A room, window, or frame is a projection of ideals. I see landscapes, bodily topographies and formal concepts as sites from which to contextualize identity and borders. They offer materiality and a concrete standpoint from which to internalize and project.
My sculpture and installations often develop in direct response to experiences as a guest or foreigner. They also stem from positions of curious physicality. I pursue questions about personal and societal boundaries, and perceptions of objectification and otherness. These topics surface in geographical or visceral objects and spaces.
Statement for Pillar Robbing
I researched and developed Pillar Robbing during an Artist Residency in Ceramics at Ohio University in Athens for the exhibition Material Histories: Cultures of Resistance at The Majestic Galleries in Nelsonville, Ohio.
I used native materials to respond to the region’s 200-year history of coal and clay mineral extraction. The practice continues to shape the local economy, culture and environment in this part of Appalachia. Pillar Robbing is made from clay dug from the area by Logan Sewer Pipe Company (founded in 1890), coal, and Acid Mine Drainage (AMD) iron. I collected and processed this iron, known as “Yellow Boy” from Monday Creek. AMD “systems and seeps” are a vast network of abandoned underground coal mines that spill acidic heavy metal laden water into waterways, killing aquatic life.
Boom and bust towns, social structures and environmental hazards such as subsidence are sites that physically correspond to mineral wealth and Room and Pillar retreat mining. These sites have clustered with gob piles on the land after it was platted and sold in real estate ventures with the assistance of government. Wealth and power, however, have not locally accumulated.
Resource tapping and current reclamation efforts have created a continually shifting terrain. Residents shared with me both intense pride for, and shame in their surroundings. They spoke of an intellectual and cultural divide from “outsiders”.
In conducting research in Appalachia on local matters, I found a need to begin with a process of confronting my privilege. As much as possible, I wanted to avoid contributions to exploitation and Othering. The artwork became an exploration of the following questions: How can one connect across community borders and within micro-regions that aren’t culturally monolithic? How do native material economy and labor create identity that is tied to place? Pillar Robbing is an examination of notions of discarded land and people, and how the ideals and identity that shape culture reshape the environment.