This body of work started when I moved from the city to the west coast and into the country ten years ago. That geographical and cultural shift was very dramatic, as was the skill set required to live rurally. The move encouraged a broader relationship with nature and, as well, a heightened awareness of indigenous art and culture. These two factors have contributed most to my new work.
My art has been about re-contextualizing objects or consumer products, giving them a new meaning that confuses the cultural assumptions we take for granted. Transforming my own landscape—taking down trees to grow new ones, for example—also made ME think twice about what I took for granted, especially since, historically, I have no cultural association to this land. You might say that tilling my soil tilled my conscience, making me more sensitive to the incredible upheavals and transformations that have been inflicted upon indigenous people, land and culture.
I’m associated with a gallery that has a large collection of indigenous art and artifacts and it occurred to me one day that a Raven mask had a likeness to my chainsaw, the bar as the beak and the head as the encasement. So I made the first Raven mask out of my chainsaw, and it proved to be a very fertile idea, fueling a whole series of ideas that I couldn’t let go of, mostly indigenous masks and imagery borrowed from the nations of the Pacific Northwest. Each successive piece utilized other materials that also transformed landscape: old machetes, scythes, rototiller blades, lawnmower blades, etc. The specific discarded objects used were either deemed “of little use” or “obsolete”, metaphorically speaking of a loss of a cultural and physical landscape.
Long days welding, grinding and cutting metal coalesced loose associations between altering or clear-cutting a landscape and metaphorically ‘clear-cutting’ a culture. To further underscore those cultural losses, I also incorporated bits and pieces of artifacts that represented language–or a loss of language. and technology (typewriter keys) and music (old guitar strings) as symbolic sculptural embellishments into the pieces. Re-assembled and recreated, they reassumed cultural significance in a sculptural context. They also included a broader narrative of not only referencing a cultural appropriation but also to how we’ve altered our environment. Objects like the chainsaws, have a reciprocal relationship with culture. These old, obsolete objects have been resurrected to create a discourse and hopefully open up a space of possibility, where something new is re-cycled from the old objects and meanings that consciousness has left behind but not forgotten.