My artwork and research interrogates and re-presents marginalized spaces such as agricultural land, abandoned groves and orchards, sanitary canals, the liminal zone between suburban and rural, housing subdivisions, the occasional national or state park, domesticity and disability and the digital images of landscapes generated by satellites that populate the nightly news. I seek to transform mapped landscapes and familiar interactions into alternative geographies that transmit my own sense of wonder in the ubiquitous, encouraging others to look more closely at what constitutes their everyday existence.
I employ a variety of tactics to apprehend my surroundings. Ethnographic observation through personal narrative is one of the ways that I relate an experience and establish my role as a participant in the work. Narrative also allows me to engage the audience in a familiar modality providing an entrance into the more abstract aspects of my practice. Listening to the stories of others simultaneously proves critical to my research by providing insight into how people interpret the networks and mappings historically imposed upon both familiar and imagined landscapes.In one of my past projects, I worked with Deshae Lott, a colleague at Louisiana State University, on a collaborative project, Augmented Spirit: Extreme Embodiment, exploring how a typical domestic home is transformed by disability. Deshae’s ventilator dependency becomes an opportunity and a site, rather than a science fiction to investigate the interaction between “wet” and wired systems. Utilizing sonic and haptic technologies, I mapped the interior space of a profoundly disabled person: the traces left by a wheelchair on carpet, the mechanical noise of life support machines, and the human conversation of the home. In Augmented Spirit, I examine what constitutes the “natural” world in the context of life support systems and disability. Through interaction with the project, then, we hope to compel participants in a small way to approach realties different from their own with greater curiosity and personal involvement.
I enjoy, too, feeling and examining the tangible manifestations of the networks. Networked information enables me to easily investigate immense quantities of seemingly unrelated information. My research becomes a methodology for “domesticating” data, allowing me to combine my lived experience of place with the imagery and statistical information of institutional infrastructure that forms the foundation of our every day lives. As part of my process, I co-mingle visual, textual, and media information from a variety of sources to engineer hybrids that reveal relationships previously unknown or overlooked. By cultivating alternative modes of categorizing information, my projects seek to create dialogues that produce new opportunities for problem recognition and solving and ultimately, perhaps, have the potential to locate, even celebrate what is singular to a community.
In my video, Stroller Flâneur, I map the subdivisions that characterize the neighborhood where I live. Stroller Flâneur is a gendered rift on “flânerie,” where the necessity of childcare is a platform for textualizing suburban space. My work not only connects me to the immediate community of the Rutledge area of northwest Gainesville, but also focuses the audience’s attention to the possibilities of seemingly ordinary places as valuable and worth further consideration. Stroller Flâneur has generated local, national and international interest with invitations for screening in a variety of venues. To produce this video, I talked with my neighbors about their experiences of the transition over the last 30 years from a small predominantly African-American farming community to middle class suburbs. I researched, with the assistance of county employees, the history of the area from Spanish exploration to the present, as well as the city of Gainesville’s current plans for developing this socially complex area. The resulting video functions as a form of dialogue about place, race and community.
My video, green lining?, also chronicles my interactions with marginalized landscapes. I documented and reflected upon the transformation of land originally destined to become subdivisions that now sits undeveloped due to the economic recession. Disturbed land becomes populated with edible weeds; perhaps a tiny silver lining in the larger picture of unsustainable development practices. To research green lining?, I worked with the Florida Native Plant Society and researched Florida uplands ecosystems by participating in Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences’ Florida Master Naturalist Program. The relationships I forge with the members of local and regional organizations inform the content of my work. The documentation of my intense interaction with abandoned suburban land through the activities of foraging, asks viewers to reconsider our nation’s collective approach to development, real estate, and sustainability. A recent off shoot of this project is a series of interventions focused on the invasive plant species ubiquitous to Florida backyards where I invite the audience to reflect upon what constitutes the Other in the context of our backyards. Invasive Sanctuary is a meditation on Giant Reed (Arundo Dona), originally grown as an ornamental grass, and its rhizomatic growth both impenetrable to Homeland Security infrared sensors along the US Mexican border and my shovel in an attempt to thwart its march across my yard. Yet another project, What Lies Beneath…, highlights, Florida Betony, a ubiquitous turf invasive across the Southeast. The network of roots that characterizes betony’s subterraneous growth inspired me to contact Floridians with stakeholder relationship to Stachy Floridana inviting them to share their perspective via postcard correspondence. The postcards evidence a conversation about our cultural relationship with this ubiquitous crop/weed/native plant, inviting the audience to ponder the nature beneath their feet.
The artwork that emerges from these collaborations invites the audience to visualize, hear, touch, smell, and even taste “data" that might previously seem inaccessible. This research locates the poetic in the landscape, sensually representing abstract ideas that potentially prove valuable to a discussion about nature, what it means to know a place, how to value both the exotic and the familiar equally and increase interest in sustainability and civic engagement.
Reflecting on the piles of citrus and loquats that sit uneaten beneath trees in people’s yards near where I live, I think about what can be done with this fruit and imagine systems of distribution that could serve as metaphors to create community from this unused resource. In the installation and video piece, Thy Neighbor’s Fruit, I collect the fruit, map the location of fruit trees and record my neighbor’s narratives about their relationship to their fruit trees, perspectives on nature, food, land ownership, and the potential transformation of space that could occur when a resource is shared. I then return much of the fruit as jam to my neighbors. This relational piece reconceptualizes not only the idea of neighbor, but induces the audience through a variety of sensory experiences—tasting, smelling, listening—to experience place. The exhibitions and presentation of Thy Neighbor’s Fruit has expanded the scope of my work to multiple venues and communities. Recently, Thy Neighbor’s Fruit traveled to Canada and broadened the dialogue surrounding the work to include issues of the distance food travels and the carbon footprint of the foods that we eat.
Currently, I am exploring another form of agriculture, local to the Southern United States, managed pine forests. The Forest Art Colab Space, is a fire tower cab converted into a mobile space for artist research/pedagogy. The tower disseminated information about the well being of the forest. I envision the fire tower as a vehicle that contains alternative readings and interpretations of the forest and functions as a relational work of art. The tower cab simultaneously serves as a screen and a lens that the audience may employ to examine the deeply embedded cultural and national mythos of the forest and our daily consumption of products derived from timber.
My art practice's affinities with agriculture, foraging, neighborhoods, economics and sustainability, as well as mapping and geography, have facilitated conversations with my colleagues across campus in sustainability, natural resources and agriculture. I examine societal issues from the perspective of my lived experience of a particular place with the hope that what makes one place distinctive informs what is significant and valuable about all places. My art practice singularly implements Ernest Boyers' notion of the 'Scholarship of Application'—where social issues are an agenda for scholarly investigation. My community is both a resource for the creation of knowledge and scholarship and an opportunity for me to engage with and contribute to where I live. I endeavor to make art that awakens the curiosity for the quotidian in my viewers: transforming spectators into participants yearning to explore their surrounding environments, perhaps developing their own unique strategies to connect with the world around them.
From Scholarship Reconsidered: Priorities of the Professoriate by Ernest Boyers https://depts.washington.edu/gs630/Spring/Boyer.pdf.