For two months in fall 2016, Breathing Lights illuminated the street-facing windows of hundreds of vacant buildings in the neighboring cities of Albany, Schenectady, and Troy, NY. Warm light filled each window with a diffuse glow that pulses with the gentle rhythm of human breathing. Concentrated in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods with high vacancy rates, these installations transformed vacant structures from pockets of shadows into places of warmth. This massive installation helped illuminate the region’s struggle with vacancy and its effects on residents and neighborhood economies, and regenerated interest in once-vibrant communities.
Funded through a $1 million Bloomberg Philanthropies "Public Art Challenge" grant, Breathing Lights was led by myself as lead artist, and Barbara Nelson as lead architect . This project brought together local architects, students, engineers, artists, and product developers to design and install custom light instruments. Illumination kits consisted of miniature LED strip lights bound in adhesive fabric, affixed to interior window frames. The lights shined through windows covered in diffusion material, powered and controlled by batteries. In a region that pioneered electricity, a project centered on lighting technology infuses the installation with history and place.
single-channel video 11:45-minutes 2015
Similar to a book of short fiction, Tropical Stories brings together four documented performances into one video. Each performance took place in a tropical location, and through editing their separate stories have been interwoven together.
public billboard 12' x 36' 2014
Artist Jon Rubin constructed a billboard in Pittsburgh, PA for his project, "The Last Billboard." Each month he invites a different individual to come up with a text-based piece for the billboard.
At the time that he approached me to take part in the project, I was traveling through Brazil. I was in a small country village, and over a loudspeaker that could be heard throughout the town a voice announced that a funeral was taking place at the cemetery. The experience of making a public announcement that everyone could hear seemed so logical to me, and to have it pertain to the death of one of its citizens, all the more meaningful. It made me think that a similar system could or should be implemented in the US.
Though "Crier" is shown here as a text-based project, it is in fact a proposal for exactly what it is stating. The title refers to both someone who makes announcements in public places, as in a town crier, as well as referring to one who cries, whether out of joy or sorrow.
video of public performance / digital prints 5-minutes / 16 x 24" 2013
As part of the Art in Odd Places performance festival in New York City, I crawled along 14th street on my hands and knees, scraping up the blackened pieces of gum that are stuck to the sidewalk. The scraped up gum was melted down in a small stove that I would set up on site, forming it into a series of primitive figurines that were left on the street.
The title refers to a conglomeration of mythic characters from different cultures, all of whom embody the act of transformation:
Kodama: a spirit from Japanese folklore believed to live in certain trees, they occasionally speak and can be heard when someone dies
Azoth: the essential agent of transformation in alchemy, a universal medicine or solvent, the animating spirit hidden in all matter that makes transformation possible, and the Arabic word for mercury
Golem: an animated and anthropomorphic being from Jewish folklore created from inanimate matter, also used to describe an uncultivated, dumb, helpless, or clumsy person
Nkisi: pronounced Nikishi, it is a general name for a spirit or for an object that a spirit inhabits from the Congo Basin, considered to reside in charms or power objects with their power coming from the ancestors
weatherproof digital print onto PVC panel, MDO, oak, aluminum channeling 6.5' x 8' x 1.5" 2013
As part of a commission for the I-Park Environmental Art Biennial in Connecticut, I scouted out a location within the grounds of the sculpture park to photograph. I wanted the location to be representative of this lush forest in summer, but it was important that the scene not be too memorable or picturesque.
The printed photograph and the frame that holds it have been fabricated to withstand the New England weather for many years. Installed near to where the original photograph was taken, but not in the exact place, the image aims to respond to the entirety of the forest as opposed to a specific spot. Leaning against a tree, its display is meant to feel provisional, as if it could easily be moved and yet its relation to its surroundings would remain the same.
As the season's change, how the image relates to the landscape will vary from being similar in appearance (in summer) to dramatically different (in winter). Within this setting, this photograph will act as a constant, drawing attention away from itself and toward the change that surrounds it.
wood, fire, performers public performance / historical recreation 2012
Years ago while on vacation in California I found out about an event that took place for almost a century at Yosemite National Park. Known as the "firefall," it involved shoveling large piles of hot embers over a cliff face as a nightly spectacle. Because the park officially ended this man-made event in the late 1960's, I was immediately bothered by the fact that I would never get to see it. So in 2010 I interviewed one of the last remaining park employees alive who took part in it to teach me how it was done.
Where I live in the northeastern part of the US, the only place you can find a sheer cliff is at a stone quarry. A nearby cement plant with an open limestone mine took an interest in my project, and with their help we were able to stage the first firefall for a public audience since the event last took place almost half a century ago.
single-channel video 10:30 minutes 2012
While studying landscape architecture in Japan I learned that many Japanese gardens are only meant to be viewed through a building that acts as a framing device. Looking for a reason to build a mobile unit that would similarly frame the landscape, I created a cardboard version large enough for two people to occupy, yet manageable enough to be easily moved. With text printed on the box that made it appear as if it once contained parts for NASA's Kepler mission (a satellite searching for habitable planets) I shot a short film in which a teenage couple finds and uses the discarded box as a means for exploring their own earthly habitat of Los Angeles.
