My practice is anchored in the question, “Who are we, and how do we know that?” I explore identity through what I know best: myself, my family, and my communities. While thematically, my art explores identity; topically, my art depicts transgender and queer issues, family and community, and the physical self. These issues are portrayed in my photographs, installations, and sculptures.
My work is mostly comprised of digital photographs. A photograph references a specific time and place. Emphasizing realness through photo-making is an important part of my practice, especially when it addresses identity, transgender issues, and queer issues. In our digital world of infinite subjective truths, highlighting these perspectives is important.
Accuracy is central to my work, rather than precision. A traditionally precise photograph might be a head-and-shoulders shot of a carefully lit subject, in focus, with a direct gaze. An accurate photograph shows the viewer the important part of the subject’s reality. That reality might be the subject’s emotion, their body they way they see it, or the shadow of a secret. The formal qualities of an accurate photograph depend on the perspective being conveyed.
Given the focus on accuracy versus precision in my work, I use a simple digital SLR camera, a tripod, a digital cable release or a ten-second timer, and available or easily constructed lighting. Similarly, with clothing, props, furniture, and my body, I use what is around. I drive these tools to their maximum potential in a setting until I reach a final image.
Even with ubiquitous cameras, we all have defining moments and truths for which we lack accurate photographs. When I construct photographs, I make them for the moments for which I lack an image. A “straight” photograph of a family can suggest what is going on, but doesn’t represent the unseen emotions of the subjects. An accurate photograph represents the subjects’ inner truths, and still records light particles in the physical world.
When I make a portrait with someone else as the subject, it is a struggle in collaboration. I want to give them agency in their representation. However, I am drawn to depict them as how I see them and want them to be in my life. My portraits of others are photos of others, but they are my photos of others.
When my work extends from photography to installation, my goal is to implicate the viewer further into the work. My installations build a physical context around my photographs, sometimes including body-sized box frames to unfurl mylar photo-transparencies into space, a vinyl backdrop to imply a studio setting under the viewer’s feet, or 500 pounds of rubber astroturf “dirt” to build up a weight more tangible to the viewer’s body than the images alone. The line between subject and subject matter is broken - the viewer exists in the same world as the art.
When I make sculptures, it is to set up a particular relationship between an object and its surrounding. The art exists in the specific space it is in - a gallery, a wall, a room, or just in the present. My sculptures give the objects control of how they interact with a person’s gaze, situating themselves unavoidably in the field of view, rather than waiting to be glanced or stared at.
Some viewers may see my work and feel it is in a different world from them, and that they are far away from it. I hope they find my work a productive space to explore the issues it depicts, perhaps even as they feel insulated from them. If my work is successful, I hope people will begin to encounter these issues in their own lives, and within themselves.