Much of the built environment lacks the resonance of history
or civic responsibility that can make residents proud of where they live. Site-specific public art, however, takes on a more ambitious role.
I believe that carefully conceived public art installations and environments can create places of meaning within communities. The best of public art can challenge, delight, educate and illuminate. But above all, it can celebrate the qualities that make each place unique and can create a sense of civic ownership. This pride of place is a building block for the future of these communities.
Who are we when we are here?
This question is at the center of my creative process.
Among the billions of individuals in the world, even through the complexities of infinite cultures, there is much that is alike, and there are experiences that are universal. My curiosity lies in discovering both our uniqueness and our similarities, and these traits form the conceptual basis for each artwork and environment I create.
We are different people in a children’s hospital or a library than we are on a playing field of stadium or theater, or hurrying through a train station or waiting at the airport. One foundation of my creative process is to try and understand our commonality in each of these places.
I search for answers. Who are we here? What are our immediate concerns? What do we want to know? What have we learned from our past? What is our future?
Research & Investigation
Answering these questions requires investigation. I conduct research into each community where I work, delving into the culture, history, native surroundings and aspirations of each
of these societies.
I seek out respected members of the community to begin a dialogue. I ask to be directed to books that illuminate the past, and I seek experts that can guide me to more contemporary information. I accompany workers on their daily tasks, seeking revelations among the routines. I engage strangers to tell
stories of their communities, with honesty, simplicity or exaggerated humor.
Over the years I have listened to chemists and geologists, physicists and mathematicians, publishers and writers, coaches and athletes, emergency room nurses and tired war veterans, chronically ill teenagers and worried parents. All are valuable contributors to my process.
These investigations lead me to build conceptual forms and shapes—sometimes layers of images, words and symbols—that seek to express the information I have gleaned.
Artists are, quite simply, makers: clay into a bowl, thread into cloth, paint onto canvas, stone into form. To make large-scale aesthetic environments, I depend upon the skills of many artisans, the talented craftspeople with special skills and knowledge of specific materials who turn my ideas into reality. These relationships are based upon a back-and-forth, of discussing the concept for the artwork and examining the possibilities of a material or tool—then pushing everything further, extending the medium into the unexpected.
Stone carvers, engravers, metal welders and foundry men, lighting experts and engineers, masons and electricians, gilders and painters, model makers, draftsmen, glaziers and carpenters—all contribute to the final artworks. I have respect for not only their technical knowledge but their integrity and commitment to the highest standards of craftsmanship. I admire their ability to perform under trying situations, whether
collectively lifting heavy weights, moving massive forms with delicate precision or performing nimble tasks 200 feet above
Indeed, mine is a collective enterprise—a fitting process for creating art that is a reflection of the community it serves.
Over the years, many talented artists and craftsmen have been important collaborators in realizing the completed artworks. Among them are the Walla Walla Foundry in Walla Walla, Washington; fabricators Fabrication Specialties of Seattle and SGF Scultura of Torano, Italy; glaziers Skyline Design of Chicago; illustrators Wood Ronsaville Harlin in Annapolis, Maryland; Franz Mayer of Munich architectural glass and mosaic; and Elite Granite and Marble, Gold Leaf Restoration, Soelzer Contracting and Savoy Glass, all in Portland, Oregon.