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 in a single moment, as if simultaneously from above and within.
Growing up in Ohio and restless for the unfamiliar, I developed an early fascination with exotic plants and landforms. 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. 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 most drawn to environments containing unexpectedly sharp edges and contrasts - small islands, steep rainfall gradients, oases, tiny volcanoes, wilderness relicts encircled by urban development - suggesting downscaled versions of features typically considered overwhelming in scale or force. I wish I could compress and structure these places even further into fully-knowable entities.
I first experimented with digitally combining travel photographs to create the places that I wish existed, as if viewed from multiple perspectives at the same time. The resulting “maps” represented wider geographies than could be normally experienced from a single vantage point, the edges between fragments providing the structural framework I so often felt was missing from the natural world. Since then I have moved from photomontage to oil on canvas and watercolor on paper, using photographic references but relying on them less over time. In other works, I capture in mixed media the full extent and complexity of these environments by painting them as if from single, aerial perspectives. Rather than fracturing the compositions, I provide structure by partially overlaying watercolors with 2D or 3D topographical representations in plexiglass, or by literally incorporating structures - such as boardwalks, shelters and eco-lodges - into the paintings.
I see these places as wild and rugged on one hand, and delicate and vulnerable on the other: they maximize my feeling of omniscience in allowing me to tame that which seems un-tameable. They range from idealized to completely fictional, but in the face of today’s escalating environmental threats - particularly to once-isolated environments that are exceptional and at the same time uniquely susceptible to climate change and invasive species - they express my distress at the fragility of the real places that inspire them. My yearning to feel a greater sense of control over these places has therefore come to include a strong protective impulse.