I view the physical world in spatial rather than scenic terms - as maps of linked experiences rather than collections of disjointed landscapes. Finding most natural environments too boundless, disorderly, and difficult to absorb, I struggle to understand and appreciate them without knowing where they end and what lies beyond. In my artwork, inspired by travel and imagination, I organize nature into discrete, comprehensible slices.
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 - especially when I was unable to grasp the full extents of a given environment. 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 places characterized by dramatically sharp edges and contrasts - small islands, mountain peaks, oases, steep rainfall gradients, tiny cinder cones, wilderness relicts encircled by urban development - especially when those edges are always close at hand, defining downscaled versions of features typically overwhelming in scale or force (like entire continents and massive volcanoes). I wish I could compress and structure these places even further into entities that are fully explorable and “knowable,” giving me an exhilarating sense of control.
I experimented with digitally cropping and combining travel photographs to invent or accentuate the places that entrance me, fragmented as if viewed from multiple perspectives at the same time. The resulting “maps” represented wider and more diverse geographies than could be normally experienced from a single vantage point. From there, I moved to oils and watercolors, still using photographic references for the individual fragments but relying on them less over time. In another series of work, I depict these diverse locales less abstractly through single aerial views. Thanks to my inner landscape architect’s desire to maintain some of the structured character of the fractured compositions, I partially overlay the watercolor paintings with 2D or 3D topographical representations in plexiglass, or literally incorporate 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 are fictional to varying degrees, but in the face of today’s escalating environmental threats - particularly to ecologically-complex, once-isolated islands that are 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.