Having lived in Chicago years ago and then on both coasts before returning here 4 years ago, I realize how the urban landscape of Chicago and other Midwestern cities has informed my recent work. Working out of both an old industrial building in the meatpacking district just west of downtown (my sculpture studio) and a former gear factory on a preserved industrial corridor (the art center where I am a director and work in the studios) I am confronted by a landscape of brick, concrete, broken glass, trash and automobiles with small patches of nature here and there. This is one of the inspirations for my “Hybrid” series of wall constructions and sculptures, this idea of creating and tending nature in a human-made environment, or of creating your own nature-like objects with human made materials in the middle of an urban area.
Another inspiration is the trend of old industrial buildings being turned over to artists as industry has moved out of the Midwest over the past 30 years. Chicago has been luckier than many Midwestern cities in terms of development and business moving into and embracing industrial areas, but many industrial buildings still sit empty, not as useful in general society as they once were. The long trend of arts and cultural organizations and individuals taking over these buildings has always intrigued me. It is part of the history of artists' ability to see beauty, utility and fresh ideas in that which mainstream American society has discarded. My installation work deals with, in part, imaginary worlds created with ordinary materials and the urban landscape, where I attempt to transform empty storefronts and abandoned buildings into transcendent kingdoms populated by familiar and unfamiliar creatures. Empty lots and rooms become both utopian and distopian sites populated by synthetic and real plant life, recycled and discarded items from everyday life, and tactile surfaces with human and animal qualities. I also try to interject human qualities into these starkly industrial landscapes, introducing elements of the human body and the natural environment in a visceral, seductive and playful manner. The idea of drawing the viewer into a fantasy world inhabited by sexuality, nature, fun, danger and disappointment and also pushing him/her away is central to my work.
I am fascinated by what are called “outsider” or “visionary” artists and the environments they create, often in their homes, using everyday objects or recyclables. I am attempting to translate this practice from a rural to an urban area but the idea of creating an imaginary world out of what I find around me is central to my recent installation work.