I depict landforms in a way that an amalgam of an architect, geologist and cartographer might.
At every new place I encounter I wonder, how did it come to be like this, what events or processes made it so? With research I try to finds answers, then in a manner akin to reverse engineering I set about to achieve a semblance of understanding. My process is to take apart a landscape and re-assemble it, creating objects and images that explain it or tell its story. These stories are sometimes chronicles of inquiry, other times accounts of a personal experience I had there. My stories can also be about the depiction of a place, by legend or account.
In the late 70’s I spent several seasons working as a firefighter for the BLM in Northeastern Utah. Often, I would be transported to fire sites via helicopter and I was able to view the landscape from the air. This experience transformed my way of seeing. From the air the land revealed its larger form; contours unseen from the ground emerged, and trees and rock became patterns of color and shadow.
I became acquainted with topographic maps when I was working in the architectural field and analogous to that, making architectural contour models. Architecture taught me to think about form pictorially (in elevation) but also in section. Recently, 3-D imaging, ground penetrating radar, GPS, geosynchronous satellite mapping and Google Earth have got me interested in new ways to consider the world. These tools present the world in new and unexpected ways, and they inform us, even as their record is sometimes altered or obscured to conceal.
I live near, and am fascinated by New Mexico’s Pajarito Plateau which stretches south from the Valles Caldera to the volcanoes on Albuquerque’s west side and as far west as Mt. Taylor. My work considers this area as if viewed from above and from ground level. I imagine arranging and re-arranging still images of the plateau generated by orbiting satellites, or what a photo-montage of some large form there might look like. I use small canvases as proxies for still photographs; I combine them to create larger patterns. The contours of my wall sculptures delineate elevation when the vantage is aerial and depth when it is from the ground.
Certain elements are common in my work: the background hue combines the colors of the New Mexico soil and its scrub plants-bleached light by a relentless sun, paint drips provide a north/south or up/down axis and a grid ties the composition together. In topographic maps, color differentiates areas of elevation-in several thousand foot increments. To achieve a sufficiently broad palette, I found a map of the Himalaya to be the best option. Finally, I often use heavy lines to define areas in the overall composition. Inside these defined areas I let the lines go their own way and they become quite fanciful…doodles from a daydream.