide to the Button Kingdom" is a loose interpretation of the Quaker beliefs and ideals of American folk painter Edward Hicks as seen in his painting “The Peaceable Kingdom." Hicks began his career as a distinguished religious minister but ultimately chose to express his beliefs through his paintings. The Inner Light doctrine as preached by the Quakers, is depicted in Hicks’ paintings as a breaking down of physical barriers so that everyone can live and work together in peace and harmony. In other words, Hicks believed that there was no difference between all species of animals, humans included. I interpret this belief as oneness and interconnection as seen in Buddhism and Taoism. After recently inheriting my mother’s vintage button collection, I immediately noticed the variety of buttons, each with their differing color, size, shape, material, texture, and decoration. However, all of the buttons were kept together in one tin container. As an avid birdwatcher, I regularly use a field guide to help identify different species of birds all of which appear in one book. Therefore, “A Field Guide to the Button Kingdom” fuses the idea of oneness and diversity while providing the viewer with a contemplative experience focused on paying close attention to the details of each button. The composition of all 484 buttons was determined by a random number generator, and each button was presented equally within the center of a 1” square grid.
found wood, foam, soil, acrylic
Under certain weather conditions, a natural process occurs that allows water crystals to generate patterns of frost on a window pane. The process is an example of emergence. Similarly, in “Emergent Enso," an enso form breaks through an encrusted soil surface leaving a natural pattern of black stains. The density, directional flow and resultant shape of these stains emerge from an amalgam of certain conditions, for example, soil topography, concentration of black pigment and number of pigment applications. Opening to this type of random, formal aesthetic is a way of “letting go," allowing shapes to emerge naturally, and embracing them just as they are.
Rope or Snake
found wood, rope, string, rust, acrylic
The Snake Rope story is a key Buddhist teaching on ignorance. It reveals that once we see things as they are (for example, when a rope is not a snake, but a rope), our suffering may cease. The wisdom gained from this realization allows us to live fearlessly, without illusion.
Slice of a Zen Garden
found wood, rope, bamboo, sand, stone, string, acrylic
The triangular, pie-slice shape of this work was informed by the angles in a found piece of wood from an old chair. The gentle arc of the chair back combined with the focal point of the triangle's apex, suggests a slice of a Zen dry garden. This slice may be seen as a contemplative moment in a monk's daily routine of raking sand around a stone.
found wood, acrylic
The primary material in “Alternating Grain" is a piece of weathered plywood that was found in the desert of Nevada. The highly accentuated grain texture follows a strong, unidirectional path. When the wood was cut into squares and arranged in an alternating grid form, the opposing directional forces were equalized. The arrangement suggests that at the core of dualism lies a non-dual middle zone.
Form is Emptiness/Emptiness is Form
found wood, soil, glass, piano keys, acrylic
“Form is Emptiness/Emptiness is Form" refers to a popular Buddhist teaching called the Heart Sutra. It explains that all phenomena are fundamentally empty of form, feeling, volition, perception, and consciousness. In this work, black is white and white is black, creating a non-dual relationship of interconnection. For example, a shadow cannot exist without light. The yin/yang symbol of Taoism is also referenced.
Enso of Samsara
found wood, foam, soil, glass, hardware, acrylic
The enso is a circular, Japanese calligraphic brush stroke often used by monks as a form of meditation in action. The black and white forms in “Enso of Samsara" are coated in dirt, referencing the cyclic nature of all things, while echoing the cyclic, directional energy of the enso. Samsara is a cycle of suffering through life, death, and rebirth. This suffering can be alleviated through the wisdom found in the Buddhist 4 Noble Truths, indicated by the four glass globes along the outer perimeter of the piece. The 4 Noble Truths are: 1) there is suffering; 2) there is a source of the suffering; 3) the suffering may cease; 4) there is a path to this cessation.
found wood and objects, acrylic, graphite
“Primordial Dot" references the following quote by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, a Tibetan Buddhist meditation master, and teacher: “We call it a dot because it occurs very abruptly in the situation, on the spot. If you are driving quite fast and you see an intersection up ahead, and you are uncertain which way to turn, at that point, there is a gap, and the dot occurs." At the center of the blackened circle lies a clear glass ball. This piece of glass represents the clear mind that exists within the gap or primordial dot.
This work is currently on display and available for purchase at Crooked Tree Art Center's Art Tree Sales Gallery. Contact the gallery HERE.
