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In summer 2016, I received Myers Foundation research funding from the WVU School of Art and Design to create the Character Generator series, my first body of work made entirely with 3D scanning and 3D printing processes. I began this series by scanning small temporary studies made from clay, metal, wood, and other found objects, a process which unified each of these disparate constructions into a cohesive whole. This aspect of the process was quite liberating, as it allowed me to work in a direct, improvisational manner, much like creating a digital collage. My preconceived notion of 3D scanning was that it would be just like making a mold to reproduce an exact replica of an object. However, I found this process was more akin to taking a fleeting, snapshot impression of an object, and I fully embraced the distortions and digital chatter inherent to these technologies.

In fall 2016, I had the pleasure of discussing this research project at the annual Southeast College Art Conference (SECAC) in Roanoke, Virginia. My presentation, entitled Fragments of Signifiers: 3D Printing & Scanning As Digital Collage, was part of the panel discussion No Hands?: Digital Fabrication and Craftsmanship chaired by artist McArthur Freeman, with fellow artist panelists Kelly O’Briant and Ryan Buyssens. All in all, I think The Character Generator series marks a significant and very exciting step in my artistic growth. The process of assembling these sculptures imbues the Character Generator series with appealing qualities of memory, humor, and cryptic beauty, and I have no doubt this research will lead to more ambitious art making endeavors using new technologies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

In 1956, sculptor Milton Horn created carved stone pylons for the West Virginia University School of Medicine Morgantown Campus. These four towering columns contain eight carved relief scenes celebrating the history of medicine. As a tribute to his late wife Estelle, Horn donated his original plaster studies of these pylons to the West Virginia University School of Medicine Charleston Campus in 1982. In a collaborative effort between West Virginia University Health Sciences and the West Virginia University College of Creative Arts, I was commissioned to reproduce these panels for display at the West Virginia University School of Medicine Eastern Campus in Martinsburg, symbolically linking our university’s three medical school campuses. I delivered and installed the first panel in August, and the second panel was delivered in mid-October. I am on track to finish and deliver three more panels this academic year, and I expect to fully complete this project by fall 2017.

The Eastern Pylons project is one of the most challenging things I’ve ever undertaken, and I’m really pleased with the results. This project has allowed me to combine my knowledge of casting and metal fabrication methods to create large scale finished artworks, while also affording me on-the-job training in the use of new art-making materials, such as Winterstone-casting mix and Smooth-On Equinox silicone rubber mold putty. Working at this scale is certainly not a one-person job, so I am forever grateful to my student workers Cornelius Hugo, Kevin Brennan, and Matt Jarrett, as their hard work and camaraderie has been instrumental in the success of this project.

 

 

 

This past semester, I participated in a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics ) education project at Morgantown’s North Elementary School. Sponsored by a grant from the West Virginia Division of Culture and History, this project had three primary components, one of which was to create a garden environment for attracting regional birds. My WVU School of Art and Design colleague Joseph Lupo helped the North students use their bird research to create mini comics, while my sculpture students and I focused on designing and building a birdhouse structure.

To begin the birdhouse component of this project, my sculpture students were tasked with creating steel butterflies, flowers, snails, and leaves, which tied into our classroom study of forging, welding, and other metal fabrication techniques. Meanwhile, 4th grade students from North were utilizing their bird research, drawing these creatures onto steel panels with chalk. I took these panels back to our studio and cut them out with a plasma torch, and then these bird panels and my sculpture students’ flora and fauna were cleaned up and painted in multiple bright colors.

I set wooden posts in concrete and built the final birdhouse structure with my friend Aaron Lutz, a WVU forestry program student working at North this year with the AmeriCorps VISTA program. The completed piece contains approximately nine birdhouses, 33 steel bird panels, 33 steel items created by my sculpture students, and a stainless steel nameplate. This project gave my students and I the opportunity to collaborate with students, teachers, and administrators at North in a truly unique manner, and out of the things I did in this amazingly busy school year, this was probably the most enjoyable project to take on.

 

 

I recently finished work on a solar tree prototype, a collaborative project between the School of Art and Design and the Lane Department of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering at West Virginia University. This yearlong endeavor involved our sculpture program working with Ramana Reddy, professor of computer science and electrical engineering in the Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources and his students. The overarching goal of the solar tree was to create a comfortable, shaded area, utilizing the electricity for those enjoying the tree’s shade to charge electronic devices, gain wireless internet access, and connect with its informational interface. There was a dynamic quality to this project, as it brought together individuals from various backgrounds and areas of expertise in an attempt to tackle some of the pressing issues of our time. Now that the solar tree has made its debut, we can begin the dialogue on finding this structure a more permanent home on campus and modify the prototype to make it more appropriate for long term display.

After an intense summer filled with numerous teaching obligations & round-the-clock art-making, I am happy to announce the opening of my solo exhibition Match Cut in the West Virginia University Creative Arts Center’s Laura Mesaros Gallery. On view from September 1-October 2, this show explores our collective need for classification and organization, especially as the desires and limitations of our organic bodies conflict with this quest for order. I use various fabrication techniques and meticulous craftsmanship to explore these conceptual interests, manipulating iconic imagery & familiar objects from our educational, governmental, and scientific institutions in order to draw attention to the impermanent & transitory nature of cultural authority.