The Fence Thief
single-channel video 2-minute and 11-minute versions 2007
Having recently moved to upstate New York at this point, I met a man who is both a dancer and an arborist. Drawing off his particular skill set we shot a short, fairy tale-like film that resulted in the making of a large outdoor sculpture. In the story an arborist steals a painted fence from someone's yard, then drives it to a hidden location. Cutting the fence into pieces, he backpacks the comically-large bundle of boards into the forest. Finding a fittingly tall tree, he uses the wood to create a color-coded ladder up its side, eventually disappearing into the canopy.
single-channel video / installation 18-minutes / various materials 2009
While an artist-in-residence at Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts in Omaha, Nebraska I shot a short film, part fiction and part documentary, with a mentally-disabled man who was obsessed with meteorology. That summer's tumultuous weather (tornadoes, floods, thunderstorms, and hurricanes) provided a backdrop for Joe, the film's protagonist, to invoke his idiosyncratic manner of forecasting. While the narrative follows his attempt to describe dramatic weather cycles, Joe also reveals to the viewer differing means for dealing with uncontrollable forces in our lives.
After the film version of "DIVINER" was finished, Bemis Center offered to fund an exhibition, as well as a published book, about the project. Because many props were created and found during the shooting of the film, it was a natural extension to explore creative ways to turn them into an art installation. In the exhibition "DIVINER" reveals and reinvents several moments within the story line, creating a room-sized experience equivalent to walking through the film. The editing and composition of the film parallels the loose, psychic connection between the objects in the room, allowing for many potential hooks for the viewer.
offset printed book (edition of 500) 7" x 9.25" 2007
Growing up, there was a big oak tree at the bend of our street that appeared to grow stronger each time it was hit by a car. As a child I believed that it was the lives of those drivers that made it stronger, their life force collected by the tree on impact. Having driven around the country on secondary roads in search of trees that were hit by cars, I discovered them through various tactics: police reports, insurance claims, public knowledge, and chance encounters. In 2007 I was given the opportunity to have a book of these photographs printed. Along with the fifty photographs, the book contains an essay by curator Toby Kamps, and a commissioned short story by Charles McLeod.
mirror-polished stainless steel, wood 48" x 32" x 12" 2006
For an outdoor exhibition at Forest Hills Cemetery in Boston I was commissioned to create a temporary sculpture. Set amongst 19th century tombstones I fabricated a contemporary momento mori out of mirror-polished stainless steel. Its title refers to a line of dialogue excluded from Stanley Kubrick's 1968 film, "2001: A Space Odyssey." In its size the freestanding block was similar to, but slightly larger and thicker than the surrounding grave markers. Like a modern skyscraper it lacked ornamentation, merely reflecting its surroundings. For each person who looked into it, it briefly became their tombstone. At the same time it stood as a poignant reminder,while surrounded by the dead, that you are still alive.
fluorescent fixtures and bulbs, steel cable, generator 240' long / 175' long 2005 / 2007
A long line of fluorescent lights were strung along a steel cable spanning the valley between two hills on a cattle ranch in Wyoming. The line of lights slightly bowed to mimic the curve of the valley 50' below. When seen in this natural context fluorescent light is peculiarly similar to moonlight, yet the shadows it created, and the manner in which the valley was illuminated, were almost supernatural in appearance. A similar version was commissioned by the American Embassy for the International House of Japan. "White Line (Tokyo)" functioned like an effects machine, transforming their Japanese garden into an eerie, psychedelic wonderland.
burnt-out car, lights, ash / mounted and laminated c-print installation view / 48" x 60" 2004
My solo exhibition at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, "Spotlight/White Heat/Airborne," consisted of three new artworks, the most ambitious being the staged photograph, "White Heat." The image depicts the moment after a car had ceased burning on a lush side street. The car's interior has reached a temperature known as white heat that causes it to glow bright white, illuminating the entire scene. In its installation in the museum the 4' x 5' photograph (titled "White Heat Maintained") is shown with the actual car (titled "White Heat Expired"), which was meticulously burnt over the course of months to give it the appearance of having reached such a high burning temperature.
collaboration with Shunichi Ogawa single-channel video 4-minute and 12-minute versions 2005
In 2004-05 I was a recipient of the US/Japan Creative Artists Award, a six-month research grant given through the US government for independent study in Japan. While there I collaborated with sound designer Shunichi Ogawa on "B-flat," a short film involving a group of young musicians traveling by traditional skiff through a secluded mountain valley. Staged as if set in the Meiji period, the eight women are trying together to maintain the note b-flat on their violins only to be thwarted from achieving their goal by the river itself. In the film they are attempting to free themselves from their Sysiphean task, but are instead caught in a never-ending journey.
single-channel video 4-minute and 35-minute versions 2004
In 2004 I was commissioned by the Contemporary Art Museum in St. Louis to create a new video piece that would be screened at their museum. Near to where I was living at the time I witnessed the pulsing of blue light emanating at night from the windows of a housing complex. The blue light was produced by televisions illuminating a darkened room. Because different people were watching the same station, their windows pulsed in perfect unison, though it occurred at varied and unpredictable intervals. In a series of anonymous apartment buildings and hotels I restaged this syncopated, yet random effect. The result inadvertently alluded to a collective loneliness that we, in the modern world, might be asked to share together.
Water Rerouting Initiatives
various materials installation views 1999-2001
"Tape Fountains" are one project within "Water Rerouting Initiatives": a series of projects created in and for marginal public spaces in which the natural course of water is willfully redirected. Spontaneous water redirecting projects were executed with tape and other materials in or near public bathrooms at various locations such as malls, airports, universities, apartment buildings, and restaurants. For "Tape Fountains" it is up to the viewer/participant to turn on the water to activate the fountain.
The 5-minute video that overviews the series includes seven WRI projects: "Tape Fountains," "The Sushi Fountain," "The Hotel Bathroom Fountain," "The Sprinkler Fountain," "Continence Deinhibitor/Urination Replicator," "Hijacked Drinking Fountain," and "Slewbreak."