About the Artist
The landscapes of my hometown in Connecticut are important to me. When I was young, I wandered through the woods and discovered a passion for storytelling. Now that I no longer live in New England, I miss the familiar landscapes of home. As a way to foster my sentiment for nature, I write poetry and build objects that depict landscapes. I combine my interests of Americana art and literature with brutalist architecture and modern furniture to construct sculptural installations. I primarily use concrete and hardwood to materially bridge the unnatural with the natural.
I received my Bachelors of Fine Art from Rhode Island School of Design in Furniture Design and my Masters of Fine Art from Virginia Commonwealth University in Craft and Material Studies. I am currently living and working in Richmond, Virginia as an adjunct faculty member at VCUarts.
with Joe Brommel, April 2019
I want to start by talking about the role of your brother in your work. You frame your Familiar House piece as a way of validating his longing to be with his family, and My American West Is A Fantasy as a way of coping with his absence. Can you say a little bit more about that?
My older brother was released from prison this past September, but before that he was incarcerated for about seven years. He was originally arrested in Hawaii but got transferred over to a higher security prison in Arizona and had a very restricted relationship to the landscape — at one point he was in solitary confinement for eighteen months, and was only allowed to go outside for an hour a day without anyone near him. The only way we could really communicate was through letters or through the phone, but whenever we talked he would say how much he missed the landscape of Connecticut in comparison to his very constrained view of the American West. So that body of work was in relation to our conversations and his longing to be with the familiar landscape that his family resides in.
You've moved away from Connecticut as well, right?
Yeah, I'm currently living in Richmond, Virginia, which is about an eight hour car ride from Connecticut. I definitely miss the landscape and my family, and a lot of my work relates back to the nostalgia of growing up in a very pastoral landscape. I've never been out west, either, so all the imagery in my work that references the American West is based on collected images and references from movies and literature.
Was living in Wassaic in some way a return to Connecticut for you, then?
Oh, it was. My hometown was only about 45 minutes away from Wassaic. On some weekends, I took a trip back to Connecticut and stayed with my brother and my mom. It really affected the way that I wrote. I felt like my writing had a very different tone to it because I was no longer writing about a landscape that I missed, but about a landscape that I appreciated and was residing in.
Would you say that your work has changed significantly since your brother got out of prison?
Yeah, him realizing his new position as someone who's no longer in prison is definitely shifting the way that I view my work and the things I want to focus on. Since his release my brother has a little trouble readjusting to society, so he's been going to therapy, and I've been trying to help him by having constructive conversations and researching the ways that he can have a smoother transition into society now that he's no longer in prison.
In the last couple weeks I’ve been developing a new project in relation to that. I'm trying to tie it back into a character I developed in Wassaic. Right now it’s just a working title, but the character’s name is “Jimy Hiway.” He’s a traveler, going from state to state and experiencing different landscapes there. He has a brother who's not in his life at that moment, and is remembering his relationship to his brother through reflecting on all these different landscapes.
I'm also trying to create these landscapes that are more abstract using concrete — that are less a representation of the American West and more of a general American landscape. That’s very open and vague, so I'm trying to focus it more specifically on where my brother is emotionally and mentally right now.
Can you say more about that transition from the American West to a general American landscape? With the American West you have a series of ready-made images, but it’s more difficult to think about what like a general American landscape looks like.
It's more material-based for me. I really like concrete as a material because it’s very industrial and it ties into the capitalist structures that are all across America. I like that conceptual contrast a lot — taking concrete, a very brutalist, institutional material, and pairing it with a more natural landscape.
The idea of what that landscape is going to look like is hard. Right now I'm just building these concrete figures that are somewhat humanoid. They have little legs and look like they're walking, but they're all concrete and have some of the natural landscape qualities that I work with in other pieces. When I’m casting concrete, I like to add some natural component to it — taking wood or sand and casting that in the concrete to give it a more organic flow. That material combination is something that I strive for in my work. Two strong, contrasting things that can be merged together to create a cohesive object.
Photos by Jeff Barnett-Winsby