Dolls and Toys
My body of sculptures explore nostalgia and idiosyncrasy related to childhood. Using sheet steel, soft woods, acrylic paint, and hours of labor I build objects resembling dolls and toys. Their intense textures, bold colors, and implied narratives attest to the intimacy required to make each one. The implied history of these surfaces are meant to encourage reflection, evoke nostalgia, and raise questions concerning childhood and identity.
I did not construct much of anything as a child. Though my parents encouraged me to sing, act, and play sports, my constructive experience rarely went beyond that of setting up Barbie’s classroom or stacking cardboard bricks into a fort. This background hardly prepared me for visual art making, and I consequently spent most of my fine arts education feeling privileged and “girly.” Swinging a hammer would provide an outlet for these frustrations and yield my familiarity with sheet steel. Though each object required working in intense heat and testing my physical strength, the finished pieces bring reassurance and comfort like my stuffed animals once did. The idiosyncratic features: oversized buttons, needles, hollow eyes, and large balloons, symbolize and celebrate my nostalgic feelings without limiting their potential meaning. Where each piece begs questions, the viewer is encouraged to imagine their own answers, explore their own nostalgia, and claim a new interpretation of the sculpture.
“Cat with Blue Eyes,” for example, embodies the playful nostalgia I am interested in. The bright yellow head, button, needle, and screws encourage the viewer to interact with this piece on all sides and provide heavy contrast to the dark metal underneath. I create this patina by quickly applying numerous layers and colors of acrylic paint, burning and sanding these layers, brushing on gun blue and paint thinner, and sealing the surface with wax. This process allows the texture of the worked metal to emerge and emphasizes the depth of the surface. A deep red, applied to pine then sanded, adds textural variety and moves the eye back and forth to the worn, red areas on the cat’s head. Though the face of this head seems the obvious focal point, the violent stitching accompanied by the needle add sinister, yet compelling elements to this narrative. Contrarily, the oversized button with full curves and abstracted proportions of the cat’s face encourage touch and playful curiosity.
Though most of my work concerning nostalgia is sculptural, the eccentric visual language extends to my work in other media. Saturated neon colors, playful patterns, sinister figures, and intimate textures are present in my drawings, prints, and ceramics as well; the family of ceramic cats and cat-themed serigraphs serve as examples of my continued conceptual direction.
These speech bubbles address the importance of verbal discussion, particularly on controversial topics. Phrases borrow from music, overheard conversation, and visual artists to illustrate the prevalence of issues related to gender, sexuality, and race. Though the phrases themselves prod, the inflated form, varied fonts, and handled texture of the felt invite more intimate interaction. On closer inspection, the felt is visibly pearling; the heaviness of the form stretches the felt around the connecting arcs, welded seams are not ground away, kinks in the steel rod are not corrected. Conversations relevant to the controversial topics addressed by these phrases can be similarly as honest and open as the materials and processes used to make them. Two seemingly opposite materials can playfully interact; diverse viewers can productively understand one another, despite their differences.
I want a family but I don’t want this
a close relationship between parent and child
when moments become unhinged, the child detaches
I want a family but I’m afraid of unhinged moments
breaking a cycle of emotional abuse
food covering a malnourished figure
engorged hands, feet, and head
comfort and fear
this is not my mom
this is not me
this is not a man
the pose is related to the action
the action is related to the egg