On July 30, 2006 I closed on my house in Houston, Texas and began driving with my wife and daughter to Gulfport Mississippi to begin my first tenure track position as head of Painting at William Carey University. Less than one month later, I lost my place of residence and most of my possessions in the Hurricane Katrina. Since then. I have built two studios and many friendships, and moved my family more times than I can remember. Initially, my practice was as basic as trying to salvage locatable possessions, finding a place to live, and helping people in community less fortunate than myself. In that extreme crisis, it was difficult to view art making as a priority. Fortunately, for me, that time of crisis has passed. I am rebuilding my practice, my book collection, my studio supplies, my art collection and my slide library.
In Katrina's aftermath, the most stunning visual feature of the Gulf, after the immense destruction, was the unbelievable amount of debris. Even where houses were relatively unscathed, the Mississippi coast had a staggering amount of huge downed live oaks. Nails and screws were in the streets everywhere. My desire to do something with this debris led to a new body of work. This group of drawings made from found wood, found nails, and found paint. These nail drawings are essentially a contemporary version of silverpoint drawings. The subject matter for these works are objects, drawn from memory, I feared I had lost in the storm.
If there was one thing even more ubiquitous in the gulf than carnage and debris, it was the amount of horribly crafted and didactic socio-political "We are still here " art. My own process was quite different. For months I made no new "art" because there was so much necessary work to be done: finding a place to live, seeing if I had a job, assisting in the community. Once I was ready to make art anew, I had no interest in creating work that was a cry for help. My most recent series is a group of richly textured abstract color field encaustic paintings. The first in the series began as a ground for a painting in the PoMo series. However, while making it, I was struck by the beauty in the transparent encaustic layers and the swirling wax/pigment mixtures in the ramekins on my griddle. In all the ugliness, trailers, chain link and barbwire that was Gulfport, I felt the strong desire to make work that had no redeeming quality other than beauty. I call this series Elegies for Gulfport, and I think of the painting as a kind of metaphorical flowers that are placed on a grave or sent to the sick.
elegies of gulfport series | artist statement