Humans need to connect with Earth, the site of our existence, on which everything depends. My drawings are transmissions of place that I hope will earn your attention. Because Earth has something to tell us.
When I travel to a place, I take my time and give the place my full attention. I walk, sit still, listen, think and daydream. I am alone, in silence. I sketch and take notes. I return. I pay attention to atmosphere, light, and color. I see patterns that reveal an underlying order - the cracks in the limestone karst that score the grey expanse. I listen for the sound of the wind through a stone wall. Unseen things - imagined, dreamed and thought- gather around. I look for poetic empathy with place and a connection to genius loci. Over time I collect experiences, memories, material samples, photographs, field notes and sketches to create a personal archive of a place. This first-hand research is the emotional core of my creative process.
As I pay attention, my connection to the place deepens. I learn the names of things. I learn the tales that are told of a place. Books and material culture embody past-place and help site me on the timeline of humanity’s brief existence. Thinking through stone and the lithic connects me to the deep time of Earth - the extra-human, the pre-human and the post-human. It is oddly comforting.
In exchange for the simple practice of attention, (which everybody can do, not only artists) we experience feelings of empathy with the things - stones, volcanoes, the ocean, jackrabbits - that share this moment of existence on Earth. It leads to an appreciation of the worlds beyond self, both animate and inanimate, and a desire to protect their right to exist. Attending to Earth brings a sense of meaningful connection to the time and place where we are now, which is important: We protect the things we love. Attention brings us closer to love.
I am sometimes overwhelmed by ecological anxiety. We are losing so much, and a feeling of solastalgia surrounds the things that remain - a feeling that the things I see and love in the here-and-now will soon be lost. Diving into my creative process and connecting to Earth is a way to counteract feelings of loss and hopelessness. I also gain perspective and a dose of mortal humility. I am filled with gratitude for this miraculous life-bearing planet.
I make art because I have something to say about what I see and feel unfolding all around me on Earth in the year 002019. This mission feels increasingly urgent.
The creative process that began by paying attention to place and receiving nature’s “transmissions,” continues in the studio. I cast about in my artist’s toolkit and set to work to articulate a visual statement about peatbogness, or about how it felt to be standing near an ancient stone fort built of stacked Burren stones, or how to tell about a color that you can walk through. I reflect, remember, trace, reframe, draw, stencil, rub, cover over, cut, remove, distill, reverse, assess, until finally an art object emerges from the process - in this case a series of drawings.
This is where you come in, dear reader. An art object does not perform art’s function independent of the viewer. For a drawing to transmit its visual message, an eye/mind must first take it in. Only then, through your attention, a new thought or association, an unexpected emotion, a memory, curiosity, or a new way of understanding might happen. At that moment visual art becomes more than simply an output of the creative process. Through your attention visual art becomes a powerful image-agent of change.