post-class thought.

I had an incredible experience working in the medium of ceramics this semester. 
During the course of the semester, I was able to try out totally novel methods of artistic production (for me, anyways) and begin to understand new ways to visualize and articulate my ideas. It was an exciting opportunity to learn and grow alongside some of my favorite fellow artists.

For my semester-long project, I produced as many porcelain animal bones as possible with the final intention of showing them at the Clean Fossils exhibition. When I installed the bones at the venue I decided to arrange them in a circular shape, making the bones denser towards the center and gradually making the formation more and more sparse towards the outer edges.

The original plan was to allow the viewers to walk upon the sculpture and break the delicate (and less than delicate) porcelain bones wherever they trod. I wanted the piece to be interactive and intimate. I hoped that that the destructive act of walking would inspire a somber mood and ideas about fragility and human impact.

As the show drew closer, my ceramics professor, Brian Harper, suggested that I make the sculpture into a performance piece by being the first person to walk across the bones.

I was a little bit nervous about the idea at first (one of things I like about making art is that I can create it while no one is watching and then reveal the product afterwards), but I knew immediately that it was a good choice for the piece. I thought that no one at the show would be paying attention to me when the time for the performance came but, to the contrary, quite a crowd formed along the edges of the circle. I kind of freaked out, but hope that the performance did the piece justice.

After I walked across the bones, I invited the viewers to join in. 
Many of my fellow artists at IU Southeast knew that everyone would be able to interact with the piece at some point during the evening, and the word spread at the show. I was surprised by how excited people were about participating, and the resulting mood was different than I expected.

I really thought that people would be timid to walk on the porcelain objects at first and take the act really seriously. I mean, most people associate breaking things with a sense of fear and gravity, right? I thought that that particular sensation would only be compounded in the environment of an art show, where anything with an artist label attached to it is considered to be of extreme value. However, as soon as I declared the piece "open," people rushed to the piece, some even running or skipping across it. I'm pretty sure that there was some dancing on the bones as well.

While the reaction wasn't exactly what I was expecting, it brought me a lot of joy to watch so many people enjoying the work. As an artist, it was a very new kind of feeling for me. Most of my work is static and two-dimensional, and I never really know if anyone likes the work unless they take the time to tell me. With this piece, I was able to actually see people loving the work. It was so incredibly fulfilling and exciting. I'd really love to do the piece again.

If I ever repeated it, though, I'd love for the piece to be more closed-off, I think. Like, you'd have to go through a curtain or something one person at a time. This way, the experience would be more intimate and private. I think that it would foster a very different reaction. 

Clean Fossils Exhibition

installation view a.

installation view b.

chris little

chris little

ashley stewart

ashley stewart

philip collins

daniel frank


kristy leverock

kristy leverock

kirstin shields

statement, revision #1

In my artistic work, there is a constant fascination with the human acceptance of certain unpleasant consequences for the sake of our own progress or convenience, even if they result in an egregious violation of boundaries. 

Exposing these aspects of human behavior is the driving force behind my work. As a result, the human form dominates my choice of subject matter. However, my current endeavors 
have intentionally gone beyond the confines of traditional portraiture in order to better capture a more specific violation of boundaries, that common horror, “road kill.”

Animal death on the roads is a  relatively small (and largely unavoidable) matter, but it is a gross violation of boundaries, both visually and spiritually.
One can hardly look at it without grimacing. But because it is inextricably connected to the contemporary American lifestyle, it is deemed to be a small, insignificant sacrifice upon the altar of that which is NOW.

When considering how to portray this phenomena in painting, I chose to take road kill animals out of the outdoors and place them into human spaces, even into direct contact with people. This displacement draws me because of its innate rudeness and violation of boundaries, which ultimately comes full circle back to the issue of road kill itself.

Through the integration of the products of road kill in human portraiture, the issue takes on new importance and has the ability to provide commentary not only on the issue of road kill itself, but also issues of humanity. Suddenly, a conversation is created not only about this overlooked issue of the animal, but also the lifestyles, attitudes, and behaviors of contemporary American society at large.
LOTS going on this week.

My Spacelab show is on Thursday so I've been producing as many bones as remotely feasible this weekend/week. I think that we'll be firing them tomorrow, which is good because I'm starting to run out of space for all of the bone-dry bones lying around! After the kiln is loaded, I'll still continue to make bones and just mix bone-dry objects with the bisques. I've been considering this for a while, and with the necessity to be done ahead of time to allot for firing, allowing for some bone-dry ware just makes sense.

I've also been trying to find the time to work on my newest painting. It's been moving pretty slowly so far, but I'm excited about it. Definitely trying to forge a stronger connection between the animals and their original context while maintaining a definitive sense of mystery. Its a self-portrait and, in making the image, I basically thought of how I would feel if I were a driver who created road kill. I've never hit an animal before, so I felt that imagining that sort of scenario was important, especially since I'm interested in exploring the idea of the driver in the future.

That's all for now.
bye bye.

current painting in progress


bfa critique
Here's the collection of paintings I presented at my critique last evening. 
They are all works-in-progress, to varying degrees.

I came away from my BFA critique with some really constructive feedback as well as the beginnings of some new ideas. So, all in all, I would say that it was a success.

