office caught up with the artist to discuss the wondrous possibilities of footwear, art, and puzzles.
Tell me about your work.
My work in general, since about 1989 or 90, has been about taking objects that clearly from Western culture and recasting them in a tribal narrative, often with things that look African art, but because of the idea of tribal, they start to look like other cultures as well, especially Mexico and Asia. In my mind or the back of my imagination I proceed as if I’m trying to extract the spirit from the original object, so I don’t work with a sketch or a plan, I just play with them for hours until something emerges. So in the case of the shoe masks, I feel that each shoe had the personality and the history of the person who wore them—they’re all used shoes, gently used I should say—and they kind of make their own personality, I just have to remain open to that and put them together.
Another aspect of that same work is that I’m very interested in making work that looks like they come from the past, the present, and the future—I call that collapsed time, where everything comes into a single point called the now. And that makes them look very futuristic, but they might be put together in such a way that reflects a more ancient tradition. I’m also interested in multiplying objects, so I do a lot of work with water bottles, which is the probably the most exact on my formula for analysis—I take a single water bottle and multiply it, so now it’s a thousand or three thousand water bottles, and it becomes something else. In that case, I tell myself that I’m doing what nature does by taking a single molecule and multiplying it to make something completely new.
I didn’t even think of it as being tribal, but now that you say that it makes sense. I just saw the shoe faces and thought they were silly and refreshing.
Yeah, they just popped out. In the front of the gallery, I have a bronze, full-bodied figure. I think of them all as female because the shoes were females, so there’s a female energy that I’m extracting from these objects.