For the past 12 years of my life Crohns Disease has consumed me. It affects every decision I make including the artwork and research I focus on. My studio work moves between key interests in what might be ecologically responsible for the disease along with my own theoretical interests in abstract thought, nature, and entropy. I often with some success live in denial of the disease or in psychological turmoil that I am both responsible for the symptoms or that they manifest within my head. At times this neighborhood of thought shields me from more dire thoughts or has simply become an element of comfort. Prolonged illness in itself is of course difficult to deal with physically and mentally, and over time has “naturally” altered the way I approach my studio practice.
Crohns disease is an autoimmune defect. I often feel like a conduit for the art and research I do. I exist as a metaphor of genetic mutation via the pollution of heavy metals or other hazardous material in the landscape. There is no clear reason why Crohns may affect someone, but research points to environmental factors as being suspect in the development of the disease. Recent lab tests have found PCB toxins as a possible link to the gestation of the disease, similar to the PCB pollution found at many of the Superfund Sites I document.
I am interested in the theoretically ideas of dark ecology and the moment of a post-nature ecological idealism we have entered. What strikes me about many of the locations I visit is the amount of despair that lingers in the air. The people are gone, the activity is extinct and what remains are cancerous levels of PCB’s or heavy metals. The extinction of production leaves a residue of invisible hazards. Whole towns are evacuated, left void of human life. What happens to the memory of a landscape after it serves no purpose? In it’s very literal sense land is used for industry, land becomes polluted, and land is left unusable, but to the most adaptable. This type of loss creates not just mutations in nature, but also alters information systems and consciousness resulting in forms of collapsed memory. I associate the trauma of the landscape with my own extended hospitalizations and issues with posttraumatic stress syndrome.
The core of my work is photographic and time based. In a process heavy part of my practice photographs are used in combination with paint and printmaking techniques to build the base of digital artworks that investigate concepts of abstraction, human ideology, and digital consciousness in connection with nature. This can be seen in my current studio work. The Re:Active series is a dialogue between abstraction in painting and the digital interface of photography. As a painter I use abstraction as a language similar to how I view my interaction with computer software to develop a visual language. I take a similar approach when discussing the paradigms and critiques of abstraction, representation, and aura in painting and photography. I find myself constructing a dialogue through the element of digital trompe l’oeil. Scanning paintings at a high resolution, reframing, printing them using photographic and printmaking processes then painting or silk-screening on top of the printed surface. I am interested in opening up that conversation beyond the movement of pigment on canvas to the notions of compressed space, illusion, and the phenomenological qualities that occur in the process. Focal depth is altered, details are hyper-realized, and colors become something more than milled pigment as they are reproduced in CMYK and the content that builds the abstraction becomes paramount.
That content comes form a larger body of work titled Canvas of Ruin. A documentation of what the Environmental Protection Agency outlines as a Superfund Site or a place of uncontrolled hazardous waste. Many of these sites are located within inner city neighborhoods labeled as Environmental Justice areas and defined as communities with high populations of low-income, minority or tribal residents who may endure a lop-sided share of the nation’s environmental waste and pollution problems. The documentation of the work manifests into exhibitions, lectures, and is disseminated through print and web at canvasofruin.com. There is an inherit element of environmental activism in the project and the research and images for Canvas of Ruin are used for environmental education.