“To see a world
in a grain of sand

And a heaven in
a wild flower,

Hold infinity
in the palm
of your hand

And eternity
in an hour”

William Blake
AUGURIES OF INNOCENCELink opens new window, 1789

homas G. West, in his book “In The Mind‘s Eye,” sees creativity as the ability to provisionally affirm several apparently incompatible assertions, and that “one of the essential characteristics of creativity is a ‘childlike’ view of the world, full of freshness and flexibility.” This ability to juggle the ambivalent and create new ideas from the dissonance between the two (or more) assertions strikes me as fundamental to the de­vel­opment of my work. It is placing oneself at the center of a process that is child-like in the sense that it dismisses the learned limitations of thought and structured conceptualizing and gen­er­ates new constructs from unexpected associations. This “mind‘s eye” — the inner eye that vis­ual­izes the creative — is where I look for my ideas as an artist.

he 2000 American Heritage Dictionary defines a symbol as “Something that represents something else by association, resemblance, or convention, especially a material object used to represent something invisible.” A subset of this broad definition of symbols, and the one which I use for symbols in my practice, is the sympathetic magic notion of symbols. Any object placed in the context of a work generated by my creative artistic practice carries meaning and is a symbol of something, and like sympathetic magic, that meaning contains a kind of action or energy between the symbol and the symbolized. A paper envelope in the middle of one of my pieces is more than a paper envelope, but a symbol which points to an event and contains an action relative to that event, such as generating a catharsis about the original event and/or in­still­ing a sense of drama within the viewer. The use of sheet-lead to wrap an object symbolizes an alchemical base-ness to the thing enclosed and perhaps the need to keep the “radiation” within the object from doing harm to the observer. It is this study of the relationships of symbols to the symbolized and symbols to one another that interest me most, and which is most useful as an aesthetic system in my practice. Is not art — the output of the creative mind‘s eye — deeply involved in the way things relate to each other? Is not the role of the artist to create transformative works that use these relationships as a common cultural language? At least as I see it, it is. And doesn‘t the examination of these relationships reveal truths that need to be revealed? Truths about the commonality of humanity; whether through common symbols of a collective unconscious or the ordinary narratives of ordinary lives.

Themes & Methods

y practice exploits symbols and themes from of Early Christianity, mythology, folk­lore, al­chem­istry, and my dreams. This constellation of influences is largely based in western tradition because I am inculcated with that tradition. Calling up my inner eye, that eye has been fo­cus­ed with western cultural lenses.



It is sometimes advised to writers that they should write what they know about. I take this advice as valuable, at least to me, since fictional narrative is not an area in which I feel I have any talent. Therefore, looking inward (part of a process of an examined life) is the one reliable method I can use to find a source for the most emotionally true and energetic content I am capable of creating. Autobiographical narrative as a source for my practice is in some ways therapeutic, even cathartic, but therapeutic implies a working-through of issues, or a resolution of issues or a coming-to-terms with issues which is not what my practice is about. I can work through etc. quite well apart from my practice. When working for my practice, I use autobiographical narrative as a foundation for discovering emotional truth, and take that truth as the raw core ingredient on which to layer other meanings, narratives and emotional truths for my audience.


Alchemy is the precursor of modern science. It has existed in one form or another for at least 2500 years until the advent of modern science in the 19th century. Alchemy was a philosophical method of attempting to understand nature and how it works, largely through the associations of things and their affects on each other. To express these relationships alchemy used elaborate extended allegories as a means of communicating key philosophical points. Often these were visually codified in engravings such as the one above — a re­mark­able image on almost all levels of interpretation.

