When we are young, we are often surrounded by heirlooms passed down generationally to parents and grandparents. These artifacts are reliquaries of the people who have come before us, intricately carved frames hold their photographs, urns on mantels hold their bone fragments, old toys hold the collective joys of our childhoods. The oddly-dressed strangers staring back at me from behind Victorian bubble glass growing up were actually my grandparents, taken right before my father was born. 

One of my earliest memories is learning to read a map. Maps were a symbol of independence to those who raised me and so topographical arts captured my interest early. What is a map? How to find yourself in space, depicted as layers of information, creating a whole picture. My initial entry into sculptural art forms came after a long break from intaglio printmaking, and my passion for layers is still representing my ideas sculpturally. Conceptually, I was looking at childhood play and how as adults we don't often get permission to free play. Socialization formed a natural barrier to the kind of unbridled impromptu joy associated with childhood. Out of this line of thinking, the Four Rocking Horses of the Apocalypse, (2016), took shape. I manipulated wood into skeletal layers resembling rocking horses at an adult scale, built to withstand the weight of several adults to encourage play. At each installation with the horses, the adults refusing to believe they could play made an equal impression on me as the ones who braved it. Each interaction formed an imprint of my work, and I felt as at home with sculpture as I had with printmaking. 

How did an idea that started with childhood play get so... conceptually dark? Creating whimsically dark and ominous beasts out of such an innocent childhood symbol and then making them adult-size has an element of the absurd. Bringing lighthearted fun to a dark topic is not a new idea; some of my inspiration along these lines is explored in fantasy literature, even the formative idea of the Horses began with Rowling’s amazing Thesterals. Shadows exist, and dark and light are within us all. As the concept developed into the first Horse, Famine, layers of plywood took shape first in my mind’s eye, then down on tracing paper, then to the wood itself, until I was one with my jigsaw for several months at a time. As the Horses grew in number, I experimented with digital design and millwork, then came back again to hand tools, and now my work heavily favors the manual processes I grew to love while making the Horses. 

The intimacy of the fine detail work on the skull and backbone pieces eventually lent itself to smaller, more intricate works of art between horses. Now my new series, Ancestors and Artifacts, (2017-18), has come to life by listening to the deductive process, as the final shapes reveal their unique beauty to me. My first works in this new series explore fragments, reminiscent of an archeological dig, exploring how memories can appear fantastical when digging into the past. Playing with ideas of preservation and nostalgia, these curios are inevitably linked with loss. Heirlooms are keys to memories and as such are naturally related to fantasy. Our imagination serves them up in a sort of internal bell jar, exaggerating the darks and lights like a Rembrandt. My affinity for Victorian Medical Museums and fascination with childhood play push into my creations a sense of dark whimsy that hopefully connect the viewer to the past and create correlations with the future. It alludes to staying open and curious as we question our ability to feel as free as a child, safe as a species, and whole as a threatened planet of interconnected beings.

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Artist Bio: 157 words (must be under 180, 120 preferred):

[ArtistName] is best known for her wooden sculptures made from layered plywood that encourage physical interaction with large works of art.

Her largest and most well-known project is The Four Rocking Horses of the Apocalypse, 2016. This series allowed crowds of adults to experience the childlike joy that a rocking horse provides in settings that encouraged free play and photography.

Her current work is a companion series to the rocking horses called Ancestors & Artifacts, 2017, which displays artifacts of an imaginary archeological dig site. Playing with ideas of preservation, childhood memories and nostalgia, these curios share the element of dark whimsy featured throughout her work.

[ArtistName] grew up in Dallas, TX and attended the arts magnet high school Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. She is the creator of the Art Finds You Project, spreading the joy of art by hiding artworks for people to find and keep in Austin, TX.