I am a sculptor and a fiber artist who works primarily with the figure to visually express the depth of the human experience. I choose to work predominantly with the figure because it allows me to conceptually and figuratively portray my ideas about depression, mental illness, and the human condition. By utilizing a media-ramic life-casting technique, the viewer can immediately relate to my work due to its figurative nature, life-size scale, and the amount of detail captured within the cast. Media-ramics is a mixed media process that primarily uses a synthetic clay material. Bobby Scroggins is the inventor of this process. Ron Mueck and Tipp Toland’s hyper-realistic style and the looser styles of Beth Cavener Stichter and Matt R. Martin inspire my work.
I employ a dark patina on many of my figures to allow them to be relatable to most people. I have found that existing art about the suffering of the human condition overwhelmingly portrays heterosexual, Caucasian people; it tends to ignore the representation of people of color, especially lgbtqa+ people of color. Therefore, throughout my art I use models that come from many different backgrounds and sexual orientation. Several of the models that I cast endure some sort of mental illness and tend to suffer greatly from the human condition.
Many people believe if someone is suffering they must have some physical ailment to go along with the emotional pain. If a physical ailment is not evident then people assume that the person must not really be suffering. Emotional pain is not considered a valid form of trauma in today’s society, even if we can prove that the brain is actually sick. The figure is used to visually express the emotional pain each person may be experiencing, regardless of race, sexual identity, or beliefs.
The hearts that are found in some of my work represent how hard it can be for some people to connect themselves with their own emotions. Many times people who are suffering from mental illness feel as if they are numb to the world, and they no longer have any passion left for their life. They can feel as if they have to “graft” their emotions back into their personality and act as if they did not feel numb to the world. The imagery that I use for this is that everyday their heart would have to swell to take over the depression they may be feeling. At the end of each day the person suffering from the human condition would throw another used heart into a pile and begin preparing a new heart for the next day.
Woven blankets are combined with some of the figures providing them with a bit of comfort from the despair of the human experience. My use of fiber work stems from the need to cloak oneself in comfort cloth. The blankets that I have created provide a soft and nurturing place for the figures to curl up and relax. My work strives to connect with people who are suffering from the human condition.
I would like to thank my friends and family for supporting me throughout this entire process, the entire art department faculty at Xavier University, especially Kitty Uetz and Kelly Phelps, and all of the wonderful people who allowed me to cast them.