My current work is based on cave interiors, especially the formations of flowstones, stalactites, and stalagmites. The earliest known drawings over 30,000 years old are found in caves. Humans have been drawn to these chambers for a very long time, and I am no exception. During the past eighteen years, I have visited nearly 100 caves and photographed the settings. The artwork is inspired by these images. Nostalgia is often referenced in the use of decades old fabrics for the base of paintings. This reference to the past is then partially hidden by layers of screen printed and hand painted images. The layering suggests the passage of time and accumulated memories. Repeated imagery becomes a rhythmic pattern that suggests that one is looking at something that is part of a larger, unseen whole. My artwork alludes to the fact that we are all part of a larger realm measured in geologic time.
At the start of the United States military presence in Iraq, I made artwork based on the inexpensive, small, plastic toy soldiers that so many young children have played with for generations. The fact that there are toys of men holding guns, toys about war, about death, and murder for children at an early age interested me immensely. To give a child these toys sends the message that war is not a bad thing. To introduce the concept of war to children in the form of a toy or game is to introduce them to it as perhaps . . . something fun, something to aspire to do in real life when they grow up. It is at this young age that so many ideas are formed.
Months later my work focused on photographs (and subsequently drawings, prints, sculptures, light drawings and paintings) of toy soldiers that have Play-Doh compound in various shapes, molds, and designs attached to them. The overall impression is a playful as well as pathetic look. Often I photographed these objects while the Play-Doh was fresh, before it dried, cracked, and lost it’s vibrant color. This freshness I view as more relevant to my idea because it is viewed as contemporary. On the other hand, the brittle, cracked forms would suggest something old and on the brink of being forgotten.
Wars have been fought for thousands of years and have caused the deaths of millions of people, disrupting families and leaving children without parents. On some level, the iconic poses of these toy soldiers may have been embedded into our subconscious. Before there were guns in the hands of those fighting, there were swords, spears, bow and arrows, clubs, etc. These toys could be seen as visual archetypal forms or primordial images of fighting men. The toys are in fighting poses and appear victorious. There are not toys of this plastic variety that come injured, dead, missing body parts, or begging for mercy. Only the clean, healthy side of war is sold and marketed. If these toys could be seen as archetypal forms then my action of obscuring them with Play-Doh could be an attempt to suppress them, to put an end to them. By doing this with children’s toys, it makes the gesture with irrational innocence of a child who is completely unaware of politics and history.
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