I want to reduce the boundary between art and spectator. I want the viewer to walk around and even get inside some of the sculptures, and to understand them both physically and emotionally.
My first love in the arts was dance and my favorite activity was improvisation. I completely lost myself in the world created by my moving body. But there were things I didn’t like about it. I couldn’t stand back and look at what I was doing. Everything disappeared when I stopped moving. My eyes felt deprived. Except for the pure physical joy of dancing, making sculpture satisfies me more. Even when I stop working the sculptures continue to exist. But I haven’t given up on dance. I’m a dancing sculptor. My artistic decisions are both visual and visceral.
In 1974 someone gave me forty used bicycles. I cut them up and used springs, piano wire, drum heads, and steel barrels along with the bicycle tubing to make sculptures that can be used as both musical instruments and dancing partners. In Two Seated Rocking Drum, 1977two people sit back to back and rock and play music on raw hide drums stretched over Chinese woks. When Tom Coyne made the film, Bicycle Music, 1977 he used a wheelchair for some of the moving shots. I suddenly got an insight into the deeper meaning of the wheel chair. If you couldn’t function without it, it was like a cage. It also gave you the freedom to move around. It had both positive and negative aspects.
With this insight began my work on the Cage Sculptures, 1979 to 1985. These skeletal enclosures, many of which have wheels, are all made around my own body. First I decide what position I want to be in, then I build a structure that will support my body in that position and work on it until it becomes a part of a larger structure. These sculptures are about prisons, wombs, cages, city life, protection, coercion. They are about the interaction of a person inside his or her own body looking out, the subjective state, and the world outside looking in, the objective state.
In 1985 I was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship and spent some time in Japan studying traditional Japanese arts. Perhaps that influenced my next body of work which was much sparer and ethereal than the Cage Sculptures. I stopped working around my own body and used a twelve inch artist's mannequin instead. This imaginary person, instead of being enclosed, was more enthroned on a minimal structure resembling a creature or vehicle. I tried to imagine what they would look like if they could actually move.
So began my Progression Sculptures, 1989-95. I became a choreographer in steel. Each of the sculptures is a composite of five to fourteen pieces charting the evolutions of a particular form. They are abstract parallels to Muybridge’s serial studies of human and animal movement - stop action photography brought into the third dimension . Most of the earlier series refer back to the human form, such as Procession, 1989. In my later series, partly influenced by spending time in Florence, Italy, the architectural elements and the way the lines intersect and change formation as your viewpoint changes became more important. This can be seen most clearly in Arches, 1992and Bridge Variation, 1992.
In 1995-96 the Museum of Modern Art had an exhibition of the paintings of Mondrian. I wondered what would happen if I could magically pull Mondrian’s paintings out into the third dimension and get inside them. In my Mondrian Variationsthere is one point of view in which your eye becomes the vanishing point and the sculpture seems to flatten out into a specific Mondrian painting. As you walk around it, the hidden lines appear and an inner space is revealed. For me this inner space contains the emotional content behind Mondrian’s logic. After Mondrian Variations were exhibited in New York City they were shown in the Mondrianhuis Museum in Amersfort, Netherlands in the house in which Mondrian was born.
The experience of getting “inside” the Mondrian paintings awakened a desire to return to making sculptures I could actually get inside of. In 1998 I began the series, Body Enclosures1998-2003 that are less cage-like than my early structures. I was surprised when I realized that the first piece Crocus, 1998-99, so much resembled the last of the cage structures, Cradle, 1984-85. The earlier piece is a cradle in the shape of a person in a fetal position that can be rocked back and forth by someone on the outside. Crocus is more open and free.
Hiking in the woods has always been an important part of my life. As I got more and more involved with line in my sculpture my admiration for the beauty of line in branches and especially roots got so powerful that I have recently begun incorporating them into mixed media sculptures, myRoot Sculptures, with steel tubing one of the main elements. That in turn greatly influenced the way I began treating steel tubing in my larger sculptures.
In my current series, Figurations, beginning in 2003 I have used the tubing in a much more organic way. By heating a section until it is molten I can bend it until it is distorted like a tree branch. The protrusions and crevices sometimes remind me of an elephant's trunk. Since I work very interactively with the emerging sculpture I am continuously cutting out and adding sections. In this series you can see the welding scars left during this process, just as you can see the scars left on the trunk of a tree showing its past history.