This exhibition takes its title, Match Cut, from a film editing technique where seamless transitions between scenes help draw together the visual, metaphorical connections between objects and actions. I drew inspiration from this cinematic device, creating a series of cast & forged metal sculptures, mixed media panel works, and manipulated found object pieces that are cozily familiar yet imbued with surreal, dreamlike qualities. I really like the way this new body of work fits together, and I look forward to creating more artwork in the same vein.

This past month has been a period of great activity in the West Virginia cast iron community. Shepherd University hosted their fall iron pour early in November and a week later, the sculpture program at West Virginia University hosted our fall iron pour. I am pleased that Shepherd University sculpture coordinator Christian Benefiel, Fairmont State University sculpture coordinator Jeremy Entwistle, and myself have continued to collaborate and get our student involved to make these events run in a safe and efficient manner. The palpable teamwork and camaraderie exhibited by all participants has affirmed my belief that a vibrant cast iron community is emerging in our state. Here’s some images and videos from our events, big thanks goes out to students Violet Goode and Hannah Hicks for documenting our iron pour at WVU.

By far my favorite project from the past year was our Fall 2013 Iron Pour. Held on Friday, November 8, at the West Virginia University Creative Arts Center, this event helped inaugurate “Sputnik”, a portable iron-casting furnace that Fairmont State University sculpture faculty Jeremy Entwistle and I began building over the summer. Our pour crews cast around 3000 pounds of iron over the course of the day, which exceeded expectations for the capacity and durability of this new furnace. We also had excellent media coverage and a healthy turnout from the public, all of which contributed to making this event a resounding success.

Jeremy and I and students from our respective programs were joined by Shepherd University sculpture faculty Christian Benefiel and his students, as well as friends from the Pittsburgh iron casting community. In addition, alumni Emily Walley, Brett Kern, Jennifer Rockage McGhee, and Jamie Lester were invited to be visiting artists for the event, all of who cast iron for the first time.

Local businesses, including Construction Supply Company (CSC), 3 Rivers Iron and Metal, and Jack’s Recycling generously contributed materials and supplies for the iron pour. In addition, local metal fabrication company Wilson Works gave us great technical support by cutting out precision parts for “Sputnik”, and Morgantown restaurant Atomic Grill provided catered food for the event.

Big thanks goes out to Daniela Londoño Bernal for photographing this event, as well as Glynis Board from West Virginia Public Broadcasting for her excellent radio segment, which can be found here. The radio story also included a short video documenting the pour, which is linked below.

Looking back on 2013, I think the most challenging yet enjoyable project I took part in was the Morgantown Tree by artist Carol Hummel.

The School of Art and Design at West Virginia University invited Hummel to be a visiting artist for the 2013-2014 academic year. In addition to having a gallery exhibition, she put forth a proposal to work with students and community members to cover a large tree on our Evansdale Campus with crocheted yarn. Hummel has an impressive record of creating similar crocheted installations in Cleveland Heights, Ohio; Chicago, Illinois; Drangedal, Norway and New Delhi, India, so I thought it would be quite a coup for her to create a project in Morgantown.

Once Hummel’s project was approved, a workforce had to be organized to make all the crocheted elements. I served as Hummel’s de facto project manager, helping her coordinate with the university and community groups involved in the installation. Because this was a once-in-a-lifetime learning opportunity, we decided early on that our sculpture students would assist Hummel. Members of the Morgantown community, including campus knitting groups and residents at The Village at Heritage Point (a senior retirement community), also made invaluable contributions to this project. There was palpable synergy among all participants, and due to excellent teamwork and a stretch of great weather, the installation was finished in only six days.

The Morgantown Tree was created in conjunction with Morgantown’s 2013 celebration of The Year of the Tree (YOTT). By choosing a prominent location for this installation, Hummel’s project enjoyed high visibility for both on-and off-campus populations. She used an open stitch for this installation, which allows the trees to breathe without damaging their growth, and her chosen synthetic yarn will hold its color well for the next several years.

As 2013 winds down, I am taking time this month to recap several large-scale collaborative art projects I have spearheaded over the past year.

In the summer of 2012, I received a Campus-Community LINK program grant from the West Virginia University Center for Service and Learning, through the West Virginia Campus Compact. This pilot program, funded by the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation in partnership with The West Virginia Community Development Hub, was designed to connect community groups and faculty members throughout West Virginia to facilitate dynamic service learning projects.

This project was initially focused on creating an artisan co-op in Elizabeth, West Virginia, which would enable community members to sell their locally made products. Due to space and logistical issues, this part of the project never came to fruition. Instead, we focused on the secondary aspects of the project, which involved refurbishing local business signage and building a kiosk for sharing historical and community information. The Sign Factory in Morgantown did a great job printing both the historical and the business signage, and fabrication of the kiosk was finished this past summer. After the kiosk was delivered to the community members, they installed it this fall on the town square in Elizabeth.

This project also generated a great deal of conceptual drawings and unrealized plans, and I have included these images in the slideshow because they are interesting artifacts of the process. This project went on much longer than I anticipated, but I am pleased with the results, and I think the community members and my students both learned a great deal.