MFA Artist Statement
The light of a kerosene lamp is so soft, soft and warm, actually giving out warmth as well as light. The lamp must be fueled, the wick trimmed, the chimney cleaned and then, the lamp will burn steadily, but unevenly.
I feel that a kerosene lamp burns in my heart; fueled from without but burning within; wavering slightly with the fragility of being alive. Symbol of my heritage, of my independent spirit, the lamp is often lit at night in lieu of the electrical system in my house.
I find myself in a modern day and age wondering whether I belong. Is lighting a lamp truly harder than turning on a switch? I feel indignant at the necessity of plugging into entire systems that I do not believe in whether it is electricity from nuclear power plants or paying taxes for war technology. But there is also the reality of these existant systems which cannot be denied.
This is where I find myself. I am an artist living at the close of the 20th Century in the United States. I am a white woman. I grew up in an intellectual middle-class family with very recent roots in both agricultural and industrial communities. I attended college within my hometown and am finishing graduate school at the Art Department of The University of Texas. A typical American shaped by familiar foundations. How can I make art that is truly personal and yet honors the past ? How can I make art that is my distillation of the truth and yet comprehensible to others? How can I make art that is spiritually and personally meaningful and yet marketable? Should I?
As I work I consider both the material and conceptual energy resources which I use, the environment in which I am working, and the ecological impact of my work. I seek to find a balance between my work and the world around me. Sometimes this means rediscovering older forms and methods of working which are more labor intensive but less wasteful. 'Recycling' discarded material is a very old and simple concept waste not - want not, but present-day ecological problems are very new and very daunting. Thus my sculptures are a small and glimmering ray of hope, that it is the simplest aspects of our lives which give us the most warmth; the people around us, the good earth and the blue sky.
By illustrating the miracle of the everyday, I hope to point out the possibilities for living more in balance with the natural system. Lamp oil can be extracted from the seeds of the wild sunflower. The wick can be woven from the stripped leaf fibres of the Yucca plant. Indeed, the lamp itself can be fashioned out of river bed clay and pit fired.
There is however, in our times, neither the access to these raw materials nor the time to procure them. Thus the lamp is bought. But even this secondary source is more pure than the electric light where the energy comes from a source completely beyond the control of the lamp lighter.
Where does the electricity in our houses come from? Coal from North Dakota? Oil from Texas? Then we are back once again to those wavering plant origins in pre-historic swamps. Nuclear power from the fission of atoms?
The lamp is lit.
Steel, wood, cast concrete, found forms, plants,
20' x 20' x 15'
American Tea House
Found materials, wood, steel, glass, tin, tea
9' x 12' x 13'