Current Red Lodge Clay Center Long-Term Resident 2019-2020
If you’ve met me, I’ve likely called you dog. Dog, an adopted term of respect. Dogs have infiltrated our lives through language in ways we seldom think about; hangdog, hair-of-the-dog, dog tired, sick as a dog, bitch are all commonplace terms in American English. We even refer to our feet as our dogs. As a poet and a ceramic artist, language fascinates me. How can one word mean so much? How can each meaning have such different connotations? Why can we associate so many things with dogs? I think about these questions every day, and my work strives to complicate the answers.
While the dog is an icon in American English, dogs are also icons in the physical word. The Islamic relationship with dogs remains a hot topic, where many muslims see dogs as strictly haram and others have dogs as pets. In much of the world, dogs are pets with names and have near equal footing with children in a family dynamic. For many, dogs are nameless tools to ward off pests or trespassers. Plenty of cultures eat dogs. Stretching further, black dog blood is one of the few known vampire repellents in 1980s Hong Kong vampire movies. Simply put, dogs are seen in varied ways throughout the world.
I make dogs because I see people as being as varied and complex as the world’s view of dogs. Though even at home I may refer to my weinerdog as a “good girl” when she returns a ball I throw or a “bad girl” when she pees on the carpet, my dog lives everyday as both. Simply, my dog is never good or bad. She’s a dog, and I just don’t see the difference. In my work, I create verbal and visual dichotomies between my dog characters to illustrate my presumption that people are also neither good nor bad– nor any other set of dichotomies. Like a smiley face, my dogs are abstract characters that simultaneously represent myself and all of humanity. In my arsenal of dogs I employ “angel dogs” and “underdogs” or “home dogs” and “wild dogs” to honor the duality of man on a macroscale, and the contradictions present in myself on a microscale.
I derive the iconography in my work from my varied identities. I was raised as a middle-class West Virginian, and grew up ashamed of my privilege being surrounded by poverty. Though I identify as a West Virginian, the beginning part of my life began in New Mexico and Wyoming. I consider myself latino but I know less Spanish now than when I was six years old. In recent work, my “home dogs” represent my contempt for suburbia while my “wild dogs” represent the allure of my old home in the West. Importantly, these representations are not fixed, but rather flex like the connotations of dogs in modern language.
Further, the construction of my dogs and the ceramic medium in which I work reinforce my concepts. By creating my characters from paper templates, they are both simple and repeatable. Offering a level of abstraction that allows my dogs to be both ambiguous and relatable, my art reflects a cartoon than any viewer can enter. Additionally, ceramics are of the oldest art mediums in human history and using it connotes its role as a conveyor of ancient language and culture.
Ultimately, my style is derived from my vast array of influences, but language and pop culture icons uphold the breadth of my interests. Subjects as vast as pre-Columbian ceramics, William Blake’s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, or the uncanny style and contradictions of Macho Man Randy Savage, Dennis Rodman, and Jesco White each have equal footing in the hierarchy of my influence. My work aims to bring all of these forces together, one dog at a time.