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This series references, directly and indirectly, an email correspondence between myself and a family friend who is suffering from a mental illness that makes sincere communication nearly impossible. The use of concrete as a surface for these pieces makes the work both physically and visually heavy, and where canvas might be flexible or stretchable, the concrete is adamantly hard, brittle and impermeable. This purely physical body of work is in a contextual dialogue with the performances “Braced” and “The Problems With You.”
performance, cement slab, used motor oil, toner, masonry nails, white cloth
Rapid Pulse Performance Art Festival, Defibrillator Gallery, Chicago
In this performance I supported a 300lb slab of concrete for as long as I could. When I became too weak to hold it any longer I allowed it to fall, where, on impact, it cracked open spilling a viscous black liquid onto the white cloth below. I then tried to pull the cloth over the broken piece’s surface, but it was too small to cover it entirely.
The slab used in Braced was, in itself, a continuation of my studio practice, and was cast and painted in my studio in Detroit. This performance relates both materially and conceptually to the same themes explored in “The Problems With You” and the “Every Letter…” series, and looks at the complexity of support networks within friend and family groups, questioning our internal ethics around responsibility to self vs responsibility to others, whose problems may be broad and ongoing, but are ultimately not our own.
“The Problems With You”
Durational performance, printed email correspondence, lumber, stucco, bucket, water, cushion, fan
Ox-Bow School of Art, Saugatuck, Michigan
This is the first piece in an ongoing body of work that is also represented in the works “Braced” and the “Every Letter…” series. This piece was an 11-hour durational performance in which I both physically, and emotionally, processed a difficult and long standing relationship with a close family friend dealing with mental illness.
The fabricated ceiling in the room was made up of 15 panels, each panel was coated with stucco and scratched into — leaving a series of irregular grooves. In total, the ceiling weighed nearly 700lbs and was hung just below my standing height. During the performance, I read aloud from a body of email correspondence between myself and my friend. After reading each message, I wet the paper in water, tore it into strips, and pressed it into the grooves of the ceiling. The process of packing the paper into the ceiling created moments of rest in the emotionally wrought narration of this decades-long relationship, and might be seen as an attempt to sequester bad memories or heal old wounds.
The Monkey Chases The Weasel (How Did I Get Here?)
Durational performance, concrete block, gessoed panel, blood, sterilized lancets, iodine, water cooler, air freshener
9338 Campau Gallery, Hamtramck, Michigan
The Monkey Chases The Weasel (How Did I Get Here?) was composed as a long narrow triangle. The performance progressed as follows: I lifted the cinder block from the pedestal and placed it on a low platform on the opposite side of the room. I walked to the pedestal at the end of the gallery, where I pierced my finger with a sterilized needle. I marked a drop of blood on a flat white panel with a grid marked on it. I returned to the block and lifted it back onto the pedestal. I pierced my finger and marked another drop of blood on the grid. This continued for four hours, at which point I took a half-hour lunch break. Lunch was followed by four more hours of the same.
This piece refines and simplifies previous labor performances such as “Full-Time,” and uses repetition and physical labor to examine the loss of personal identity that may come from surviving off of work that you feel detached from.
Durational performance, concrete, unbleached muslin, plastic bags, sewing machine, iron, cement mixer, hand tools, pallets, newsprint
La Esquina Gallery, Kansas City, Missouri
During this exhibition my collaborator, Rena Detrixhe, and I performed for the course of a 40-hour work week. Each day we sewed thirty pillow cases, and cast thirty 20lb concrete blocks. The items were marked with the date and a number — 1-150. When an item was completed it was placed onto a palette in the rear of the gallery, and a slip of paper was filled out with its number, the date, and the time completed. During the closing reception, the manufactured objects were sold in packages — one block, one pillowcase, their corresponding record slips, and a receipt signed by the artists. The cost of these packages was $7.85 — calculated as the total cost of materials and our labor at minimum wage, divided by the total number of items produced.
This project looks at the confusing economics of being an artist, and the all too common frustration of having to make you living in a field that is not art, and is far from where you maintain your identity. The sub-context of Full-Time is a critique of the many institutions that take advantage of artists, who are often willing to produce their work for very little compensation, with the hope of progressing their careers in a highly competitive field.
The Heartbeat Listeners
Hamtramck Arts Festival, Detroit, Michigan
The Heartbeat Listeners was an exercise in intimacy. When visitors entered the event space they were invited to have 100 of their heartbeats counted by one of the Listeners. Participants were then, in turn, invited to count 100 of the Listener’s heartbeats. Depending on an individual’s resting heart rate, this took 1-2 minutes, — a prolonged period of quiet intimacy to share with a stranger. Accepting the invitation of this project required being open to a level of vulnerability that is outside the parameters, and possibly the comfort zones, of most people’s daily interactions. The acknowledgement of another’s life through this simple action is a powerful and human experience.
Framing, hog fencing, found and donated materials, custom highchair, Glade air fresheners
Salina Art Center, Salina, Kansas
The underlying structure at the center of the gallery is approximately seven meters in diameter, and three meters in height. Against and over top of this structure are carefully arranged items donated by the Salina community, some still functional but extraneous, some entirely useless, and many somewhere in between — objects that had been held onto because of an identified potential, or use, that had never been met, and never would be. At the center of the constructed space is a very large oak highchair. Through the brightly lit window, in the locked back door of the installation, is viewable an empty portion of the gallery. Presented in sterile harsh lighting, the only objects visible are four Glade air fresheners – emanating the manufactured fragrance of a clean American home.
In Our Time
Durational performance, performers, curved masonite wall, limestone, sand, colored lighting gels, furniture, water in glasses, treadmill, diary, sterling silver egg, custom maple work bench, cards
University of Kansas Art and Design Gallery, Lawrence, Kansas
This piece was performed on four occasions. Each performance ran for the duration of 10,000 heartbeats, approximately 2:15 hours, as marked in chalk by the artist on the central curved wall. The sound of the artist’s markings was amplified into the space behind the wall. In that space four discrete actions were being performed. One person ran on a treadmill; the next wrote down thoughts, stories, or memories; the third person sat filing a sterling silver egg at a maple workbench; and finally there is a person playing solitaire – waiting.