“Now you’re back where you belong.” Those are the words of my figure drawing instructor after I returned to art school after a brief hiatus. In her class I would regularly get lost in the creative process. Lost to the point where three hours pass in what feels like ten minutes. Really lost.
Throughout my life—from tooling design, to teaching mathematics, to education administration—I’ve entered and participated in many entirely different communities. They are so varied, though, that I sometimes feel like I don’t really belong in any of them; except in art. Art is the one pursuit that has remained constant for me throughout my adult life. It is the one place where I feel most like I belong, and I feel most like I belong when I am entirely lost in it.
To me, being lost in art is seeing things with new eyes—looking for what is not obvious and pushing myself to create something unique. I appreciate novelty as much as I appreciate any particular aesthetic. I enjoy when people say they haven't seen anything like it before.
My ideas are born in three dimensions. I never sketch ideas for sculptures because it limits me to familiar images. I am much more creative in the round than in two dimensions. The process I use is akin to found object sculpture—finding things and putting them together in some interesting way. The only difference is that I make my own objects rather than finding them. These objects are forms and shapes made from sculpting wax. The process begins blocks of wax that I melt and mold into sheets, which I heat up, cut and break, assemble, disassemble, drip wax on, scratch, and otherwise abuse. Using a torch, a soldering iron, and other tools, I try to create individual forms that are interesting in their own right. Then, working from the resulting “bone pile” of these odd forms, I assemble my sculptures.
The resulting pieces vary greatly because they grow from the chance meetings of these various unrelated individual forms. Much of my work makes references to the human figure, while my more recent work includes animal forms. While creating my forms, I consciously try avoid familiar references. If I create a form that looks or feels too familiar, I sometimes break it, cut it apart, or otherwise alter it and use it in some way other than the obvious reference. For example, I sometimes turn over something that looks like legs and try to make a head or body out of it. Sometimes, if I can’t make a form unfamiliar, I drop it on the floor to change it in some unplanned fashion and then reassemble some or all of the pieces into a different form. This forces me to be more creative in resolving the “how do I make this part of something interesting” puzzle that my creative process is about. In my latest work I have been adding a few pieces custom made for a sculpture, once I have the main body of the piece created.
Although my sculptures vary, they hold together as a body of work because of their happenstance character and their rough, natural textures. Natural looking and weather-worn textures are attractive to me because they add a freshness to the overall effect—a not overworked feel—while at the same time leaving the impression that the pieces have been around for a long while, perhaps affected by the wear and tear of time. In the end, I hope people enjoy my work. Because I have other serious pursuits, and because working with bronze is very time intensive, I can’t create a lot of pieces. So each piece is dear to me, as I hope they will all be to you.
I am an educator by trade -- math teacher, then principal, now teacher again. I have worked in rural, suburban, and urban schools with nearly every type of student and demographic. I came to teaching after stints as a tool design engineer and a fine arts student at Kendall College of Art and Design.
I am an artist and a craftsman at heart. I have been toying with sculpting for 30 years, taking it pretty seriously (while working full time) for the past 22 years. When my wife Anne and I purchased our first home in Battle Creek, MI in 1998, I created a studio in the basement and that is when I started to develop as an artist. It was transformative to have a place I could leave in creative disarray, and to build a space with the feeling I needed to nurture my creativity. Now we live in rural Marshall, MI, and I have a small but adequate barn for a studio, which makes even greater creativity and production possible. And because we live in the country, I can fire up my bronze foundry (which I designed and built with the help of friends and family) in the backyard whenever it is that time in the process. What a difference place, space, and resources can make!
Anne and our three children, Maddy, Liam, and Aidan, have helped me understand the need for balance in my life, and the central part that art plays in that balance for me and our family.