The "Service Station” is a vintage cloth hand towel dispenser. Participants are asked the question, "What's Missing?” in the world or their lives. Their answers are turned into symbols, which get embroidered by them or me on the towel. Begun in Boston in the summer of 2015, it has been to 10 cities and has collected more than 300 answers. Anyone can participate.
Service Station is set in the 1950’s/1960’s, a time of collision where the dream of modern life (industry/design/science) crashed into the horrors of human negligence and greed (Vietnam War, Racism, Poverty, etc...). We are clearly still dealing with that today. The "Service Station" towel holder is an excellent physical metaphor for this. As a child I remember these towels dirty and dragging on the floor of decrepit gas station restrooms. How different from the dream of the automobile age, highways, and attendants to help you on your way. So, I wanted to channel a bit of that optimism and take something that would be trash and turn it into something beautiful. I hoped to make a piece of art with hundreds of people from all across the country and have a conversation about what is most important in the world. Our lives are so full of stuff and things that mean very little to us. It seems important to spend a quiet moment discerning what we care about. Embroidery is a practice of speaking slowly because when you speak with a needle, you have to take care and really think about what you say. It can break down barriers and encourage many to contribute on an equal footing. Will that lead to action? We will have to see. Sewing and embroidery are a sort of physical antidote to the harshness that we face- hate, violence, and indifference. It is centering and transformative.
When I started this project, on a sticky day in July, 2015, I had no idea what people would write and share. Would images and ideas settle out as being salient? Where would it travel? Who would invite me? Each time it was performed, I told a story, invited strangers to share in a conversation. It was momentarily intimate. I met many who remembered, long ago, stopping at gas stations and using these towels and others who had embroidered at some point in their lives. I spoke to two women who had been homeless who added “shelter” to the towel. A man, a year out of prison who desperately needed a job, added that. Many spoke of global warming and the environment, the need to take care of our planet. And, too, racial justice and equality kept returning. There were soccer balls, dragons, superheroes, and all the other unique, odd, wonderful contributions. The three that appeared more than any other were empathy, compassion, and love. What is it about these? Why are they missing more? Where do we find them? How can our great mass of sweaty, opinionated humanity that has overrun the planet slow down enough to feel and share these emotions?
And is it enough to travel, to ask, to create a space for this conversation and help generate a scroll filled with our ideals and wishes? There are many ways to view the costumed reality theater that I engaged in. To partake of the absurd means letting go of a certain kind of dignity and status driven self. What kind of man wears an attendant’s costume and embroiders on street corners? What kind of man helps others speak? As artists what do we gain when we step outside ourselves and use our tools in the service of something beyond us? To cross, briefly, the social barriers that limit and stunt the kind of conversations we long to have is worth the risk.
“Repair” is an old fashioned street cart repair shop. The costumed repairers invite participants to bring objects and less tangible items to be repaired on the spot. Whether a practical fix is desired or a more artistic and fantastical fix the point is equally that and also the interaction and conversation. ‘Repair” debuts at Clark University fall 2017.
A Library Book
“A Library Book” is an installation performance that dissects the lies and truths inherent in the library/museum art collecting dynamic.It is a book of ten etchings that I made of the Boston Public Library interior and bound into a library book format.It self consciously shows the life of the art object, specifically the Goya etchings, and how they had been made, passed down, preserved and yet destroyed, etc….In full exhibition one book is shown bound and the other is dissected, hung on the wall, and a page lies on the floor for the viewer to step on.Museums preserve, collect, and are a refuge for works, but destroy and change art objects in ownership. It is an unnatural relationship.
Spaceship York was an interactive art installation in the style of an old homemade tourist attraction or circus sideshow. Over two months in the spring of 2015, I built a spaceship in a vacant storefront in York, PA. The experience used the ship as a metaphor for imagining possibilities and realizing dreams. Within the storefront there were a variety of ways for visitors to connect to the piece, from using the space library, working on the ship, and talking about ideas for change in York and the world. Most significant was the chance to write or draw personal visions to be sent up with the ship. Everyone was welcome and the theatrical elements, from uniforms to the fictional story about trying to travel into space, brought fantasy directly into the real world. The project culminated with a countdown and blast off day, reports of travel, and return of the ship.
York is a small city, reeling from the collapse of industry, racial inequity and on the cusp of revitalization. In thinking about the city I saw a lack of vision. The creation of boutiques and the pushing out of poorer people, in York’s case along racial lines, was not a just solution.
