Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Artist Statement

This is the essay that I submitted with my application to the Social Practice MFA at CCA in San Francisco. It outlines my artistic interests and professional intentions. Enjoy.

Listen / Respond

Actions which expand mental space, adjust how moments are experienced, and germinate thoughts, buried within the collective mind; these are my medium. My intention, as an artist, is to enrich the experiences of people around me and contribute positively to human understanding and culture. My motivations are personal, communal, intellectual, spiritual, and practical. Two themes which are consistent in my work, and which I look forward to developing and understanding on a deeper level, are: Communication and Interaction.
In the spring of 2005, I studied with Rose Shakinovsky and Claire Gavronsky in South Africa. After weeks of speaking with artists, activists, scientists, and cultural leaders, a remarkable spirit of understanding and community developed between all those involved. This experience reinforced my belief that genuine communication is a powerful and revolutionary practice. I began to explore the dynamics of person to person exchange through a series of diagram-like mixed media pieces. Using silhouettes created from found images, I composed different relationships. In some pieces, red thread was used to represent the path that thoughts, feelings and ideas can travel in their expressed form; revealing that the path is often not from A to B. In other pieces, like "Conversation", the silhouettes are arranged to show the visual form that the spread of ideas or information might take as they travel outward from their source through word of mouth. The resulting form evokes organic images like ivy or bacterial growth suggesting that our conceptual expression may not be an exception to patterns in nature. These silhouette pieces were the beginning of my ongoing artistic investigation of communication.
Interactive artwork in the form of installation, public interventions, and community based initiatives have always inspired and motivated me. One such project that I facilitated was the conversion of a burned out, boarded up building into public mural space. In this project, two groups that would normally oppose each other, realtors and graffiti artists, collaborated in order to present a positive message to the community. The murals were connected thematically, through the theme of peace, as a response to the occupation of Iraq. Our actions rehabilitated the abandoned visual space that the damaged building occupied, and showed by example that people with opposing views can work together and accomplish something positive. 
On a smaller scale, I have been inspired to work with found pennies. Pennies embody interesting contradictions. They are ever present and often ignored, they carry value and yet are often regarded as valueless. One of my penny projects was intended to draw attention to these items in their disregarded state. Each time I found a penny I filled out a label recording the state, city, date, time, and a brief description of the location of the finding. I then affixed this label next to the penny. I documented this action with digital photography, and left the penny and label to be found again. By relying on random interaction, I intended to transform the moment that one has when finding a penny into a conductor of curiosity, awareness, and reflection.
Currently, I am combining the themes of communication and interaction in a series I have begun, using tin can telephones. While still in its exploratory stages, the work is headed in the direction of site-specific installations and performances that will involve random and organized interaction.
Through a career in the arts, my objective is to be a professional troublemaker, challenging stale and dysfunctional ideology which disregards the practical importance of creativity, beauty, and genuine self-expression. I aim to be a presence in the public sphere that brings new thoughts, sensations, and possibilities into the arena of daily life. I will bring the experience of creativity and artistic expression out in the open, create public spaces that allow people to experience other perspectives on living, and challenge the dominant paradigms out in the streets through working with the minds and hearts of local and international populations. Using creativity and alternative thinking to digest the relevant concerns of the day and facilitate constructive responses, I will listen and respond. Academically, I am interested in teaching, lecturing, and writing as ways to participate in the dialogue that shapes culture.
I see graduate school as a place where I can begin my professional career. The Social Practice program is the first program, that I have found, that is in line with my artistic and intellectual interests. In the course of graduate study I aim to develop a solid understanding of contemporary theory and art practice, and gain a real sense of the opportunities that are available. Through discourse with teachers, artists, and peers, I aim to fill in the gaps that I see in my professional artistic life, and become aware of new ones. I intend to develop my art practice and learn to apply it in a context which will function most effectively. I look forward to being a part of a community of artists with whom I can collaborate, brainstorm, contemplate, and share excitement with, about the possibilities that art-making offers to us and what we, through art-making, can offer to the world.

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