Goatsbeard: A Scrambled Side View
found wood and hardware, collage, acrylic
The fleeting beauty of natural processes is astounding. Goatsbeard (genus: Tragopogon) is a flowering plant from the sunflower family. During the seeding period, a puffball, similar to, but much larger than dandelions, is easily visible in the field. At one moment, it may be full of seeds, and in a gust of wind, they may all be gone, airborne. “Goatsbeard: A Scrambled Side View" is a response to experiencing this fleeting moment. When viewed directly from the front, this work appears all white, yet, once the viewer shifts to either side, a scrambled grid of green, Goatsbeard imagery is visible. This shift encourages us all to look more closely, so that we may deepen our perceptual awareness of the world.
“Goatsbeard" is dedicated to Bob Cruden, a botanist and entomologist at the University of Iowa and Iowa Lakeside Lab. As a mentor, his expertise helped to guide the scientific accuracy of this work.
found wood, screen, screws, acrylic
Alternation is a common theme used to explore non-duality, an elevated state of consciousness that transcends dichotomy. This awareness allows dual relationships such as I/other to dissolve and unify into one. The alternating pattern of screw slots collectively equalizes each other creating a visual example of non-duality.
found wood, nails, acrylic
“Nail Bed" refers to dukkha, the Sanskrit word for suffering. Dukkha acknowledges that, as humans, we experience a fundamental painfulness in our everyday lives. This form of suffering is outlined in the Buddhist Four Noble Truths. The repeating nail grid also introduces the notion of samsara, the Sanskrit word for continuing, cyclic change.
wood, nails, acrylic
“Nail Collection" brings together a wide variety of rust-coated roofing nails, presenting them scientifically, thus encouraging close examination. The interaction of the randomly arranged textures and color variations on the nail heads offers a mesmerizing and meditative visual experience. In this way, everyday objects are transformed into something precious and sacred.
Shiny/Dirty: An Impermanence Mantra
mixed media with found objects
Impermanence is a challenging subject that acknowledges everything is always changing. Nothing is permanent. Something new becoming old inevitably changes from something shiny to something dirty. “Shiny/Dirty: An Impermanence Mantra" originated from a dirty rag found in a desert arroyo. The orange-dotted grid pattern in contrast to the organic mud stains encouraged the comparison between shiny and new golden beads to a dirty and old discarded rag. The repetitive act of pinning beads to the dotted grid pattern is also akin to a visual form of mantra (a repetitive utterance used to aid in sacred practices).
Assorted Animal Oculi
found wood, hardware, glass, collage, acrylic, graphite
The visual stimulus for “Assorted Animal Oculi" was a collection of old science and nature books. The formal diversity of the images of animal eyes was astounding. This work brings together and celebrates this diversity while simultaneously unifying them through a shared 1" circle cropping. Equanimity, oneness, and interconnectedness are further illustrated through the arrangement of the tangent, circular eye images into a square grid structure.
Centric Diatom Collection
found wood, nails, collage, acrylic, graphite
“Centric Diatom Collection" was inspired by viewing living diatoms through a high-powered microscope. Diatoms are single-celled plants that are housed in a silicon shell. They display a golden color in a variety of symmetrical geometric forms, including perfect circles. This work presents the simplified form of centric diatoms into a pseudo-scientific grid structure based entirely on numerical randomness. The resultant composition relies on the order present in the chaos that can be seen throughout the natural world.
Knots: A Contemplation
wood, acrylic, rope
“Knots: A Contemplation" acknowledges that suffering is a part of being human. Each knot and its fray suggests this suffering and all of its associated messiness. Hence, the knots were tied as an act of meditative performance using a contemplative practice called “loving-kindness" or “maitri" in Sanskrit. The practice recognizes unconditional, all-inclusive love that begins with oneself and extends outward to one's enemies. The repetitive nature of this process can also be seen as a form of visual mantra.
Mending: A Contemplation
wood, acrylic, rope
“Mending: A Contemplation" uses the meditative act of loving-kindness practice as a performative, art-making process. Each two-stitch mend includes healing wishes for the artist in one stroke and others in the second. The others include family, friends, neutral relationships and even enemies. The subtle, alternating stitch pattern of each mend creates a non-dual middle zone, known to Buddhists as The Middle Way. The repetitive nature of this process can also be seen as a form of visual mantra.
