Theatrum Naturae et Artis, 2009
Narrows Center for the Arts, Fall River, Massachusetts
Space of Emplacement (for Galileo Galilei), 2004
pedestals, wood, three armadillos
I had this image of three armadillos in my mind for a long time. I always knew it would be rather hilarious, as if I had trained them for my own private circus. But I also felt they represented a shift in consciousness.
I greatly admire certain aspects of the French philosopher Michel Foucault’s writing, especially his unfinished essay on Heterotopias. In the essay, Foucault refers to Galileo Galilei’s “space of emplacement.” As human beings, as societies, we are at times faced with imagery so unsettling, so new, that we feel the ground on which we stand disappearing. I love the image (although only true for a few species) of the armadillo, if frightened, being able to roll up, becoming a universe unto itself, and roll down a steep slope to safety.
The Overriding Desire I and II (Charles Baudelaire), 2008
Seedpods, fabric, magazine cutouts, two display cabinets
Although most of my work is sensual, it is not directly erotic. For a recent exhibition of erotic art, however, I placed seedpods with two kinds of new inner linings inside two display cabinets.
In life, there are important transitions between sensual, naked, erotic and pornographic that nobody can avoid. In a heterosexual man’s relationship to a woman, the performance aspect, the seduction, the play, is what is most important.
The title comes from the French poet Charles Baudelaire’s statement: "the overriding desire of most children is to get at and see the soul of their toys,” which he then refers to as “the beginning of melancholy and gloom” (the joining of desire and melancholy.)
Crisis of Narrativity, 2009
nine giraffe shoulder blades, pedestals, stands
In this work, the methodology of Minimalism is joined with the methodology of 19th century museums of natural history display. Both methodologies aim to activate the space and call attention to it as a stage.
The intention in Minimalism is to bring the viewer into new awareness of being present, of sensing. The natural history museum dramatizes the hidden knowledge, or workings, of an unknown world (of wonder).
While tracking down giraffe bones for this work (through a dealer in Florida who acquires them directly from a South African government run giraffe reduction program), I read J.M. Ledgard’s extraordinary novel, Giraffe, published in 2006, about the tragic loss of the world’s largest herd of giraffes in captivity in Czechoslovakia (all secretly killed in a Zoo by the government due to an outbreak of a contagious decease). I therefore also see this as a monument for the Giraffes of the city of Dvůr Králové nad Labem / Königinhof an der Elbe/the Court of the Queen on the Elbe.
Real and Imaginary (Anachronistic fruit), 2009
Osage Orange from Fairhaven Massachusetts and Chinese imitation Osage Orange
Adam Leith Gollner writes in the extraordinary book, The Fruit Hunters, 2008:
“All species coevolve with other species. In certain cases, a plant’s evolutionary partner may be extinct, yet their fruits have somehow lived on. More than fourteen thousand years ago, giant sloths, mastodons, mammoths, elephantine gomphotheres and Hummer-sized beavers roamed the Americas. These animals, known collectively as megafauna, ate fruits like the osage orange. A knobby green fruit that lacks a twenty-first-century diner.”
Special thanks to Nate Bekemeier and Penny Brewer
The real fruit might rot or dry up. The artwork should have a real fruit placed on the sconce every fall next to the imitation fruit. This ritual would recreate the artwork yearly.
How long will the imitation fruit last? It is meant to exist outside nature and time. Most likely a petroleum product of some kind with an extensive lifespan unless programmed to break down within a predetermined time.
A Truth Which We Can Neither Reject Nor Completely Accept, 2009
taxidermy goose, lavender spray paint
The title is from the French philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty quoting Pascal in the essay “The Metaphysical in Man.”
Perhaps the taxidermist displayed the goose as flying and ready to land. Spray-painting it resulted in a new painterly or spiritual presence. The taxidermist aims for verity, the artist for metaphysical truth. Both look for drama.
New Bedford Cabinet: Song of the Deep, 2006
glass and wood cabinet, three Coco-de-Mer
A highly treasured object in a Cabinet of Curiosities was the Coco-de-Mer, a double coconut that only grows on the Seychelles Islands.