Sadly, much of what is seen now in popular culture around alchemy verges into the trendy and “new age”. I have little interest in this approach to alchemy as a “spiritual” discipline and prefer to examine it for its roots as an historical system of thought that was profoundly intellectual in its time, while also incorporating the possibility of unseen forces in its view of the universe.

he Early Christian Church, Agnosticism, & Gnosticism

A major issue and struggle in my life is the question of the existence of god. I identify myself as an agnostic, and reluctantly so. This struggle within myself finds expression in inquiries into the historical view of god, particularly the one in which I was raised, the Catholic Church. So it is interesting to me that I find myself fascinated with the history of the Church, particularly the early church from the period when the apostles were wandering about the Roman Empire converting the people to a new, but widely divergent, form of worship. Agnosticism and Gnosticism are theoretically in opposition, yet I find the surrender to the former brings a desire for the latter. Gnosticism is a form of spirituality that contends that god is within us and can only be discovered through personal quest, and not through a centrally organized church. It is this personal quest for spiritual knowledge that intrigues me, and I believe that my practice is a part of this quest. It is, in essence, a kind of Gnostic quest for spiritual knowledge in the face of profound agnostic doubt. Since my creative mind thinks and solves problems in images, I try to carry out this quest in visible forms and map personal narrative onto these forms as a part of that quest. This remapping makes sense to me since my life as examined by me and reiterated by me to an audience is deeply personal, and following a course of revelation like the gnostic, it stands to reason that others might be pointed on their own quest by the indications of my quest without the imposition of my revelations.


We all share from a common set of primary symbols which has been variously called by Carl Jung the “Collective Unconscious,” by Timothy Leary the “Neurogenetic Circuit” and by Robert Anton Wilson the “Morphogenetic Circuit.” The great scholar of comparative mythology and religion, Joseph Campbell, called them “Elementary Ideas.” There is a large, marvelous and complex constellation of symbols which represent commonalities of humanity that are ripe for drawing on as symbols to be used in my art practice. Any symbol in this set has a depth of meaning which is much larger than its apparent surface. Early Christianity is one facet of this symbolic system which I have used with particular attention as stated above, since it plays such a direct role in my own personal mythology, but other sets of symbols can be equally useful to carry meaning in my practice. Indeed, I contend that everyone has their own personal set of mythologies and mythological systems that they can draw upon to interpret their personal realities.


It is my belief that we manufacture our own mythologies in a number of different ways, through personal nonfictional and fictional narrative, and through self examination. But one of the most profound ways of creating personal mythologies is through dreams. I have been tracking, journaling and actively analyzing my dreams since 1984, and have built up a deep, complex, and rich set of personal mythologies and symbols. In some ways they share a “collective unconscious” commonality with the rest of humanity, often perceived when asso­ciating the symbols within a dream to the world at large (“The ocean is like the source of life, the water was warm and took away my fear of it.”). But in many ways they do not share a com­mon­ality (“Yellow school buses in the desert reminds me of the time X___ revealed the depth of her betrayal to me.”) and are intensely personal and part of the Gnostic process of my own life and its examination. Since these are very personal mythologies by and large, I find I can use them as a way of expressing my differences from others while at the same time expressing my commonality with humanity. And just the existence of a dream based symbol, even a per­son­al one, has a resonance and a likelihood of indexicality to other‘s sym­bol­ogies/mythologies.

The themes of my practice have certain methodologies which lend themselves to and enhance the expression of those themes. I am still discovering them, and they will continue to grow and to modify themselves into other methods, but there are a few core methods which I find myself coming back to over and over again. In fact, before I took my practice into the realm of personal narrative, alchemy, early Christianity and the search for god, myth and dreams my work was constantly employing these methods. It was in examining the meaning of my practice and the use of these methods that I was lead to my themes in the first place. Here, then, they are:


ayering/Transparency — Obfuscation/Secrecy

The use of layers of material — sometimes unseen layers, sometimes exposed — is a method of directly correlating to the layers of meaning within my narratives and themes. By placing one thing on top if or over another, there is an accumulated energy which is greater than the sum of the parts. Unseen layers can also express a kind of deliberate secrecy, the outer layer obscures the one beneath and may affect what lies beneath. Layers seen from the side cut through to reveal the layers and emergent patterns that cannot be perceived except by the cutting through. I used this technique for this purpose in my Cartonnage piece, where layers of wax impregnated computer printouts of images from the internet are cut-through to create an opening into the interior of the sculpture.

