All my work comes directly from elements of my immediate environment. I’ve lived mainly on the east coast surrounded by giant trees, so when moving to Texas we found a house and neighborhood that is very shady to save our sanity. In the studio, I was finishing this series of pieces playing with the stained glass windows in Chartres Cathedral and drawing connections to the suburban landscape.
While working on these pieces, I kept returning to our sometimes-surprising backyard. You get a good view of it when looking out a bay window by our kitchen table. Directly centered was the biggest China Berry tree that has ever existed. It’s a really brittle, invasive tree, which had been periodically shedding its large branches. A huge limb fell on our roof, which prompted an advisory visit from an arborist, who groaned when he saw it and said that it would most likely fall and kill us.
After being bombarded with biblical imagery from the cathedral, it struck me that I had created my own funny Garden of Eden, but instead of a Tree of Life at the center there was a tree of inevitable doom and destruction. It made sense to finish this series by exploiting the heavily narrative-based imagery of cathedrals to illustrate elements of my immediate surroundings.
I got about halfway through the project when a series of extreme storms arrived in San Antonio this past spring. At 3 am one night the heavens opened up and sent down a vengeful lightning bolt of fury directly to our China Berry. Bark blasted across the yard, the soil was disrupted from the path of the electricity, and the tree trunk split down the middle. It was the loudest and brightest thing I have ever experienced. It’s pretty interesting when the focal point and inspiration of a project gets destroyed in a violent fit by Mother Nature.
I like surprising connections between historical architecture and modern day home improvement materials and projects. Originally, stained glass windows were incorporated into houses of worship in order to imbue the interior space with a sense of the spiritual. I think it’s funny that you can go to Home Depot now and buy a long roll of plastic with printed faux stained glass patterns and stick it on your windows. When I pass by those rolls, I do get the urge to buy them and cover all the windows of my house in it. That would be the ultimate home improvement project—transforming the suburban home into a sanctuary.
So I made an object that sort of met in an odd middle ground between these two radically different manifestations of stained glass. I used a mixture of paper pulp and mortar for the frames, which speaks of stone, or concrete. In place of glass, I used Plexiglass. The color was applied with acrylic paint and Sharpie markers, and it’s held together with caulking. I think that the Plexiglass really looks like plastic trying its hardest to look like real glass.
Texas never fails to provide inspiration for new work, and I’ve got the space to make it in.
wood, paper pulp/mortar mix, plexiglass, acrylic paint, sharpie markers, caulk
Sphaera Nux – Ball Nut
Vicinis Ad Oriens – Neighbors to the East
Festa Porticula – Festive Patio
Foeturae Laetae – Fertile Shoots
Saepes Delectabile – Delicious Fence
Lolium Perenne – Winter Rye
Hortus Mephitis – Garden Skunk
Infero Squillas – March of the Shrimps
Ficus Carica – Common Fig
Vicinis Ad Occidens – Neighbors to the West