Comfort Objects (2016-2018)

The pieces in this gallery were made for my January 2017 show at Jack Fischer Gallery, titled Comfort Objects.

Should I have titled this collection Discomfort Objects?  After I dubbed this body of sculpture “Familiars” and began discussing the work with others, I found myself thinking that maybe “Unfamiliars” would’ve been just as good a name.  I find these moments where opposites bleed into each other the most interesting space to explore in my art practice.  The representational work I made for many years (and continue to make, examples shown to the side of the gallery in my National Geographic series) explored the idea of nostalgia and melancholy: how longing for the past bleeds into the experience of the present and the specificity of that bittersweet pang of knowing both happiness and sadness at once.  Some of these new pieces are like gargoyles- perhaps you will recoil from their bizarreness, but are also drawn in with sympathy by their hints of human form.  I’ve always felt that cloth embodies these dualities so clearly, possessing the ability to be taut and stable as well as loose and light or soft and sagging. 


Cloth also speaks to our ‘humanness’, we feel it touching our bodies twenty-four hours a day and innately identify it as an extension of ourselves.  For this reason, cloth invites the touch.  When I go to the fabric store, I always want to stretch out my arm while I walk the aisles, to brush every bolt of linen, cotton, wool, velvet with my fingertips. Working with the materials in an additive way- squeezing and stuffing and pulling taut and cutting darts to curve the materials perfectly smooth over round forms, is very intuitive and extremely satisfying.  While we are typically taught to make objects with cloth and thread in a structured or formulaic way (perhaps with a cross-stitch kit or a pattern to make a dress), I’ve wanted to treat the materials like clay- kneading them and building layers, working additively onto an armature.  The process is quite physical, and the resulting forms inevitably reference the body and take on the forms of the negative space of my hands. 


Along with materials and form, I’d also like to celebrate how physical and impactful color can be.  I’ve aggressively used color in this body of work, boosting it under hot spot light. I’ve always let threads dangle from my finished work to act as antennas - reaching out into time and space to emit energy and vibrate the form into the world around it - and I also want to utilize the way color can do the same.  It’s the alchemic aspect of art that provokes wonder, how inanimate materials can somehow be made alive and can change the way the room they are in feels. This gallery space is very theatrical and I hope that from the hallway or threshold the color acts as a beacon, inviting you to enter the gallery and bask in its glow.

Speaking of color - I saw a woman wearing a dress in a very particular color and I wanted a dress in the same color and I also wanted to cover all my sculpture in this color.  I became obsessed with this color, let’s call it ‘Statue of Liberty Green’; I bought a sweatshirt and shoes as close to this color as I could find, I taught myself to dye fabric so that all these sculptures could also wear this color.  Of course I didn’t succeed in my quest to find or create the exact match in cloth; it’s not a color at all, it’s a chemical reaction.  The opposite, really, of color’s radiant ability to change the air around it, verdegris is the result of the air’s ability to chemically change the surface itself.  I thought a lot about the cloth depicted on the Statue of Liberty and became interested in seeing what my cloth objects would look like rendered in bronze and patinaed; heavy, cold, frozen in time, permanent.  The three bronze pieces in this show are the fossils of their cloth parents, new counterparts that draw the previously exuberant energy inward.


Finally - speaking of Liberty - I’ve used the term Comfort Objects for this show to acknowledge that this is a time where most people I know are feeling uncertain, unsteady and, in some cases, terrified.  Over the past few months, I myself and many people I’ve spoken to have questioned what they do every day in light of the result of the election.  Is making stuffed sculptures trite when there is so much “more important” work to be done?  I’ve thought a lot about it as I completed the work for the show.  To come to the studio and make things every day was very therapeutic; at first I thought it might be an escape but I quickly realized it was a way to think and process and incubate.  Relating to the work I make, I was reminded of my favorite stuffed animal from childhood, Midnight the Cat.  The experience of having and holding her wasn’t an expression of fear or childishness or weakness, it was of strength and confidence and joy.  She was a talisman; a physical reminder that everything would be ok.   Rather than feel that my practice is trite, I hold fast to the belief that art makes me feel more connected to humanity.  I always go to an art space when I feel confused or overwhelmed; I relish the opportunity to soak in the energy across time and space of people making, devoting their time to put ideas into a physical form and into a physical space so that we can all have a conversation with ourselves and/or others.  It’s not an escape from reality, but a conduit for us to reflect upon who we are individually and as a humanity