Art & Design Thoughts

My thoughts on the future of design, my own work, and the world of art

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I photograph portraits because I am curious about people, and our tenacious attempts to find meaning and direction in the world. I am particularly interested in how we reveal our vulnerability, which is not something our culture reinforces or encourages. While the world of commercial design and retail design is teeming with activity, as can be seen at certain vancouver interior designers, it’s the case that sometimes we lose sight of the true art happening in this world. While commercial designers can build their careers, those who love art for art’s sake can get left behind.

My art and design is about the things people consider when they are alone or in between moments of inactivity and reflection: aging, illness, sex, the body, states of transition, our desire for connection, and the search for personal identity.

I am interested in finding the physical and psychological beauty in things that are frequently overlooked: the quality of an interior, the curve of a roof; the way a window is filled with light and reflection. I recommend you check out: http://www.accentrixdesign.ca for information on where you can find a great designer that can really help you to capture these aspects. Even if you’re not in the city, they can really help you out.

Physical Art Beauty

The photographs in my body of work represent an early version of my ongoing interest in psychological portraiture. The images describe potent moments that disrupt our expectations of childhood innocence and simplicity. I am particularly interested in children’s “play” and the kind of symbolic meaning that develops from it.

My photographs explore the extraordinary sensuality of our material world—the texture and color of our living and artificially constructed environment. This work is an homage to the nature of skin, hair, plant, earth, ice, animal, the seasonal cycles, birth and decay.

The titles are important in that they sometimes indicate emotional events that were happening simultaneous to the taking of the photograph. Often these events involved states of personal transition, like birth or death, which heightened my awareness of the landscape around me. This is an ongoing project.

Thoughts on Past Art

Children’s Games (1990–1994):

The photographs in this body of work represent an early iteration of my ongoing interest in psychological portraiture. The images describe moments that disrupt conventional expectations of childhood innocence and simplicity. At the time I made these pictures, I was particularly interested in children’s play and the kind of symbolic meaning that it expresses. The undeveloped conscience, or more precisely, the developing consciousness of children, is fertile ground to explore a wide range of human impulses: from the desire to nurture and love, to the darker imperatives of control, dominance, and anger.

Fairy tales, myths, and dreams underlie these photographs of children, and they demonstrate that children’s fantasies manifest these archetypal narratives. Awkward family snapshots and vernacular photography influenced me formally, as I intentionally included photographic accidents such as blur, movement, and selective focus to give certain photographs additional power and immediacy. During the same period, I also collected “orphaned” family snapshots of children in the flea markets and junk shops of South Austin. At some level, consciously or implicitly, I was emulating them.

The photographs were made in a very collaborative manner. I spent hours with the children in these images, and in most cases, years. I would select basic materials and a location (a game, a backyard, a stream bed) and then let the children play. I quickly became invisible, or at least unseen, as the children’s imaginations wandered into fully realized activity. And I began to photograph.

In all of the photographs, the children are seemingly unsupervised, enacting a world typically hidden from adult view. In this way, the backyard environment represents a second aspect of meaning: the space behind the home, beneath the façade projected forward, a secret or private landscape obscured from public view; the site of childhood’s rituals performed beyond parental vision: the part of consciousness that structures all human behavior.

The Youngest Parents (1992–1996):

I began photographing teen mothers in 1990. I was interested in exploring how these girls negotiated their way through adolescence, developing unique identities while adjusting to the strains of maternal responsibility. Eventually I expanded my work to include the fathers of the children as well. What I discovered over my five-odd years of photographing young families is that teenage pregnancy is a complicated phenomenon. It develops from many layers of influence and need, and there are no simple relationships between its causes and effects. Teenage pregnancy and parenthood are filled with contradictions: there is childlike optimism confronting adult responsibility; there is tremendous love joined with personal sacrifice; there is unrestrained anger and quiet acquiescence; there is healthy nurturing—and unhealthy nurturing, when the young mother looks to her child for the love she might expect from a parent.

Naturally it is through the lens of my own life that I saw these girls and their families. I can never fully understand the experience of early motherhood, or attempt to document it in its entirety. It is a complex phenomenon, as varied and unpredictable as the personalities of the girls themselves. At best my photographs can serve as particular frames through which to view young mothers and their families. And it is from the position of both admiration for each girl’s love for her child, and hope for her own future, that I made these images.