As an artist deeply engaged in visuality and meaning-making, I want to reveal what is hidden, to make the invisible visible. I want to communicate what is unmarked or remains undetected. This, I believe, is the compulsion or obsession of many artists. My desire to do this is overtly influenced by the histories of my own identity and by my desire to make myself visible. As a gay boy growing up in the Midwest in a compulsory heterosexual culture, there were many who wished that “people like me” would remain invisible. My culture was hidden for the most part. It was made invisible so it could safely, but subtly, co-exist with an often hostile, straight culture. I had to sensitize myself to pick up the signs, read the cues, hear the lingo, decipher the coding, navigate the hidden terrain. This still holds true to some extent today, although my more recent immersion in the academic discipline of LGBTQ Studies has re-contextualized for me my place in a larger community of difference. Artists are no strangers to difference, to being considered outsiders, or non-normative. I can contribute my unique voice to a broader discourse of art and identity. Much of my printmaking and assemblage work has been an attempt to find some kind of visual language to communicate these thoughts. I have recently focused on the idea of being taunted or called names. I am curious about how being identified and labeled as abject effects the formation of the identity of the taunted. The artist as identifier, as pattern-maker and mediator between the obvious and that which lies just below the surface of normal or the unseen.
I make sense of the world, in large part, through what is visible. I believe this is why I am fascinated with pattern. First and foremost, pattern is decorative—often beautiful or beguiling. It is a kind of visibility, and it makes form intelligible, predictable, and legible. Pattern allows for infinite variety, as well as chaos. I have used pattern and repetition in my work as a decorative device for beauty, but also as a signifier for an underlying meaning or as a way to hide something and yet allude to it at the same time. Pattern is a kind of code. It attracts while it distracts, camouflages, or disguises. It points to something while it conceals it. It creates an illusion of regularity, which can mask something deeply divisive or abject. Noting and examining the breaks, fissures, and irregularities in a pattern is a way to read the codes hidden within. As an artist equally comfortable in assemblage and printmaking, I am a matchmaker of colors, found objects, textures and materials with the patterns and juxtapositions that transform their meanings into provocative statements of identity and place.
I believe art can change people’s consciousness. Artists give audiences the courage to suspend disbelief and enter into a space that is out of ordinary time and place. A space that is “in between” and this “in between” space facilitates open-mindedness, which can lead to changes in consciousness. Artists have the ability to grant people access to this liminal space. This is very similar to the role of shamans in other cultures. Both shamans and artists create and give access to liminal spaces. I believe these liminal spaces allow for dialogue, free association, expanded consciousness, the freedom to discuss ideas, and to talk about hopes, dreams, and fears.