Early sailors would sometimes encounter them floating in the sea. The nut’s obvious relationship to female anatomy lends itself to many stories of undersea forests, mermaids, etc. It was not until 1768 that it was established where the Coco-de-Mer actually came from.
The government on the Seychelles does not allow fertile nuts to leaves the islands, and make only a restricted number of emptied nuts available each year. It was always rare. It is now officially classified as a rare protected species.
The Pessimism and Pensiveness of Late 19th Century Europe, 2002-09
two Alligator Gars, metal stand
Can the display of two Alligator Gars work as a visualization of the mindset of a continent at a specific time? This is the way I like to play with artwork and titles. Titles always come later. So do they detract or add?
What was the impulse for the work? I encountered the two South American gars in a store in New York in the 1990s. They have followed me ever since. When I finally got a studio they obviously had to “activate” the space. They are truly amazing to me.
The title is serious and tongue-in-cheek at the same time. What I enjoy is how we interpret, how we can play with imagery and real object, and tease out new meanings.
Connecticut Yucca Cabinet (for Susan Hamlet), 2009
Dried Yucca plant leaves and stems
This cabinet can be seen as a companion piece to the Orchid Cabinet, also on display in this exhibition. They were created at the same time. Helping a friend clean up her garden, I collected these Yucca plant sections.
We admire, and enjoy, a plant while it is alive, but the dead and discarded parts hold great beauty, and seem to point us toward other realms of existence. Nature does not prefer any specific stage in its creations, only Man attributes value.
Chinese Flower Cabinet (for Victor Segalen), 2011
artificial flowers parts, wood and glass cabinet
This cabinet is a work in a series of work and installations focusing on China I have done inspired by the French writer, Victor Segalen.
The French medical doctor, ethnographer, poet, and explorer, Victor Segalen (1878 – 1919), was not widely known during his lifetime, but has become increasingly important as we have moved from a narrow discussion of Colonialism, and a general sense of disenchantment, toward an awareness of the role curiosity, sensuality and delight play in consciousness.
Segalen is especially important in the way he situates our awareness, whether we are in France or in China, in a situation of diversity and displacement. He calls for “absolute subjectivism,” questions our “mental tonality,” and asks us to continuously remain playful and observant, stating: “form being that artificial and miraculous thing that is art’s reason for being.”
Delight (or Where My Mind Comes to Rest) III, 2009
Natural and artificial objects, black sconces
On early portraits of naturalists we often see a shelf in the foreground proudly displaying exotic treasures, especially fruit from faraway lands. I take the same delight in tracking down dried seeds and artificial fruit in stores in different Chinatowns.
Gelbe musik (Yellow Music), 2009
taxidermy canary, bird whistle, metal birdcage
This work is created in memory of the Danish composer and artist, Henning Christiansen, who passed away earlier this year.
Henning Christiansen was an extraordinary example of an artist who, like the American artist and composer John Cage, used music and art and the creation of events as a vehicle for elevating – bringing consciousness – to our participation in ordinary life.
He loved canaries, and created a symphony for, and with, canary song.
Henning Christiansen is mostly known in the US for his extensive, early collaborations with the German artist, Joseph Beuys, and for being a member of the Fluxus movement.
The Merchant’s Tale, 2009
Bird of Paradise, metal pedestal, sconce
A 17th century Cabinet of Curiosity would have to have a Bird of Paradise. A collection of extraordinary objects and their stories would have to display the extraordinarily beautiful bird that had no legs and spent all of its life in the air.
In Danish the word for sky and heaven is the same: himmel. Apparently, the earliest traders in the Far East acquired these birds from natives who were only interested in the plumage and had taken out the skeleton and broken off the legs.
Wilde Blumen (Wildflowers), 1994
Pages from a German book on wildflowers, lures
This is an early series of work where I had begun to work in series. I enjoy the repeated statement, the same gesture leading to slight variations.
The German tradition of photographing wildflowers has many aspects to it, from nationalism to nature worship. The light in them is extraordinary. Lures are meant to catch the attention of its specific pray. They are meant to look like insects or small fish. They are beautiful, light filled, small constructions, sculptures in their own right.
Each work is a representation of a wildflower on which is placed a representation of a small insect or fish. Two realms of illusion joined.