You originally studies science as an undergrad. Can you tell us about the correlation between your work and your interest in science?
Primarily, I enjoy observation – it leads to curiosity, and curiosity for me leads to learning about systems, patterns, and interconnectedness. I used to think this made me a scientist, but when I got to know myself better, I realized this made me an artist!
How and when did your “Nature vs. Industry” thesis take root?
For about 10 years—from 1999 to 2009—I made paintings that were inspired by the shipping industry. I was initially drawn to the colors and shapes at the Port of Seattle, with its bright shipping containers, hulking megaships, and graceful orange container cranes. I found a lot of visual joy in observing the port as it grew.
My observation of the port’s growth led to a curiosity about the shipping industry in general. What I learned is there are two sides to the industry: the positive side, where trade is streamlined, and the transporting of goods is more cost effective, enabling global commerce, and the flip side, which supports the manufacturing, trade and disposal of an immense quantity of cheap goods, and the waste problems that follow. The shipping industry has made unbridled consumption possible, driven by practices that decrease costs, including the unregulated disposal of unwanted ships on the beaches of third world countries.
As I accumulated this knowledge, I grew more conflicted—my attraction to the shipping industry clashed with my love for the environment. At heart, I am an environmentalist, so to continue working authentically I needed to find a way to reconcile these two passions in my paintings. I began making collages, searching for a way to combine industrial, planar shapes with organic, natural imagery. The collage process led me to my current body of work.