I began with the question of what would bring the people of York together to share their visions. The spectacle came first; creating a fantastic and dramatic space would get people to come in and generate electric attention for the city. In the tradition of the circus and the old time hucksters, Spaceship York was meant to promise a little magic, uncertainty, and mystery. I was the guide or interpreter and my costume honored a time when customers and shopkeepers interacted with dignity. The spaceship itself, created in a style reminiscent of pre-space travel era, remains a large tangible metaphor for dreaming and visioning. Before space travel was a reality, people drew, and wrote stories, built, and imagined what could be beyond Earth. Spaceship York became a liminal space, where in the safety of fantasy participants were able to be more honestly themselves and have the freedom to imagine the world they truly wish for.
An environment that is welcoming to everyone is special. I let down my guard and others did in return. One woman wrote, in the tiniest letters, that she wished everyone could have enough money for what they needed. On the same day, a small boy drew a picture of himself and a dog in space suits. His P.S. was that he hoped everyone’s dreams would come true too. People spoke to me about racism, their distant children, closed doors, about what they loved, and what they hoped for. I felt the weight of the dreams and the inequity of opportunity. Over time I found that barriers fell within me and love grew. The compassion generated allowed me to hold what was hard and uncomfortable in our shared experience. It was a beginning.
This piece came together with the help of the generosity of others. I received a grant to fund my time and the supplies for this project. The storefront, a vacant shoe store, was donated for the two and a half months that the piece ran. Countless store owners and community members talked about this piece and sent people my way. People I did not know lent me tools, brought me articles, and photos. And most of all countless people shared their dreams and added them to the wall. It was a great gift and all I had to do was ask.
There was significant press for this piece. It can be found on the above website or the news page of this site.
“The Obsessive Dollhouse,” is a performative installation that broke ground in the fall of 2014.
I am captivated and mystified by living in and renovating homes. I fall each time for the dream of the home and what it can be and have spent thousands of hours on home projects, both by choice and by necessity. Never having quite enough money, worrying about paying the taxes, or the furnace exploding, being proud to show off a new feature and at peace in the day to day living. On a steamy afternoon last summer it hit me, the house is a large sculpture and the idea for “The Obsessive Dollhouse” was born. It would be a working class home, like I and countless others occupy, and I would perform with it, both as its steward and destroyer. This would be documented over a several month period. I would dissect my relationship with home ownership and hopefully shed some light on what homes mean for others and in the world.
I began with ideas of possible destructions and renovations, but the process was dynamic and involved reading and conversations with many about the role homes play in their lives. As I destroyed through flooding, fire, tornado, etc…. I found the bond between my “creation” and self loosened. Repairing the damage allowed me to love the home again and continue. When the dollhouse sat in my basement underwater, bulging and rotting over a seven day period, I was devastated. Whenever I left it, I had to fight the urge to come back and save my “house.”
The house is relatively stable now; remnants and residue of the process are discernible. A photo album and blog carry visual and written records of what occurred. This home remains a part of me: memories, idea, and unfulfilled dreams. Please treat us gently as you come into our space.
This is a large plexiglass case with four large silkscreen prints on either side.The case is obscured by white smeared paint, on the interior, and a 1970’s leather jacket with woven electrical cords and scepter, are entombed inside.A cord escapes from the bottom and lies on the floor- ready to plug in- and the saw blade has cut through the case and juts into the audiences' space.The silkscreens are advertising for the disappearance of the jacket or its rise into the heavens.This piece is about the preservation and neutering of past visionaries. They will not be silenced.
Listen to the Whales
Listen to the Whales
Listen to the Whales is an interactive experience where participants are invited to sit on cushions and use “vintage” listening devices to decode whale songs. I am interested in the relational aesthetic and seek to create conscious balance between object making and the human interaction the sculpture engenders. The human attempt to dominate the earth and the sea has its roots in 19th century science. The traditional idea of a warship is conquest and destruction, while sea voyage and humanity contained so much more. It was near the time of our ships construction that PT Barnum began bringing a series of 6 whales by ship to live and die in his American Museum in New York City. I ask participants to imagine an alternate scenario where we used our maritime resources not for war, but instead for understanding whales and the ocean. Could we learn something from mammals so much larger than ourselves? Listen to the Whales comes out of that imagining. Who knows what we will discover?
The whale sounds are provided by Woodshole Oceanographic Institution directly and by the Oceana Project - through creative commons license.
“Free Tea Ideas” is a mobile unit that brings the artist directly into a community with an issue. It is a suitcase that contains, a sink, stove, table, chairs, and the supplies needed for making and serving tea. Also contained is an information chart, notebook paper to record what is shared, and a map to show where it has been. Easily transported, it can go wherever it is needed.
