How did you get interested in working with the materials you use?
I attended Knox College in Galesburg, IL, which is very similar to Augsburg. I took a ceramics class to fulfill a fine arts requirement and was hooked on the vast potential of clay. It can be made to record every gesture of the hand or none at all. Clay acts as a conceptual springboard that I then translate into other materials: wood, polystyrene foam, and vinyl in the case of the “Flow Chart” series.
There are almost no sharp edges in your work and a good deal of repetition. What is the purpose of this?
The bubble represents an endless source of new variations and themes emanating from the same form. I would say there’s an obsessiveness in wanting to explore every possibility within a fairly limited formal framework. There’s a tension in that uniformity of visual language that looks digitally or mass-produced, but you’ll see that no form is repeated exactly the same way twice. The work is modular, kit-based, like a set of Legos in that it can be assembled an infinite number of ways from a finite number of parts.
In one instance you describe your work as both comforting and cloying, sincere and cynical. Describe how these opposites are broadcasted in your work.
I’d compare the viewing experience of my work to a tropical cruise or a trip to the candy store: colorful, energizing, and artificial. Tropical cruises and candy are wonderful treats, but eventually you need to return to something more substantial. The work offers a statement on both the benefits and limitations of escaping from reality.
What would you like your viewer to walk away with when leaving your exhibit?
If the work offers a bit of respite and visual nourishment during their day, I think I’ve been successful.
What have the reactions to your installation work been so far?
Visitors usually say that the work brightens their day and gives them a boost of energy. It really is like an endorphin rush.
Have you ever thought of designing a pinball machine or video game based on your installations?
I reference a great deal of pinball machines and video games when I speak about my work. It would be great to collaborate with someone to make that influence flow in the other direction.
Do you consider your work to be a landscape?
The work strives to be an immersive environment to navigate and take refuge in, essentially the real world run through an extreme aesthetic filter. This environment comprised solely of circles and straight lines is utopian and authoritarian in nature; one absent of any visual language that cannot follow these rules. Lately I’ve added interactive elements to the environments, engaging viewers in a physical dialogue with the work rather than just a visual one.
What things from today’s digital culture inspire you?
I’m heartened by the renaissance of pixel-graphics, particularly in the indie game scene. The mosaic-like visual language of the pixel began to fade as the hardware pushed digital imagery toward polygonal graphics, so it’s great to see that pixel art still has a lot of potential to be mined. I’m also fascinated by the ways that vast amounts of data are streamlined into visually comprehensible and often quite beautiful imagery. Data visualization is one of the best examples of synergy between the visual arts and the sciences that I can think of in today’s world.
Questions by Gallery Intern Megan Bartylla