I have lived many lives as an artist. Originally, I studied architecture at Virginia Tech, but then changed colleges and majors, first to theater then to painting. I started my sculpture career by building models for home furnishings, then began working on abstract and figurative pieces in polyester resin. I built and designed stringed instruments for twelve years and carved wood and stone. For the past ten years I have been employing the direct metal technique which has proven to satisfy my need to work in a medium that can reach a large scale, survive in the outdoors, and be made entirely in my own studio by hand. I have many works in the D.C. area. I have been a part of the U Street "renaissance" having sold sculptures to restaurant and club owners, and I made furniture and functional sculpture for them, as well. Businesses and homeowners in my own neighborhood have purchased my work, and I have placed several large sculptures in parks around town. Along with two other sculptors, I started the first DC Sculpture Park, (apart from the Smithsonian).
Materials and Techniques
Instead of casting bronze, I chose a direct metal technique, hammering metal into a desired shape and then welding it and grinding the seams. With this method one could practically create any shape with unlimited possibilities of size and complexity of form. The Statue of Liberty was made in this manner. The tools required, at the most basic level, are a welder; an acetylene-oxygen system; some hand tools like angle grinders, drills, and die grinders and a suitable vented studio space. Once one is set up they can produce finished works of a permanent nature at a fraction of the cost of casting. It has always seemed to me that a fundamental requirement of art was the possibility to experiment without it costing too much since it is through the exploration that one clears away the fog to reveal the real illumination.
Even though most of my ideas for sculptures come to me when I am in a contemplative state of mind, I still find it necessary to use a medium like direct metal in order to ensure that spontaneous change could occur down to the last stroke. If the idea can be worked out completely with drawings then it would be very boring to execute and it would inevitably lose some of its power of expression. There has to be strong creative input during the entire process in order for me to feel excited about the work. The mind is constantly changing and creating so this is a very necessary ingredient to the process of making a work that, up to the final stroke, is the strongest evolution of the original idea. However, this process becomes increasingly difficult as the size of the work grows beyond ten feet. When I begin a figure I have to start somewhere (usually it is with the foot), and then imagine the next part of the body slowly building up the entire figure. Since it is difficult to fashion metal into complex shapes by hammering them, I am forced to see the next stage in my mind first while constantly keeping the original vision in front of my mind's eye.
I feel that the human face and figure are the absolute challenge of sculpture. The face and body are so complex and light playing on the surface of muscle so elusive that to attempt to freeze them in metal almost seems impossible. I use the human landscape to create sculptures that seem to be messages about my attitudes towards the human condition in general and about my attitudes towards our society specifically. For instance, one of my figures is a seven foot woman in a tank top, fatigues and combat boots; she is holding a young child in her left arm and a briefcase in her right hand. The symbolism here, if not obvious, is about the dilemma women face in our society trying to take the proper care of their children and working full time. They have to be tough warriors and this means that many will probably lose some of their feminine grace in the process. There is, however, a new sort of beauty that emerges from this type of heroine. Another work is a ten foot stainless steel figure of no exact gender that is titled "Human" and refers to the idea that society's first concern must be with the human issue foremost and issues of race and gender subsequently.
I usually give the viewers enough realism to know where my starting point was and enough distortion to keep them interested in my piece. I like to include an element of abstraction to allow the work to be contemplated over time. I have followed Henry Moore's lead in opening up form. My figures are often very open shells that look like light has crossed the surface and blocked out many parts that the viewer then must fill in. They readily show that, in truth of fact, they are hollow yet somehow one believes in their volume at the same time. This apparent dichotomy is reconciled only when we accept the world's presentation of two equal truths that seemingly do not agree with each other and yet both must stand as usable maxims.