One of the recurring ideas presented at the critique was the question of whether or not road kill (as a particular form of the destruction of animal life) was actually important to the work and, if so, the necessity of creating a stronger bond between the animals depicted and their road kill context. This thought is incredibly important and I knew that it would come up in the critique. I have found that the subject matter - along with the idea of removing the natural context for these animals while retaining the same meaning - is incredibly challenging to depict effectively. I will have to carefully consider how to craft future images, of course.

Michael Koerner, a graphic design professor at my university, brought up the idea of removing the road kill from the images entirely and creating a series of paintings depicting drivers as they hit animals, along with all of the different emotional responses such an experience would entail. While I'm not particularly interested in following this path, Michael's idea made me think about my approach to the people featured in the work and how that might change in the future.

Up until this point, I thought that the only important feature of the people depicted in my work was their humanity - I didn't feel that they needed to be associated as drivers who created road kill because we all have some amount of experience with it, whether we have created it ourselves or not. 

But this idea of the driver, and the psychology that comes along with it, is intriguing to me and may help to forge a stronger bond between the displaced animals in my paintings and their original context.

Another comment that was made (by ceramics professor, Brain Harper, I think) was in regards to the activist nature of my work, mentioning that we cannot stop the killing of animals by our vehicles. I totally agree with this and, until that moment, did not even think of these paintings as containing a message of activism, per se. For me, I see road kill as a modern day sacrifice for the sake of our lifestyles. So, while I do not think we can put an end to it entirely, I still believe that it is something for us to consider. I think that it is important to realize the gravity of our contemporary lifestyles in this overlooked issue of the animal. I believe that Brian also made the comment that much of the time road kill is an unavoidable occurrence. This is an important point, and one that I have considered carefully in the past.

I think that road kill is created for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it is unavoidable, as Brain said, but sometimes drivers are simply apathetic and therefore do nothing to avoid it. I also know of individuals who intentionally  hit animals with their cars; something to do with population control or some other equally ridiculous idea. Sometimes people are simply distracted and do not realize what they are doing until it is too late.

I think that if I were to use this idea of the driver as future subject matter, these different aspects of this issue could be considered in the creation of the persona and the environment. I'm imagining a cannibalization of one of Gustav Klimt's subjects for the unavoidable scenario and the creation of a totally chaotic environment for the distraction scenario through the use of conflicting motifs, etc. I am also thinking that there could be very subtle references to the car in the paintings without having the context of the actual car or the road, such as keys, road maps, etc. Done in a tasteful and not-agonizingly-obvious manner, of course.

But I think that a stronger connection between the animals in my paintings and their original context is essential. I'm excited to find ways to facilitate that bond more effectively in future paintings.


The more I think about contemporary art 
and where I fit into that world 
the more excited I become about embracing it head on.

Jr. High Art Teacher Guy.
He teaches a secondary ed art class at IU Southeast on the weekends and has a habit of visiting me in my painting studio to talk art. Last weekend, while looking at my latest work in progress, he finally asked me what the hell I was painting and why. I explained the concept - my desire to create this sense of displacement to bring new attention to the issue of road kill, while broadening the issue to social commentary, etc., etc.

When I got back from my lunch break, I found a note on my tabaret telling me to forget the gimmicks and paint who I am. I was mortified initially. 

Gimmicks? Yeah, I guess that's right.

The topic of the Gimmick came up in Senior Seminar on Monday, and Chris Little said (in paraphrase) that contemporary art is all about the gimmick - the Gimmick is something to be embraced. As I thought about this statement and all of the contemporary artists I admire, I found it to be entirely true.

So I guess that Jr. High Art Teacher Guy payed me one of the biggest compliments I could ever hope to receive.

I am contemporary.

Artist Statement, Take 1

My artistic practice has been characterized by a coming-of-terms, so to speak. 
A coming-to-terms with myself, with how I paint, with what I paint. I am largely a realist painter and, as such, have experienced a lot of self-doubt and inferiority regarding my methods, myself as an artist, etc.

As a way to contradict the conventions of my style, though, I’ve brought a sense of the strange into my otherwise realistic work, a bit of the uncanny - that which cannot be seen in the literalness of daily life. I form images that present common realities within the visual confines of strange juxtapositions, revealing the fullness of stark emotional experiences otherwise overlooked.

There’s a sense of displacement, absurdity, and hierarchy, all of which are important sensations in the course of human experience.

My symbols of choice are universal in nature - sights that are true to the suburban American experience. They include young, coming-of-age girls, road kill animals, the upper middle class, constructs of power, starter homes, beautiful faces made ugly. They are the normal made abnormal through combination and alteration.

In its strangeness, the work almost seems impenetrable, an overwhelmingly mysterious animal. There is a seeming irrelevance in its displacement of forms.

I do not wish to defend the value of my work as some kind of incredibly relevant agent of social change. I think that it wants to be that at its core – in regards to my original intention and meaning – but I don’t expect my paintings to do that, in the end.

But I hope that, above all, through their shocking oddities these images will inspire consideration. I hope that they are thoughtful: worthy of discussion and time.

I've had a difficult time writing an outline for my artist statement. It's such a short piece of writing to map out. So I wrote this one stream of consciousness. I'll probably think that its crap tomorrow, but it's a start.