On quiet types and creativity

As I’ve nosed around niches, I’ve been lucky to meet some fascinating shadowy-coder types (hat tip to Liz Warren) here and there. As a seeker of clarity, in a preface to convos with elusives I tend to say: You’re in control of the privacy settings. Such respect and regard can be natural among private persons, a bit rare as we may be these days; it also gets me thinking about my experience of that terrain.

From age 7 to 18 I was an athlete propelled by a zealous drive that mystified those around me. I performed and won at national and even international levels in front of crowds, yet was somehow at the same time a total introvert about whom few knew much. The kind of ease I’d found with public and private selves in sport in no way whatsoever translated to art, because by nature the creative self is our true self and can’t be split. When I began making art at age 20, it was extraordinarily difficult to even begin to share such dimensions of my experience publicly — as an endearing example, I managed to catch myself on fire before my solo thesis show in college — and this journey is certainly not complete. With creativity there’s a different order of distinction altogether between what is and isn’t said, because the mystery itself, which is our only subject, can never be spoken directly. I adore the writing of W. G. Sebald, a deeply private man and among the most incandescent of novelists. In The Rings of Saturn it’s as if with each sentence he gradually builds two books, the spare elegance of what’s written and the ever more expansive space he sculpts, with an unmatched dexterity, of all that isn’t. As we learn in meditation, firm banks make room for great rivers to flow.

New arrivals

When one of your favorite sculptors sends you an art mail, of course it arrives in a repurposed cordless drill box.

art mail

Studio process

Studio process
Studio process

Parts for new sculpture and irl Mirror Chain coming off the cnc table. Metal chains are bent or welded to make closed-loop links; I’ve neither option with mirror sheet. Instead I went for a simple design with two alternating types of links: One link is a closed loop, and one link has a gap that slots to build up the chain. It’s funny how ideas emerge — the resulting chains have a binary pattern rhythm, a more interesting variety of views as one walks around them, and overall a different feel than conventional links would provide. Next solo show is sculpture, opens in October. Next architectural digital work is TBD, and whilst I grapple with its seeming impossibilities, who knew that the exploratory convos and doors they’re opening would be so much fun.

Ever a student

I Ching and wordsI Ching, trans. Wilhelm/Baynes. Still no desire to read Shakespeare, yet.

I’ve always been rather slow and spare with words, going so far as to joke that my first language is art while I’m working on English. When I was 24 and mid-PhD in sculpture, I mourned that I’d never write a novel because I was too old, hadn’t been to school for writing, and had zero capacity to read Shakespeare (quadruple lol). After I was hit by a car in December of 2008—the more visible scar on my forehead—I gradually began to write, so completely did I need to be shaken before I could bring myself to fish for a page of words. And when a few years later the uncategorizable Geoff Dyer selected me for a writing residency, I was unabashedly the butt of good-natured ribbing by the group for being the writer who wrote the least. As usual the I Ching has guidance on the matter. Been thinking about this quote, to the best of my fallible abilities, since I first noted it a decade ago. It’s taken quite a time to see connections well enough to bring a few to consciousness, but how else would nature teach me that she so loves patient devotion.

On making art and serendipity

In 2007 I lived in a creaky high-ceilinged apartment Aalst, Belgium, a storage closet in South London, and an artist-modified double-wide trailer on a former WWII Air Force base in Nevada (plenty of stories there)—all by June of that year. And I still had an awkward five-month gap to go before I’d be relocating to the Netherlands for a two-year research and production residency at the Jan Van Eyck in Maastricht. By happenstance, I ended up in the parlor of an apartment in Midtown Sacramento, the first and only time I’ve lived in that sleepy, leafy city.

One afternoon early that July, I surfed Craigslist and saw a peculiar listing: Someone announced that they’d just rented a 20,000 sq ft warehouse and wanted to give artists free studio space. To me, this was the stuff of dreams and it sounded way too good to be real, but I figured I’d better investigate. The next day I found myself in a cavernous former auto body shop—totally empty except for a skateboard—meeting this incredibly generous and thoroughly professional fellow with an unconventional vision named Jesse Powell, who would later go on to found Kraken. He gave me a set of keys and I worked there on and off for the next five months. These were the very early days of his new contemporary art endeavor, which would gradually cohere to become Verge, and long before its official artist residency program would kick off. I was pretty much the first serious inquiry to the listing, and almost always alone as I worked in that gigantic raw space next to the train tracks on V Street, like some oddball art ghost. Which suited me, it was too early in my evolution to be any more visible. I made four large prototype sculptures and photographed them there against a wall they kindly let me paint white, along with a handful of smaller works, which enabled me to land a museum commission for one of those big pieces in the NL the following fall, a show in Miami that December, and much more.

My subsequent move to Maastricht was a total life upheaval and I promptly lost track of Jesse, the team, and activities at Verge, but I’ll be forever grateful to Jesse for his astonishing generosity, thoughtful support, and all the good that his work via Verge has made possible for artists. And I’ll always marvel at such unbelievable luck—how is it that the only time I ever lived in Sacramento happened to exactly align with the utterly unusual inception of Sacramento’s first contemporary art residency space, among other questions—though I no longer subscribe to chance, as it has been but one of many marvelous serendipities on my path.

Below are a few never-before-seen-anywhere process snapshots from those days—showing work in progress on my first prototype for the sculpture that would the next year become Settlers House at the Bonnefantenmuseum. A few early Reclamation dimension images are up on the wall, and the ever-present stereo sits atop a concrete column mold. Laser-focused on the tasks at hand, I never thought to step back and photograph the sprawling, dimly lit warehouse itself. At that stage, the main Verge space had zero climate control, and Sacramento gets stupidly hot, so the 4’ diameter fan by the back door kept the heatstroke at bay.

Studio process
Studio process
Studio process