I work just about exclusively with Pacific Madrone from the Arbutus family. My favorite parts are the burls that grow within the roots of these trees. They are harvested for the veneer market and I use the rejects from this harvest. These burls often weigh many thousand pounds. To make them usable, the dirt and rocks have to be removed, then they can be cut into blocks. By working with wet wood with a high water content (up to 20% of it's volume) and by cutting or turning my forms very thin (to about an 1/8th of an inch) I take advantage of and encourage the changes that occur as the wood dries. As the water evaporates and leaves the cells and the space between the cells, the wood shrinks. Depending on how those cells were aligned in its structure, some very dynamic changes occur.


I work with a variety of tools. The chainsaw is used for most of the wood preparation but also for sculptural pieces. Here, the marks that are left are dramatic and forceful. The lathe is used for round forms; mainly in a series I call 'Baskets'. Tool marks here are subtle and soft. In my current series of wall sculptures, called 'Fragments' and 'Torsos' I work with the band saw and a horizontal band saw mill to cut large blocks of Madrone burl into very thin panels. The saw leaves subtle lines across the surface of the wood. I dry these panels slowly over a period of weeks, sometimes months, in a controlled environment, allowing them to take on their final shape, while minimizing the chances of cracking.


When they have finished drying, I sandblast and bleach the panels. The sandblasting cleans and softens them. Like a lot of my other work, I use bleach to expose what is within. I compare this to Black and White photography: I remove most of the color to simplify, to focus on the structure and the undulations and textures that occurred through the drying process. Sometimes it feels obvious how a particular panel wants to be used, at other times it takes me a while to read it, feel it, ask what it wants from me, so that I can do my part. Many are discarded. I mount these thin slices of wood on the wall. At times, I display them as single objects, but mostly I assemble them into larger groups, all cut from the same block of green wood. I am interested in their interactions and the spaces between them. I enjoy the way their shapes and textures flow together and create a whole. When mounted and with proper lighting, beautiful shadows appear on the wall, extending the form in varying degrees of grey.


In the 'Torso' series, I have cut the wood in such a way, that after the panels dry, they carry a sometimes subtle, sometimes very obvious resemblance to human torsos, male and female. At times I approach the panels like I would a canvas and with the help of a burning tool I add my own ideas and energy, through textures and variations in color. I either try to step into the surface and flow with the grain and the underlying energy, or I start creating multiple levels of texture, sometimes adding the burning as a separate element.


To be working this closely with nature is a blessing, but also often overwhelming. It is a struggle. At times I find myself needing to put my foot down, to control the outcome of my work, only to find that I trampled something beautiful. At other times I feel overwhelmed, scared: what is needed of me here, how can I match the beauty of this living thing? How am I to know when to be loud and when to be quiet…? Maybe this stuff just matches my personality, something to wrestle with, something that stirs my imagination, something to control. That nature versus manmade thing, that struggle, that tension, that conflict. My work is about my relationship with nature, my desire to connect with it on a deep level. Trying to get under its skin and be part of it. Searching, finding something sacred, adding my touch, wrestling with it. Showing the beauty of it under a different light: exposing, transforming. I make things out of a deep urge to create and out of a driving curiosity. I need to do it. I don't really have a choice in the matter.


When I am working with the panels I am looking for certain patterns. Patterns that are known to us from nature: landscapes, maps, bodies and birds. A pattern or image that elicits a visceral response. How come a piece of wood looks like a torso or the flight of birds? When the image is quiet enough to have some space for me, it becomes a canvas and I can add to or change the direction of the energy.


I get great pleasure from slowly learning what is in a panel and from following and trusting my intuition. There are hints of form that I follow, flows of energy, abstractions that are faintly familiar. I attempt to bring them into focus. Some of the more interesting imagery happens where the root burl changes into the straight-grained parts of a tree. Something special happens here, there is a charge, a place where two energies meet.


· yale university art gallery
· the smithsonian museum of american art, renwick gallery
· museum of fine arts, boston
· bellevue arts museum
· royal cultural center, saudi arabia
· gallery of art & design, north carolina state university
· museum of art + design, nyc
· detroit institute of arts
· l.a. county museum of art
· long beach museum of art
· mint museum of craft + design, charlotte
· art for embassies program, dc
· woodturning center, philadelphia
· art insitute of minneapolis
· de young museum
· mobile museum of art
· the contemporary museum, honolulu
· stanford university art gallery
· fuller museum of art, brockton
· university of michigan museum of art
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