The chalky smell of plaster being poured into the soft latex molds to make figurines. The vibrant colors of paint and ample coffee cans full of paint brushes. Classic blues and Steve Miller Band playing over the old speakers. I knew any form could be built with a razor blade, cardboard, and tape before my age surpassed five fingers. These are the memories of my toddler self and the beginnings of my life as a large-scale sculptor. Crafts are a fixture of most everyone’s childhood, but few are born to two professional artists. Not only was I afforded access to art materials and tools, I was also given the creative freedom to explore. Art was not some trivial hobby, but rather a way of daily life.
My unusual life is not just limited to my artistic family. When I was nine years old I had my first horse, which taught me the value of work ethic and gave me access to wild areas as I rode with my mom into the desert and organic vineyards nearby. Horses taught me to make peace with the nippy winds on a winter day or the squinting heat of the sun during high noon as I rode through the dust on the rhythmic wave of my snorting, galloping horse. Freedom as a horse moves. Freedom as an artist has become my reason of being.
My Appaloosa Named Cheyenne and Me
When I entered the fourth grade, I realized something was deeply wrong. I was losing my playful curiosity, connection with intuition, and ability to explore my own path. The institutionalized walls of conformity and normalcy were closing in and putting me in a dark mindset for that age. Seeing this retraction of my usual happy self, my mother took me out of school when I was ten years old to be homeschooled, which evolved into “unschooling”. This unconventional way of learning is something that Elon Musk, founder of PayPal and CEO at Tesla, is doing with his children. It is an independent form of education where the young person is given the resources and support to learn what they want to learn – without a stagnant, one-size-fits-all curriculum.
Freedom provides the fertile soil for the seeds of self-expression to flourish. When I was 14 years old, I inherited an old tractor, ’36 Dodge, and ’57 Mercury. I took it upon myself to fix them and make them run again.
Working On Classics
It was also during this time that I had a job working ’til 2 AM on the weekends as a dishwasher at a jazz club. The exposure to live music, culture, and sophistication was deeply influential. Every two weeks, I spent my entire paycheck on metalworking tools to fix my classic collection. What started out as being a gearhead quickly turned me into a sculptor as I saw potential for twisted steel and forgotten equipment at my local scrapyard. I made my first sculpture at 15 out of plow disks.
At The Scrapyard
Having one foot in the realm of the refined elite of the jazz world and another in the world of coarse industry, I see value in both parts of society. The balance within dichotomy has been a theme in my life which I honor every day. To embody both masculine and feminine qualities. To not only dream, but to manifest into physical form. To integrate with the hardened and weatherworn blue-collar workers as much as I mingle with executives and elite on their white carpet. As Queen Victoria once said, “Beware of artists. They mix with all classes of society and are therefore most dangerous.”
This quest for balance can be seen in my own work where I blend abstract with representational. Overt boldness with unspoken subtlety. Even my belt buckle that I have worn since a teenager symbolizes the vesica pisces, which is a geometric illustration showing two spheres or circles overlapping. The place where they join is the special area just like the place where future potential and ancestral past meet to create this very moment. Or perhaps when man and woman join to create an entire new being.
I exist as a paradox which cannot be labeled or boxed. For example, I own a Prius (which no diesel enthusiast would own) and a diesel truck (which few Prius owners would consider). Some days I wear moccasins and other days I lace up my logger boots. I work with hard steel while wearing leather gloves, safety goggles, a respirator, and ear plugs, yet my purpose is to maintain the soft, gentle, and quiet nature.
My experience with nature is omnipresent in my heart. In the time when I am alone standing barefoot upon an ancient rock cliff as my toes sense the delicate lichen underneath, I listen to the dusk song of red-wing blackbirds settling into the waving wetland cattail as the wind whispers wisdom upon my face and the sun casts its sacral glow of beauty. I lay upon a bed of thick luscious verdant moss upon a wise mother log; a clean mountain stream nearby gurgles as I caress the delicate lace of forest ferns and look up through the dappled green canopy to the blue sky. The irony of living for nature but working in industry. Art is the equinox between the two realms. Living as a sculptor allows me to combine my soft love of Earth with my drive to build.
I believe creativity is a foundational value of being human, so I try to express in every channel possible… art, music, poetry, and dance. I believe it is through these indescribable expressions that we can begin to understand and communicate the deepest truths of existence such as love, interconnection, emotion, purpose, understanding, intuition, and all human archetypes.
My parents always told me, “Go big,” after learning they had to sell a lot of greeting cards at Portland Saturday Market in order to buy lunch. I took that two word motto to heart when I completed my first public sculpture with the help of my dad at age 18, called “Synergy”.
I have since completed well over a dozen more in the following decade, primarily in the Pacific Northwest. My largest sculpture is the “Solar Arches” at the REACH Museum which acts as an annual sundial for the equinoxes and summer solstice. It weighs 14,000 pounds and is 40 feet in diameter.
Each of my sculptures serves as both landmarks for people’s memories and tools to shake people loose from default programming. Every time a person passes my art, it acts as a container for the given experience. For example, if two lovers choose to first meet by my sculpture, then it becomes a symbol for their relationship. If a child travels by my sculpture going to kindergarten, then the sculpture can trigger memories of their childhood when they are an adult. Sculptures also wake people from the linear world of concrete and autopilot. It can lift their gaze from screens to inspire curiosity and reflection.
I am excited to write for Culture Honey and look forward to describing my unusual experience living the art life, including the people I meet, the places I go, the conversations had, and the rich culture I witness.