One of my favorite undergraduate professors, a brilliant, soft spoken, Chinese art historian used to say to me, “When doubt comes, all you must do is remember to shoot the stars!” This was his take on the saying “shoot for the moon” but I rather liked his interpretation. I would imagine myself out there in an endless and beautifully gloomy darkness with a double barrel shotgun (the only gun I have ever been taught to use) attempting to glean inspiration from the tiny prisms of starlight bursting through the artistic wilderness surrounding me. In college it was this memory like visual that struck me so powerfully when I recalled his words. Now, years later, as I sit in my workshop, it is the empowering idea that we ARE star matter that amazes me. Professor Hong taught me to seek inspiration from everything we come in contact with. He helped me to listen to the subtleties of the self, the landscape and others. During his lectures and stories, I found the importance of looking past my bodily self to reach a more valuable level of identity, creation, and worth. It is possible that what Professor Hong was getting at all along was that thinking big is easy if you can see the right connections; the connections all around us, within us, and between all things.
Within me there is a storyteller. Within all of us, there is a storyteller brimming with unique truths and strengths. What I seek to pursue and accomplish can be broadly stated as a cultural study. More specifically, what I wish to investigate is the power of the story across cultures and within art and identity. My personal work is a collection honoring stories, storytellers, individual and collective memories, the richness of histories and our relationships with each other and self. My work as a whole is rooted in tradition and the value inherent in stories. Whether the works are passionate, lighthearted, or eerily tender, they all attempt to explain that which connects past to present, bodies to the earth, to place and to each other, and ultimately our inevitable interconnectedness through material and spirit. I create these narratives as reminders. We must remember to listen to the stories of our elders, to be receptive to what we can learn from histories, dreams and those around us. The book is a precious way to share this idea. Each page is a gift that we can take with us the rest of our lives. With this is mind, what I seek to discover and share with others is not only the power of the book, but more deeply, the power of the story.
Each time a furniture maker recreates an Adirondack chair he is telling a story. A history is present within the design and craftsmanship of that chair. The artist becomes both a participant in the story as well as the raconteur of his own. As a bookmaker, I am enthralled with not only the story itself but with the history of the story. Stories are available in every culture, tied to moral values, group dynamics, making and doing. When I see a Rodin, a Mark Ryden, an illuminated manuscript or Frank Lloyd Wright’s Gordon House, I see a story told through these objects. This phenomenon and connection is one worth exploring. How can the story make design, craft and art more powerful, accessible, and refreshed? How can these works alter the way we relate to one another and enrich our interactions?
Ever since I was building Joseph Cornell inspired shadow boxes with a handsaw and a hot glue gun in my parents garage, I have found the terms of art, craft and design somewhat interchangeable. However, during certain aspects of my undergraduate study, I was led to believe by my peers and certain mentors that craft was kitschy, design could make you money, but that art was respectable. Therefore, I spent a significant portion of my college art career creating bulky wooden sculptures and rigid patinated steel folding books in an attempt to make the craft that was in my heart into fine art worth respecting. These days, with a few years separating me from my undergraduate study, with some travel under my belt, and with a true understanding of why I choose to create, I can again see what my younger self knew all along. I design art. I craft a good design. I use elements of each field in almost every piece of work I create. There is a conceptual framework, there is an aspect of engineering and there is the craftsmanship that my hand must recall in order to bind them all together. I wish to see the dialogue between art, craft and design change similar to the way three different cultures can all connect through the sharing of stories with similar anecdotes. Though their languages and backgrounds are different, a story can open windows and reveal new ways of seeing.
As an artist and as a human being, I consider myself to be a seeker with curiosity at the forefront of my drive to learn new things. Everyday, I continue working towards efficacy and an overall interconnectedness between self and skills. Often times I find myself saying, "I could make that!" and I learn a lot with this mentality. Today, I still look to the stars when it seems as if my perception of existence is crashing in on me. It is so easy to get trapped in thinking that there is possible and impossible. Professor Hong allowed me to see that possible is merely a rearranged version of impossible, just as the carbon, nitrogen and oxygen of stars is rearranged within us.
Beyond material bond, I seek to find and share that which connects us all; the story.