Transparency is a subset of layering, in that in order to perceive transparency it is necessary to have a layer of some material which is transparent between the viewer and the object per­ceiv­ed. This kind of layering brings with it a special case of layered meaning. Where opaque layers render up their meanings in a kind of geologic way — revealing through excavation — trans­parent layers allow for the possibility of revelation through direct observation, but revelation mitigated by the transparent material. This is a method to control the degree of revelation and create a kind of secrecy through obfuscation, and a controlled letting-in of the viewer. By con­troll­ing the degree of revelation I am exploring the notion of secrecy. The use of trans­parency provides a “template” that allows me control over access.

ulpture — Inside/Outside

When I started making art at the age of 10, I was a 2D artist. I maintained this trajectory throughout undergraduate art school and for several years after. Ultimately, however, I found that two dimensional forms were insufficient to express the kinds of themes I wanted to explore in my practice. To achieve the sense of layering I was looking for it became clear that it would be necessary to expand my surface to three dimensions through sculptural forms. I first did this with some sculptures that made extensive use of open mesh wire grids and clear vinyl with applied paint. However, without the themes from above, this practice seemed in­suf­ficient as a means of expression as well. It wasn‘t until they all came together in pieces like Cartonnage that my practice gave me a sense of having found something which could express a connection to humanity and a method of presenting a valuable statement to the world. Working with three dimensional forms also allows me to exploit the notion of inside and outside, placing the observer in a controlled experiential space. With the use of transparency and windowing I am able to contain and control an interior space which sets up a tension in the viewer‘s experience of the piece by allowing observation to the level that I wish, and which resonates with the con­cept of access to secrecy and knowledge, playing off the ideas of the alchemical alembic, the crucible, and the Gnostic quest for secret knowledge. This separation of interior from exterior sets up a dialectically dynamic model of the knowable tissue of signs which an observer brings to the sculpture and the unknowable public secret contained and controlled within the sculp­ture. The viewer can see it, but can‘t get in.


Most all of my practice incorporates in one way or another mathematic principles and aes­thet­ics. Mathematics has a beauty all its own that is expressed through geometric forms, such as the Platonic solids, and numerical harmonies such as the Fibonacci sequence and the number Phi. By building these harmonies into the dimensions of my pieces wherever possible — in relative scales, in distances, in temporal relationships like timing, in shape formats — I am calling on natural patterns to evoke a sense of beauty into my objects through a biologically predisposed attraction that we have towards these shapes and har­mon­ies. For example, one of the most exciting buildings I have ever visited is the PantheonLink goes off this site in Rome. It is essentially a cylinder with a half sphere dome on top and repeating patterns of squares and Golden Rec­tangles everywhere. The more I looked the more harmonic/rhythmic associations I could find. It made my heart race with excitement. These harmonics present those in their presence with an enhanced sense of cohesiveness and naturalness, whether they are aware of it or not.

By adapting these pleasing but non-representational forms I am able to attach my own layers of meaning more easily, and am freed from the necessity of a representational object in order to evoke a pleasurable response in the viewer.

ime-Based Media/Sound

Along with going past the self-perceived limitations of two-dimensional expression, I find the addition of time-based media such as animation and sound add another dimension to the three I‘ve settled on as my format for expression. Traditionally, sculpture has not directly encompassed time as an element in its presentation, but by adding this element to my sculp­tures, they lend themselves more easily to the imposition of narrative. Sound adds another layer of complexity and ability to create a space for narrative.

nd So…

In the creation of objects I am casting a Blakean grain of sand, filled with a universe of meanings. A graduate school professor of mine, Danny Scheie, once found a pamphlet near the Berlin Wall before it was torn down in 1989 that said:

“Kunst ist so notwendig wie das kunstliche Brot.”
Art is as necessary as daily bread.

Sounds good to me…

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