Marcel Duchamp said the artist of the future should go underground. He felt that society’s demands upon the artist were such that the power of art would eventually become diluted. My interpretation of Duchamp’s words is to include travel as part of my work process. I participate in artist residencies throughout the world, some of which I initiate myself. In both formal and informal residencies I have the specific purpose of seeing and learning how people live and work. These observations contribute to the content of my art.
All types of physical work interest me, but the labor surrounding food harvest and production is an area I pay particular attention to. This stems from growing up in the central valley of California, and having a grandfather who was an immigrant farm worker. Some art project examples include working in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan during the rice and wheat harvests. In Uzbekistan I followed the annual cotton harvest-pilgrimage, and in the Dominican Republic I studied the complicated sugar harvest history. In Guadalajara I work with a saddle maker to fabricate sculpture components. In some instances the art is informed by those workers experiencing displacement ( Mexican kitchen workers in New York City, and the Haitian cane cutters in the DR are examples of this). Additionally I have completed projects about work practices that have continued for thousands of years. (The Pamir wheat harvest and the Kyrgyzstan rice harvest for example.)
This process gives me plenty of opportunity for social engagement. The art project becomes a thing between me and others that sometimes grants access to grounds of understanding within an unfamiliar context. I limit my artist visibility by traveling, but in the long run I feel my work will contribute more to offsetting the dehumanizing qualities of globalism, by showing labor as a place of wholeness and humanness. Acknowledging the cultural contribution of labor expands social space.