My artistic practice is currently focused on researching modes of building large sculpture using smaller replicable components and varied methods of reproduction. Some repeated components are meticulously hand duplicated, while others are machine made. This combination of modern efficiency with painstaking anachronism gives these large looming works a sense of personality and levity.
I use scale to give familiar subject matter an out of place sense of presence. Inviting participants to touch the sculpture makes them tangible and approachable. Sculptures are often imposing in scale and made of heavy materials featuring physical interactivity that includes climbing and responsive lighting. The physicality of the interaction with large sculptures gives a sense of immediacy, while the prospect of danger keeps participants aware of their own bodies and physical limitations.
I learned the power of sculpture’s presence from Charles Ray’s works from the early 90’s, namely “Firetruck” and his mannequins. While I was in awe of the technical prowess, I couldn’t imagine myself having the resources to create that type of presence. The subtle abstraction of Claes Oldenburg’s “Clothespin” expanded my concept of object representation to include a more industrial aesthetic, but again I still felt I couldn’t approach making this type of work. In 2014, while attending Burning Man, I saw a crowd of people climbing on self-funded artist Michael Christian’s kinetic sculpture “ePOD”–the sculpture was modular, its individual components identifiable, and dozens of people innately understood how to interact with it. I climbed to the top of this spinning globe-like structure and was a changed person.
I draw inspiration from history, science, geometry, architecture, and pop culture. I take simple concepts and expand upon them to what feels like their logical conclusion. I strive to use repetitive modular components that allow for a distribution of labor and have an efficiency in design. This develops into projects that many people can come together to create something with an even deeper sense of community ownership and representing a multitude of voices. Distribution of labor, social capital, mechanical reproduction, structural engineering, parametric design, and everything else become resources for building large public art.
My 2018 sculpture, “Rainbow Bridge”, began with days in the San Francisco Public Library’s historic archives, researching the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition. I was trying to dream up an iconic piece as deeply inspired as Claes Oldenburg’s “Cupid’s Span”, which combined San Francisco’s history as a place of love while mirroring the shape of the Bay Bridge next which it is situated. An informational leaflet described rainbows as a symbol of hope in the west, and a catalog showed a photo of O.C. Malmquist’s sculpture “The Rainbow” which depicted a classical figure holding a perfectly circular rainbow. These historical references coalesced with San Francisco’s place in LGBTQIA+ culture, while the circular shape brought to mind the strength of arcs and the fundamental principle of keystones in construction. The twenty-five sections of the steel “Rainbow Bridge” frame were all built using a singular jig. The fifty-six rainbow panels were made with only two templates, then hand painted with thousands of LEDs hand placed.
My exploration into ways to build big art has led me to the fulfilling arena of community-based art. In creating my first large sculpture I built the team that would eventually become Looking Up Arts Foundation, an arts nonprofit that has had over one hundred volunteers, has been a part of dozens of large art projects, and in 2021 will be starting a community build space in San Francisco. Participating artists have created a collaborative and supportive environment, in which we regularly assist each other with projects.