I contemplate and move objects around until things "fall into place." I like there to be a fit, and I try to interlock the shapes of the objects to give structure to the piece—an architecture of mind—keeping nails, glue, wire, staples, screws, welding to a minimum. I bring disparate objects together—eggshell Styrofoam, curtain lace, blurry photos and plastic water pipe—hoping for a most fortunate accident of composition. Look for nothing behind the junk.
Although there are examples of combining found-objects and of pasting together paper images in the folk art of the 19th century, as well some mixed media in the early work of Picasso, it is Kurt Schwitters, a German artist of the 1920s who is considered the father of collage. He created what are known as "Mertz," after finding a scrap of newspaper torn from the word "commertz." The idea that this lowly fragment of commerce could be recycled into the economy intrigued him. That which is rejected, ignored, cast aside, is still a part of the system, and the artist threads it back into the fabric of society. This art was considered decadent, meaningless by the Third Reich, so Schwitters’s work was burned, and he had to flee to America.
I am not a trained artist. I took printmaking and a class in drawing from Terrance Choy at the University of Alaska in the early 1970s. Mainly, I have hung out with artists that eat, drink and dream art, and I’ve watched them work and sat in cafes and walked the streets, talking with them. I go to museums and galleries and look at the pictures. I was 19 when I went to my first art show at the San Francisco Modern Museum of Art and saw Robert Motherwell’s blue collages of Gualois cigarette wrappers mixed with paint. I saw an exhibit of Brancusi and Giocometti sculptures and a retrospective of Kandinsky paintings. All of these exhibits strongly affected me—the “tearingness” of collage in the work of Motherwell, the solid presence of the Brancusis, the organic economy of the Giocomettis, the ethereal precision of the Kandinskys. Later, other famous and not so famous artists would have affect on me. Luis Garcia’s collages, for example, revealed to me that materials are everywhere, and I still strive for the sense of alignment I feel in his work.
I have used the skills of a carpenter, a plumber, a printer, a painter—trades I work at and enjoy—to make my artworks. The best carpenter is the one who can hide his errors. However, here I like to see the "errors," the crustiness, the broken, bent, wrinkled, burnt, twisted materials, the wire, thread, nails, and the seams in the cut paper. I paint with junk, exploring space, positioning this "trash" to reveal its overlooked beauty.