For two weeks I served as an artist-in-residence at The Nottingham, an adult living community in Central New York. The Nottingham campus includes three facilities: Assisted Living, The Glens (Independent Living), and Skilled Nursing (Residential Health Care Facility). Residents and staff collected plastic shopping bags that were cut, collaged and heat-fused with the help of residents from The Glens and the Assisted Living facilities. My “studio space” was set up in a very public location in each space which facilitated regular interactions with residents as they moved from one space to another.
Three wall hangings (one for each facility) was created from the 37 unique compositions made by and with residents. Some compositions had strong narrative structures and others were more jazz-like in construction. During the work sessions over a two week period, I got to know the residents and they got to know me.
The final three wall hangings required editing, cropping, etc. of the components made. I strived to preserve the original intent of the participants and attempted to highlight vignettes that the contributors and observers to the project found particular successful.
Plastic shopping bags are designed objects and artifacts of commodification that are often discarded, ignored, and treated as objects of little or no cultural value. Each plastic specimen contains a composite of elements like color, typography, texts and images from discarded plastic bags for closer examination.
Film, as physical object, is a long piece of plastic with a consistent grid of variegated cells. A discarded pile of unwanted film off of the reel is akin to a pile of unwanted yarn that has the potential to be woven into something new and desirable. The layers of transparent film result in recombinant images and unexpected juxtapositions uncommon in the woven.
Consumption Quilts is an attempt to recapture what has become mundane. This series is inspired by depression era feedsack quilts. During that period foodstuffs come in cloth with intricate patterns and thrifty women made beautiful and useful quilts and clothing out of the sacks. Since the 1960s more and more packaging is made out of plastic and covered with advertising.
This project is an exploration in expanding the life of plastic bags and their surface patterns.
Circle Drawings is an exploration transparency, texture, light, layers and drawing with thread on plastic. Each drawing is a study in formal design qualities. I designed a piece of software that randomly generates compositions of three layers of circles. I use that software to generate a number of compositions and choose the most interesting to pursue. I then translate that rough composition into three layers of plastic where some circles are additive and some are subtractive.
I continually add to the Circle Drawings collection. The modular nature of the project allows for each installation to be in response to the specific site.
Although not entirely practical as a quilt, Circles on 16 Squrares, is an experiment in using plastic bags in lieu of fabric. This project is partially inspired by 1920s-1940s feedsack quilts that were made from cloth remnants saved from bags foodstuffs were sold in. Plastic replaced many kinds of paper and fabric packaging in the 1960s. Due to the pollution caused by plastics, many municipalities are moving towards laws that limit plastic and encourage reusable materials like cloth. The most interesting quality of plastic bags when used to create quilts and other creative works is its transparent properties.
SIGNal is an investigation of the “Toilet” symbols from the 50 Symbol-Signs originally created in a collaboration between AIGA and the US Department of Transportation. Of the 50 symbols, the toilet symbols are the only ones (although you could make an argument about the nursery symbol as well) designed to represent the “who” of a space or service rather than the what.
Focusing on the “who” of the space is often exclusionary. For example, single-stall bathrooms are often labeled with either a man or woman symbol despite the fact that the bathroom is single occupancy in the first place. Some of these spaces use the “Family” bathroom symbol which reinforces heterosexuality and excludes same sex couples. Signage needs to be standardized for usability but we need to be careful not to make choices that reinforce stereotypes or imply that populations like transgender individuals and same sex couples do not exist in our society.
The fifteen signs in this set explore a a wide range of images, both practical and impractical (complex symbols are hard to “read” from a distance), that represent the “who” and the “what” of the space. The “who” signs include those that are culturally gendered and those that are based on biological sex. The “what” signs include representation of the facilities, as well as the biological processes that result in the need of a toilet in the first place.
Unlike cloth bags, plastic shopping bags have a very limited life span and re-use value. Consumption Device is made of machine-stitched plastic bag panels that are stitched into a bag using hand-spun thread made of the same bags. Although this is a highly designed bag, it is very frail and holds no real use value.
Consumption Mill is a series of hand-stitched windmill blocks back lit with a light box. The windmill pattern references renewable energy sources and each windmill block is made from recycled plastic shopping bags. The piece is embodies the conflict I experience in my concern with the need to conserve and my cultural training to consume.