Map Tracing Series 2011-2018
This work investigates environmental destruction and our relationship to its effects, both physical and psychological. My aim is to simultaneously exemplify the innate connection between humans and the earth, and lay bare that we are unwittingly conducting ourselves toward our own demise. In doing so I draw a connection between the health of the environment and the health of ourselves, for we are inexorably linked. For a number of years, my portfolio encompassed two bodies of work united by a common concept. One drew symbolic parallels between the human figure and tree forms. The other used maps in the form of stylized, severed tree trunks to signify disconnection from the natural world.
In my tree forms I strive to express a feeling of sickness, death, and deformation in the natural world. My sculptures are autobiographical embodiments of my own intense frustration and anger while simultaneously acting as vehicles for illustrating our indelible connection to nature. My goal is to give the tree forms a voice with which to declare their own symbolic demise. I draw connections between humans and nature by creating tree surfaces that resemble pinched, burned, bound, stitched, and scarred flesh and bone. My large forms and installations allow the viewer to have a more visceral interaction with the work. When one can walk around or under a piece that is similar to or larger than human scale, it helps to illicit a greater, paradoxical sense of both compassion and threat. The forms themselves exude feelings of strain, struggle, and fatigue meant to elicit an empathetic reaction in the viewer, regardless of their environmental or political stance.
The Map Tracing Series began in northern Scotland where I was faced with the challenge of making work that responded to a landscape which lacked my primary source of inspiration: trees. I began tracing green areas on the map where arboreal landscapes did exist in the form managed pine groves for lumber harvest. These map shapes were then manifested in the form of “petrified” stump forms on the wall. The result was a symbolic topography of a region dominated by the contours of the land itself and a documentation of land use practices. I’ve expanded the map tracing series to document the inherent risks of the heedless extraction, transportation and processing of fossil fuels in North America. The contours of these forms are derived from areas effected by major accidents involving oil rig ruptures, coal-ash spills, oil train derailments, and mountain-top removal. The work serves as record of these ever increasing incidents and illustrates how our reckless consumption of non-renewable resources is resulting in unprecedented poisoning of the soil, water and air. I limit my pallet to earth tones, near-black, and white porcelain to symbolize the purity of the natural elements becoming disfigured by these practices. This work is evidence of a culture that places profit and greed over the health of the environment and the safety of the people.