I view the physical world as a series of maps rather than landscapes–in spatial rather than scenic terms. Finding most natural environments too boundless, disorderly, and difficult to absorb, I long to experience each of them in a single moment, as if simultaneously from above and from within.
Growing up in Ohio, and restless for the unfamiliar, I developed a fascination with exotic plants and geological phenomena–inspiration for much of the artwork I created from an early age on my own and while taking art lessons. Beginning in my teenage years, I was fortunate to visit many of the places I had been fantasizing about for so long. But in most cases, I was strangely disappointed. Often, I resented being unable to experience a place in its entirety, to feel as though I were looking at a map and at the same time exploring every inch of it. Most captivating, and best measuring up to my expectations, were Hawaii, the Galapagos Islands, and Tanzania’s Ngorongoro Crater, with their striking juxtapositions of wet and dry, complex volcanic topography, and oddly scale-less landscapes. Eventually I discovered that I am particularly drawn to islands, oases, cinder cones, gorges, peninsulas, coastlines, mountain peaks–features characterized by sharp edges and contrasts, or (in the case of steep rainfall gradients and small volcanoes) representing compressed or miniaturized versions of phenomena typically thought of as vast or overpowering. I wish I could compress and structure these places even further into fully-knowable entities that are completely under my control.
Photomontage, oils and watercolors allow me to re-combine and re-imagine the real-life locales that I have found inspirational and yet frustratingly incomprehensible - to create the places that I wish they were. I see these invented places as wild, rugged and slightly ominous on one hand, and delicate and vulnerable on the other: they maximize my feeling of omniscience in allowing me to tame what seems un-tameable. Recently, the vulnerable aspect has taken on additional significance for me, given my distress at the fragility of the natural world in the face of today's escalating environmental threats. The compact yet complex environments that I find most inspiring, particularly tiny islands and sharp ecological contrasts, are especially susceptible to even slight changes in oceanic and atmospheric conditions (not to mention invasive species and habitat destruction). My yearning to feel a greater sense of control over these places has therefore come to include a strong protective impulse.
Trained in landscape architecture, I think of myself, in essence, as a designer more than a traditional artist–my artwork exists for the sake of creating places I will never have the chance to design in the real world, not for the sake of the artworks themselves. My motivations are unique also in that I am never inspired to depict landscapes in the traditional sense: environments of a singular character or experienced from just one perspective. A desert not sharply juxtaposed with a rainforest, or a volcanic cone not dwarfed by surrounding plains, leaves me restless. Given the current trajectory of the planet, I expect that my goal of conveying the precious nature of such environmental contrasts–features generally receiving little attention in artwork or in general–will become even more central to my work.