Designed initially for a residency in Lancaster, Pennsylvania talking about gun violence, it has yet to be put to use in a community.
Sunshine on faded cotton fabric, mugs clinking on formica and the smell of dish soap are memories of my great grandparent’s kitchen. It was there that they offered an ear, and solace over tea. This piece is that safe space where I can be present and listen. Solutions do not come from one person or from those in power, but instead come from each of us working together. A balance of silence and conversation is a solid place to start.
Recycled Arch Residency
This arch came about from a 10 day residency at the New School of Lancaster. Each of the 200 students had a hand in its creation, though the bulk of the work came from the seventh and eighth grade students. The idea was to create a visual representation of the Montessori learning experience to greet visitors at the entrance of the school. The previous view was of the dumpsters. The oldest students cut and built the post and beam arch, dug the holes, mixed the cement, designed the plantings, and made the square panels. Each class in the school was given a square, and using recycled materials, built their panel. It feels meaningful to give every student the chance to be part of creating a permanent piece of art. It will be interesting to watch primarily plastic materials, that would have been in the landfill, as time passes.
Laboratory Paintings by the deceased William Chambers 1930-1987
My uncle, noted painter, William Chambers, died suddenly in 1987. He left me with the instructions to dispose of his estate and pass on his legacy. Obviously, I have been reluctant to part with his works. Times being what they are, I have had to put these up for sale. Please do not hesitate to contact me with questions. While I believe these works are his, there is a chance that they could have been painted more recently. Experts agree that they were done in his style and with his hand. The dates on the images reflect when they came out of storage. All were probably done in 1987 and 1986.
I have attached his obituary and links to information about the Supernova that took his life.
Place: Mass College of Art and Design Tower Gallery
Duration: 45 minutes
Background: This piece provided closure to a shared time and space together. The questions I asked my participants were: “How did you get here?” and “Where are you going?.”
Synopsis: As I invited folks to enter the space, I asked them to leave an item of value on the stand by the door, to take a piece of paper and a pencil, and find a spot around the large sheet of paper on the floor. I turned on the over head projector and selected an album to play on the record player. I spoke about the end of the residency and contemplating what we each wanted to take away. I began to fold an origami paper boat with the large sheet of paper on the floor and invited my participants to fold small boats at the same time. When the boats were done, I poured water into the tray under the camera to create a “sea” and invited someone to stir the water. I brought out the cement block and asked people to think of who anchored them and who in their lives made it possible for them to be here. Next I brought the shovel and asked folks to think about how they moved through this summer and what “$%#^” they had shoveled. I placed a small boat in the sea so that it was projected on the large boat. Finally I asked participants to think of a word or a few for what they wanted to take away from the summer, to write it on their boat, place it in the sea next to the large boat, and speak what they had written. I changed the screen to play a video of a sunset over the ocean. As they were leaving participants were invited to take a boat that was not their own and to remember to take back their item of value.
Materials: 9’X12’ piece of white paper, cement block, tar covered shovel, record player, Albums by Roberta Flack, Laurie Anderson, and Sylvester, Webcam, water table, small lamp, computer paper, pencils, computer, ceiling mounted projector, and performer dressed in white.
The Optician came in a dream, like most important things. He emerged fully formed: a doorway into another place. Dressed crisply in black, though somewhat worn. He peddled through streets and found a spot where the nascent sun filled the air with dust and colored the edges of his wares. His homemade cart sat atop a British working bicycle. He offered a glimpse at another reality through carefully drilled lenses. He is impossible and anomalous, like all things almost real. You just remember his fleeting presence… the call of his voice. Can you still smell the wet wool of his coat and the mist that hangs in the air around you and him? Stop a moment. Try on a pair of eyeglasses. Take a chance. For an offering he will give you a pair, carefully wrapped. Keep them. You never know when you will need to see clearly again.
The Optician is a 2013 sculptural performance piece, that is performed in the street with strangers. I wear a costume, operate a small printing press, making advertising posters, and enjoin people to try on the special eyeglasses that have holes drilled in the lenses. It is set in the past, because adding a bit of nostalgia allows people an entrance. They ask “Who is this odd character?” and come in to investigate. As with any hook, it opens the door. Then I give them something to do: try on glasses. This is fun, silly, weird, relatively painless. And we talk. I ask them questions? “Do you need to see the world differently?” “How do the glasses feel?” “What do you see?” As they leave, I give them a flyer and say, “You can say you saw The Optician today.”