Words by Heike Dempster
You are from Rochester, MN. When and why did you come to Miami?
I moved here in the Spring of 2010 after I graduated from USF in Tampa. Originally, I planned to move back to Portland, OR where I lived for three years before Grad School. But after I visited Miami a couple of times I began to see how explosive the scene was. Every time I came back things seemed more electrified than before and just couldn’t resist being a part of it.
What do you love most about Miami?
Miami is crazy to me. There is no “typical” Miami character and I really don’t know what it would mean to fit in here. This is a place that can’t agree on anything and the beautiful chaos that is created is very inspiring.
How do you feel about the Miami art scene now and where do you think it is going?
The first thing I noticed was how welcoming the scene is here. Maybe this is because Miami has not figured out yet what Miami art looks like so there is nothing to be judged against. Anything is fair game. Everyone is excited. Artists, collectors, curators, museums, galleries all seem to want to grow together and support each other along the way, which is a wonderful environment to be in. I don’t know where it is going to go and I’m not sure I want to know. The mystery is what’s so exciting to me.
What is your preferred medium and why?
I am a sculptor 100%. Everything I make becomes an object. My preferred medium is junk. I collect objects from back allies and dumpsters that seem to have a soul or appear to have lived a full life. This could be old furniture to used clothing to pieces of cardboard. I am always looking for things with scars and stains that can be resurrected.
You use materials such as polyurethane foam and platinum silicone. Do you experiment with materials? What specifically attracts you to those materials?
The cost of synthetic materials keeps me grounded but I do get bored with repetition and I’m always looking for something else to try. The commonality between foam, rubbers, and more recently plastics, is that they all start off in a liquid state and liquid is a mess. It is very difficult to control. The foam I use is an industrial version of that canned spray foam you buy at the hardware store, but instead of a can it starts off as two liquids that are mixed together. After the chemical reaction the liquid starts to get hot followed by about thirty seconds of explosive expansion. During that time I can manipulate it and move it around but then after it cools and hardens, all that energy is locked in place. It becomes a permanent mess.
What is your process from idea to finished piece?
Start building from the bottom up. Run out of materials/money. Steal parts off of old sculptures stored in the studio. Continue building. Sculpture “accidentally” falls over and breaks. Glue back together. Paint and repeat.
You say you are inspired by “fantastical childhood celebrations and family vacations.” Do your final pieces aspire to reflect certain child like qualities or speak to the child in the viewer?
You “develop seductive and tortured characters/objects.” How do those qualities inform your art?
I always want the work to look like it has lived a life. If you imagine “Winged Victory of Samothrace” of course you imagine it without arms and head. This makes the sculpture so important. It was created to honor a victory in battle but she is missing limbs! What better way to comment on the sacrifice of winning? What if she was made this way from the beginning? My work is meant to exist in an unfinished/broken state to reflect human reality instead of an unrealistic idealized daydream. In the end they look tortured but hopefully seen in a way that is seductive as well. I don’t want to scare anyone.
You have a sculpture in the ongoing exhibition “Salon Du Notre Societe” at Primary Projects. Could you tell us more about the sculpture please?
I actually have three sculptures in this exhibition. The largest is an impossible stack of figures that rises up to the ceiling. The idea came from thinking back to my Roman Catholic childhood and the rituals that we had to perform as a congregation. The standing/kneeling/sitting and repeating of prayers in a monotone unity never felt authentic to me. I was a reluctant participant in an ineffective ritual. I created the stack to be a group of believers of an unknown faith attempting to get closer to God but from the outside it looks more like a circus trick meant for entertainment. The second is an artificial Cotton Candy made out of pink fiberglass insulation. I sacrificed the edibility for permanence in order to create a monument to childhood memories, but the thought of chewing on fiberglass is about as far from the taste of candy as you can get. The third piece is a crucifix with the cross missing leaving the Jesus figure dancing on his tiptoes. Really I was just interested in how the form becomes jubilant once the cross is removed.
What projects are you currently working on?
I am working on a series of larger-than-life sized transvestite Shaman made entirely out of plastic casts of my own body parts.
Do you have any other news you would like to share with the readers of miamiartzine?
Check out the Castle Lounge in Hollywood any night of the week between 10pm –2am. Free on week nights. See that show and you will start to understand what I am trying to create.