How do I operate as an artist in this space with my past? I’ve chosen to try to recover the beauty I remember whether it be dark or light, and carry that representation into a variety of mediums. Developing an installation gave me the chance to revisit my production design roots.
The installation is representative of the polarity that exists between couples, the search for one another, and the emotional dangers and perils that present themselves in this journey to find a partner. I’ve placed a gray horse, a masculine representation of a vehicle, soaring above hundreds of sharpened vintage tobacco sticks. It is a menacing and vicious scene, yet full of beauty. The animal is searching for and possibly chasing the feminine idol or representation, a teal horse, which lies across the room some distance away.
The gray horse is on the move, knowing it could fall and fail, but pushing through with a reptilian drive to enter uncertain situations and take whatever comes. The horse (an ancient human mode of transport) is not so much a representation of me or the viewer, but it does reference a vehicle that carries us over danger or our fears in love. It also touches on the ability to “get over you”, or “get back on the horse”, when a relationship has failed.
The teal horse or feminine representation is the match I’ve always been chasing, and here it sits at an intimidating height. At first glance, we notice it is up at a level that is not to scale, therefore almost unattainable or a challenge. This is intentional. We all believe we are capable of achieving goals (or partners) that are worth a great deal of our effort. If it’s too easy it’s not worth it, and we respond with corresponding emotions telling us maybe we’ve settled. By fabricating a traditional hobby horse frame that towers above us I feel that this challenge is communicated. Questions arise though… Is it alone? Does it need a rider? Does it care? It is strapped in and static, and in my interpretation she is waiting for the masculine idol to approach and marry with it, completing the search.
For the installation I sourced tobacco sticks from old farms in the Bluegrass region of Kentucky. Most of these sticks are a hundred years old and were used to hang and cure tobacco leaves during the fall harvest. When these sticks were made, they were all hand split from Hickory trees and the ends sharpened with a tool called a froe and a mallet. The texture and history of these pieces of wood are fascinating to me, and searching through old barns for them was incredible.
As tactile objects, they are part of a cycle of rebirth as they were used in late October each year when the crops were pulled in. Tobacco leaves “died” on them as they cured. Symbolically, in this arrangement they take on another meaning, representing the danger of love with their horrific spikes and sharpness, and at the same time appearing beautiful. Like taking up with a partner; so gorgeous but so dangerous - full of things that can stab and hurt you at any time.
Each stick was hand cleaned, cloth-ragged with natural stain, and clear coat lacquered. The result is an incredible richness and newness that blossomed in these pieces as they were reborn.
For the two vehicles, I have taken antique hobby horses sourced from the United Kingdom, painted and clear coated them with an auto body finishes, and arranged them in fabricated steel frames that are gross exaggerations of the original. They are strikingly beautiful yet eerie and frightening at the same time.
Paintings and Photographs
There are pieces here that represent select women in my life that have made me turn in one direction or the other, or brought about emotions that otherwise would not have been introduced at a particular time. I view each piece as a tribute to them and in the process of creating the pieces, the relationship was revisited and remembered. In two pieces the relationship is ongoing.
In the paintings, my intent was to keep the work simple and accessible. I purposely did not push to add too many multiple layers, feeling that it might overcook the work. I took a lot of time debating the purpose of each piece and each medium before I began to physically create. Time and patience sketching and writing in notebooks was favored heavily during the pre-production process, and I feel this brought about an honest authenticity to the pieces.
The photographs were chosen after searching through all the old boxes and folders I have these things stored in. We all have these somewhere, and going through them is akin to watching a movie of your life. Each of these images represent a single moment in that relationship that in a larger way tells the entire narrative. Printed on archival 300lb cold press paper and enlarged to show the granularity of the film stock or polaroid, they are a raw and telling look into my story.
I hope the audience can take the same approach by default, and engage in their evaluation their own past history and ghosts.
This video chronicles my journey sourcing materials across Kentucky for the show, and reflects on moments that are symbolic and personal that tie into my process. My kids are shown as the most important result of my journeys thus far. Included are songs by the following artists: Lee Bains III and the Glory Fires, Sturgill Simpson, and The National.
These are some of my personal writings to some of my past ghosts.