Most of my life I worked as a graphic designer and creative director. I owned a design firm in Chicago and it was a great ride. But eventually I began to want something different. I began to play around with art in my free time, painting and shooting photographs.
In 2003 I took a photography workshop in Maine with the brilliant artist and professor Arno Rafael Minkkinen. On the second day he and I sat down to go over the portfolio of images that I had brought with me. He flipped through the pages quickly and with little comment, barely glancing at each of my random attempts at making some sort of photographic art. At the very end I had included a couple of test snapshots of an idea I had.
The idea I had tested was to take some paintings I made during a figure painting class and fill in missing parts of the painted figure with myself. I thought it was fun and different, but didn’t really have any plans for what to do next, if anything at all.
Arno stopped at the images and after a minute looked up at me and told me this was something interesting and worth exploring further. He said, “You know what you have to do”. I did know what I had to do. “I have to go buy art supplies”, I answered.
I found an art supply store in the next town and bought some heavy paper and charcoal. That night in my little motel room I drew a picture of my legs and another of my upper chest area. The next few days I dragged the drawings along with me as Arno took the workshop participants to interesting locations in Maine. When the workshop ended on Saturday I had the start of a body of work that was uniquely mine.
In 2005 I was fortunate enough to have several pieces featured in a group show at Catherine Edelman Gallery in Chicago. The bad news was that I had to be out of town the weekend of the opening. Here it was, my first gallery opening and I couldn’t be there. During conversations with friends an idea developed. I decided to build a life-size cutout painting of myself to stand in at the opening. This painting would have a video screen implanted in the middle where my hands would be clasped in front of my stomach. On the video my hands would be animated, holding up cards with text, filing my nails, validating parking. To my delight the piece sold opening night. Edelman Gallery began to represent me full time and I began to consider the possibility of making a career change.
In the fall of 2006 I moved to Bloomington, Indiana to study at IU for an MFA in photography. It was time to figure out what was next for my art and I wanted to earn the credentials to teach. And I was curious... what if a painting could move? I played around with ways of incorporating video into paintings and photographs. In 2008 when the time came to assemble my grad show I had many concepts but they needed something to tie them together. The “aha” moment was to realize that since all of the concepts revolved around art itself I should put them into that context. So the solution was to present each video as if it was the wall art in a photograph of a museum or gallery space. I moved back to Chicago after graduating and that December Catherine Edelman took a couple of pieces from the grad show to Art Miami for Basel week. Neither one of us had any idea if my work would be noticed. A grad school friend called me from the fair and told me that she was at the Edelman booth and people were crowded in front of my art. Someone was jumping up and down. Literally. The work did better than I could have imagined that weekend and I had a new career.