Collage and found object art have only gained in validity since their introduction into modern and contemporary art dialogue and practice. Consumer culture inevitably produces a vast array of byproducts, and these in turn shape our visual field. I take a hunter/gatherer approach to my art making; I collect things from this visual field. The found object has inherent material qualities, and as W.J.T. Mitchell says, it has a “biography.”
The Sun-Bleached Can Project began when, on a hike, I found a particular sun-bleached old and empty Dr. Pepper can. I became interested in how this once highly designed and colorful product had been transformed by the environment and happenstance into a black and white shell. This time-ridden vessel matched Mitchell’s found object with a life story. I collected hundreds of these objects, each with inherent material qualities, and took them to my art studio to study and manipulate.
As a creator of art objects, I deal with elevated, performative objects, objects to be put into play, objects to be visually read, not kinds of objects that a can of cola is. Visually trained specialists market consumer objects with seduction of use and association. Artwork is traditionally dissimilar to this sort of exchange. Dada artists and thinkers such as Marcel Duchamp altered the definition of the art object with the introduction of ready-made art. The value of the artwork was less about the artist’s hand in the work than the actual object and its cerebral relationship to the art viewer. Marcel Duchamp famously recontextualized a ready-made urinal by signing it, placing it on a pedestal, and renaming it Fountain. Intervention by the artist is necessary in the transfiguration of the found object to an art object.
This is the conceptual field in which I began this work. Duchamp highlights the fact that we visually consume and decode elements of material life as well as high art objects in museums. As an art maker, I seek complex visual metaphors in my material world. All things, big and small, high and low have a material presence. Some particular objects, at times, are elevated into the realm of poetics when they communicate fully what is humanly felt. The poem is in the thing, as William Carlos Williams made clear for American poets and artists as early as the 1920s. I have decided to make objects from objects.
I have chosen to make the empty can represent material potentiality devoid of consumable contents. I have made new objects out of these old objects. I altered the found cans in many ways: I added elements to them, I cut them up, I rearranged them, I hung them, and so on. The art objects I made maintain the lack of consumable contents of their source material—an emptiness that nevertheless adds content to the works. Both my made objects and the found cans are indicative of visual content without consumable content. The objects that I make, however, are materially different from the found cans; I have turned discarded objects into performative objects.