2014 STATEMENT: I come to art via a mechanical engineering degree, as an avid reader of science fiction and fantasy, and with a baby boomer’s need to be different. Technique comes easily to me, but not necessarily ‘fine art’ technique. Until recently, I spent most of my art energy making jewelry. However, the objects on display here are a new departure and derive from two inspirations. The first was looking for an inexpensive and expressive construction media and deciding on paper. The second was living in a small corporate apartment in Houston for a one year job assignment and overlapping two Mexican Day of the Dead celebrations. The paper was intended to be used for an ear ring background, which is then finished with a pearl and a post. The goal being to make some jewelry which was inexpensive and easy so that I could give it away without burning out or going broke. The idea of molding paper to other shapes came from seeing silicone candy molds in cooking stores and success here led to custom molds of people, animals, and simple shapes sculpted with molding clay and other materials. The molding process fit well with my lifestyle in Houston. Before each business trip, I could make a new batch of paper, fill the molds, and they would be dry when I returned. My blender-made paper was pretty lumpy and this made the objects quite interestingly heterogeneous. My fiber source is mainly Maine hardwood cellulose stock from a friend of mine but I have also tried adding things like dryer lint. . After my year in Houston, I had accumulated about 200 objects, as well as lots of found and recycled things and decided to try making some decorated crosses. Decorated crosses are a common Day of the Dead theme, tie in nicely to psychological and philosophical enquiry, and also tie into the very rich history of religious art. This is a slight departure from Day of the Dead themes, where art is used mainly to remember family and loved ones. Other formats which lend themselves to this type of construction include shadow boxes, table top sculptures, and wall art.
2015 ARTIST STATEMENT: I was born and schooled in Detroit, living near Greenfield and Grand River on the west side. My work career has been mostly automotive related and we moved around quite a bit as I changed jobs (Indiana, Massachusetts, New York, Illinois, Tennessee). Throughout my working time, I made jewelry and small sculptures, mainly as presents. Now that I am retired, I have more time for larger pieces, series of pieces, and a wider range of themes and materials. I approach art through the mechanical, process side, combined with an active imagination. The first question I ask is ‘how is something made’, then I ask ‘how can I make it myself’, and finally ‘how can I make it interesting or unusual’? Materials I am working with include cast paper, resins, cast metals, wood, found objects, and metal sheet and wire. I like religious symbolism in art because there is such a rich history of belief and controversy surrounding religion and because of the rich history of religious related art. Inspirations include thinking about and adjusting to retirement (what am I going to do when I grow up?), and being diagnosed with and successfully treated for cancer in 2014. Lots of dreams; lost, emerging, or continuing to think about. And the challenges never end!
Shopper News interview, 1/14/2016
1. In one of your bios, you say you are a retired mechanical engineer. How did art become a part of your life? Were you creative as a child? I always liked art and science and was good at both and took classes in both during high school. When I graduated, I decided that science should be a career and art a hobby.
2. How do you select the theme for your pieces? I have perhaps a somewhat unusual way of looking at things, maybe a combination of edgy, macabre, and whimsical. I am interested in the big questions of life but in a less serious way. I like religious art because of its history, richness, and sometimes its controversy. I also like science fiction and fantasy. I generally get an idea, which could come from another piece of art (as my day of dead crosses), from submission requirements for a show (biscuit festival for example), or from acquiring interesting items to form art around (such as skulls or bones).
3. Did you experiment with other materials prior to choosing your current media? I like a folk art style and a mixed media style and combine various materials such as my handmade paper objects, wood, metal, glass, plastic, beads, and various found objects.
4. How much time per day would you say you work on your art? I tend to go in spurts as ideas or deadlines move me. If I am going strong, I can easily spend 8 hour days for a week, but I also have weeks or months of inactivity in between.
5. What would you tell someone else who was considering the switch from the workforce to the art world? Were you active in art prior to retiring from your position in mechanical engineering? I didn’t really switch to the art world, but rather retired into it. This means that I am not trying to make a living from it and can relax and let things develop without worrying about success or sales.
6. You said you have been actively pursuing art for two years … how many shows have you participated in during that time? How did you “break into” the art world/community, both locally and nationally? In Knoxville, it is easy to break into the art world by joining the artist alliance and by participating in local juried shows. I generally participate in all local free shows. Knoxville has many great opportunities to show art, but I am not yet sure how many opportunities there are to sell art. I have also begun donating appropriate pieces to charity venues that auction them off. This way, I hope to get better known.
JUNE 2018 STATEMENT
A good friend of mine once ask me if I thought my cancer would kill me. I thought about this and said, ‘No, I never thought it would kill me’. Then I thought a little more and said, ‘But if it did, then I could move on to the next big thing, whatever that might be’.
OCTOBER 2019 ARTIST STATEMENT
I became interested in paper several years ago as a way to make low cost, light weight jewelry. Progressing from there, I started making folk style art using handmade paper (as in my show last year, “The Alphabet Series”). My early paper making was crude and made in a blender. As I read more, I became interested in the equipment and science of papermaking and decided to set up a ‘real’ studio. As a retired engineer, I was able to understand the science and construct my own equipment. Currently my normal sized paper is 11” x 17”, but larger sizes are just a few pieces of equipment away. After a year of construction and redesign, I now have a complete paper studio with a Hollander beater, molds and deckles, a press, a drying box, and a vacuum table.
I have attended two papermaking classes (in Cleveland, OH and Brooklyn, NY) which I found to be very useful because I was able to observe and practice techniques I had read about and to ‘bring them home’ for my own use. I have visited several artist studios and paper mills in Vermont, Massachusetts, and Holland and several artist studios. I also have acquired a rather extensive library of books covering commercial papermaking and art papermaking. I now have a taste of what a paper maker is, or the range of what a paper maker might be. I have met others who are fine artists, who make books or prints, who sell finished paper sheets to others, or who collaborate with others to help them realize their art in paper. Still to be done is 3-dimensional paper techniques, so watch for another show in 2020.
My goal with this show is, of course, to sell some paper or art, but mainly to generate interest and discussions leading to future opportunities and collaborations. I can sell paper from my inventory, make custom orders of paper, collaborate on paper related projects, or consult about paper making science and techniques. I think the collaboration aspects of papermaking tie in very well with my former work as an engineer.
This show exhibits the wide range of papers that I have made, from simple sheets to complex multi-step sheets, and also examples of my art made with from these papers. Paper fibers include abaca, kozu, gampi, seisel, bamboo, cotton, and wood cellulose, and various vegetable related fibers from our garden. I use dyes, inks, and pigments for color as appropriate. Both the paper and my finished art is for sale after the show and there is a portfolio of half sized sheets in the Art Alliance office downstairs that are available for immediate purchase and take away.