108 Malas for 108 Kleshas
wood, rope, acrylic
“108 Malas for 108 Kleshas" presents 11,664 total knots tied into 108 rope lengths with 108 knots tied into each rope. The Buddhist mala contains 108 prayer beads and is commonly used to count repetitive mantra recitations, similar to the Christian rosary. There are 108 kleshas or mental states that cloud the mind and manifest unhealthy actions. The repetitive act of tying each knot or bead on a mala is an acknowledgment of the mental state for each klesha. In effect, it is a form of meditation that repeatedly confronts the challenges of our mental states in an attempt to attain greater clarity and wisdom. Therefore, during the process of tying the knots, boredom, groundlessness, fear, physical pain, doubt, agitation, and discouragement were openly embraced with courage and bravery.
Prairie Grass Collection
found wood and hardware, twine, prairie grass, acrylic
“Prairie Grass Collection" presents eight, wrapped clusters of grass that are held in place by old, rusted clamp hardware. The hardware is attached to an old hardwood drawer front; therefore, all materials are found or natural. This work is based on experiencing the vastness and grass height of the prairie for the first time. The towering presence of the grass, as well as the opportunity to closely observe its natural form, activates both subjective and objective responses.
A Beginner's Guide to the Animal Kingdom
found wood, hardware, collage, acrylic
“A Beginner's Guide to the Animal Kingdom" uses small engravings from an old science book's A to Z glossary of animal species. Each image was selectively cropped into a 1" circle, revealing each animal's most characteristic features. Then, each image was set into strips of cedar. The strips are arranged left to right from A to Z with all animals starting with an A appearing on the A strip and so on. Each strip hangs freely and can be removed from the support base. On the back of each strip of cedar is the particular animal's scientific name. As a result, the work is also a fun, interactive learning game. The length of each strip of cedar and its number of animals is representative of the frequency of animals starting with its corresponding letter.
found wood and other plant material, glass twine, acrylic
“Wetlands Collection" is composed of a variety of natural materials collected while kayaking. The silence and solitude experienced while alone on the water provides an opportunity for deep contemplation of the natural world. Perception is heightened by this activity and urges one to look closer at what may seem ordinary. The foundation of this work is a collection of deteriorating bulrushes cut into 1" pieces. The subtle textures, mottled patterning and bold color shifts of the bulrushes demand special attention and are, therefore, the central focus.
Wheel of Life
found wood and objects, acrylic
This work is based on a Tibetan Buddhist painting or thangka called “The Wheel of Life." It is often used to present the teachings of the Buddha concisely. With an extensive system of symbology, the painting depicts samsara, a cyclic state of suffering that occurs in existence. In this work, the thangka painting is loosely interpreted into an assemblage of found, 3-D objects. Some of the symbols represented here include grasping, karma, impermanence, and liberation.
found wood and objects, soil, acrylic
“Downward Gaze" is based on a contemplation of death. Contemplation is a form of meditation where the focus is placed on one's thoughts on a specific topic, thus promoting greater insight into that topic. A common and challenging contemplation is: “What is the nature of death?" The insight gained from this contemplation reveals the impermanence of life, therefore, provides a sense of urgency to live as fully as possible in the present moment.
Dora Maar: Lost at Sea
found wood, porcelain, human hair, acrylic
This work was created for the invitational exhibition “Channeling Picasso," curated by Sue Ann Round, director of the Michigan Artists Gallery in Traverse City, MI. For this exhibition, artists freely interpreted a painting by Pablo Picasso, entitled “Woman With Green Hat." My interpretation was initially motivated by the boat-like form of the green hat, combined with two found pieces of triangular plywood. Since the painting was created just after the beginning of WWII, the model, Dora Maar, displays a pensive expression with a mask-like appearance that suggests uncertainty, as if something is lost. These qualities are the primary inspiration for “Dora Maar: Lost at Sea."
This new work was created for the exhibitions “Practice, Rhythm and Ritual: Meditative Minimalism" and “Tinker, Tailor, Welder, Weaver: The Art of Assemblage" at Crooked Tree Arts Center in Traverse City and Petoskey, MI.
Crooked Tree Arts Center +
Much of this work was supported by Iowa Lakeside Lab in Milford, IA where I was an artist-in-residence during the summer of 2017.
Iowa Lakeside Lab +