1) You do use a really wide range of materials. But does your work itself always follow one process? Does the idea tend to precede your choice of materials?
There really is no given; it will never be a case of "this first". But many things dictate, at an intuitive level, what attracts me to this or that object, this or that exploration.
A lot of my pieces look at how American society measures concepts such as value. To explore the contradictions of that, you don't need "valuable" things; the questioning can begin with an act of sheer accumulation - as with many of my temporary site specific installations.
Once I start looking at materials I find appealing, changes happen – and I find I'm then led to probe further. Sometimes I'll just go with the irony that a contrast evokes. Or something more unexpected happens and things will head in a different direction.
For instance, I was looking into how sports work to generate a sense of inadequacy - and I encrusted an NFL football with shining pink sequins. The initial impulse was to make it attractive to me. But as I started trying to do that, I suddenly found it looked even more "manly". Because it now looked almost armored. One of art's most intriguing outcomes is that kind of random tendency. Art such as mine is visceral, tactile and unpredictable. It just isn't something you dictate or control.
2) Your art displays many elements of craft. You obviously enjoy this aspect of creation, so where does it come from?
I do love taking objects that may not be intrinsically useful or precious and conferring value on them as part of a larger vision. This comes partly from my parents' creativity. My mother approached family and celebration so uniquely. For instance, she decorated quite elaborate cakes for any occasion. At Easter, too, she would sculpt these beautiful sugar eggs - with scenes inside of them. Her interest went beyond being just pleasant or decorative; my mother also made complex, Joseph Cornell-style shadow boxes.
I spent hours with my father making model airplanes. We took great pride painting the models realistically, getting the right camouflage pattern on military planes or adding colorful striping to fighter jets. As a child, I would go to sleep every night looking up at a ceiling filled with the planes we created together. I absorbed the possibilities of craft very early on from the way their creative vision always surrounded me. Certainly, it gave me a different way of looking at objects and the ability to see potential and energy in them.
3) What other areas of your background relate to your work?
My formal studies in art have turned out to be less pivotal than my childhood surroundings and experiences. There was the special, very creative nature of home – then there was the fact that "home" was geographically, culturally fluid. My father was in the military so we constantly traveled - not just around the US but also around the world. This meant that early on I was formally taught regional art forms such as Japanese origami, which emphasized to me that simple, basic materials could be transformed into works of art. I also now understand that, as a consequence of formative childhood years spent in Asia, I have special attractions to brilliant color and to objects created from plastic.
4) Do you always focus on one piece at a time? Or do you tend to work on multiple pieces at the same time?
I am always engaged with multiple pieces at one time. I find this way of working allows me the time to resolve each piece before I add to or complete it. Also I have found that, as I create each separate piece, it informs and improves everything else progressing in my studio.
As they spring up, I catalogue my ideas in a journal, which I constantly update; I'm always adding notes and making sketches. These eventually coalesce and lead me to fresh work.
5) Who are your influences – which artists inspire you?
That's always a loaded question. Sometimes, it's just a lack of rigor in critical discourse that turns assessment of anyone's work into a list of other names. I mean, I love the history of art, but I also love science! Of course there are artists whose work I admire immensely, such as Mike Kelley, Jim Hodges and Martin Kippenberger. Tom Friedman, Jim Lambie, Bruce Nauman, Gelitin – all these are artists have different ways of looking at the objects around us with wit, insight, politics and, often, great poetry.
I deliberately use ubiquitous materials or very seductive ones. To use bright, shiny, attractive and familiar pieces and materials offers a wider entrance into my work. So, in that sense, the familiar is my greatest "influence".
6) What role does painting play in your work today?
I started my art career as a painter. Although painting is not the primary focus my artistic output today – it’s a critical part of my studio practice and I paint throughout the year. I am often amazed how much I rely on my painting knowledge when creating sculpture or site-specific works – whether it’s how items are arranged, the use of color or using paint in my non-painting works.
I really enjoy creating a diverse body of work. One of the greatest things about being an artist is that I can create anything I want. Many of the artists I admire have created a divergent body of work that is seemingly unrelated, but when viewed together is interrelated.
7) Are you open to studio visits? Do you ever have time to meet people interested in your work for coffee, a drink or a dinner?
I make the effort to take part in regular and organized open studios. I will also open my studio – but by appointment only to individuals. For me, because I work at a very constant pace, interruptions cause problems. I do my best to make the time to meet different people - because personal interactions are part of my inspiration. After all, that's the basic fact: my art comes out of my life.