Forests are like cities: one building comes down, another goes up. Similarly, one tree dies, another grows. The forest cares for itself by the decay of dead trees feeding the soil in the form of nurse logs spreading seeds and nutrients. Bugs, birds and mammals continue nature’s life cycle by nourishing themselves on the decomposing material. Growing up in the woods of Northern Michigan, surrounded by tranquil forests and earthly wisdom, it never occurred to me not to harvest hardwoods responsibly from forests and urban environments alike. This is the philosophy at the forefront of my procurement policies as I create contemporary objects.
All of my materials are sourced from dead fall from our family farm, recycled building materials from demolition and construction sites, and discarded cuts from saw mills, while new, sustainably harvested lumber is procured from local suppliers.
After graduating from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1996 I began making large, abstract paintings while completing residencies in Providence, Rhode Island, and Paris, France. Beginning in those years and continuing since then, I have been developing an emulsion to cover my wooden objects and paper assemblages. I grind pigments onto the recipe and ignite it. The heat liquefies the pigment and binds it to the emulsion, which becomes a permanent and archival coating to these works. Repeating the process instantly changes the appearance of the piece, making new seem ancient.
Using the charring process on my raw wooden sculptures and furniture, I account for both human interaction and varying aesthetics by shifting my focus to another proprietary discovery, one that involves a finish of emulsified beeswax and graphite, giving the final object the appearance of being made of steel or something other than wood. Much like how a bay leaf accentuates nuances in recipes, the process brings subtleties forward in each wood’s individual characteristics. Fire hugs the irregularities in reclaimed and salvaged timber, bringing to sharp focus the evidence of the material’s past lives, functions and life cycle. Charring without the pigment and emulsion has also brought about unique results. Again, an element of deception: The wooden pieces appear to be metal. While the material slight of hand is not my intent for these pieces, I find the phenomena intriguing – a catalyst for conversation and growth in my work.