My work is populated by everyday appliances such as refrigerators, stoves, microwaves, vending machines, and other objects so familiar they recede into the unconscious of everyday life. Their current status is a symptom of 20th and 21st century technological development. A microwave is unimpressive considered alongside a smartphone, so limited in function, so heavy and boxy, it barely registers as technology.
In my paintings and installations, I propose that these appliances are actually profound sites of touch, experience, ritual, desire, and projection. By examining older technologies which remain mainstays of American domestic life, I think about the more drastic developments in artificial intelligence and their effects on us as technologies become increasingly embedded — hidden in plain sight.
Through painting, I aim to find out what something is, how it’s made, why it’s made, and who is affected by it’s production. I pare images and objects down to their barest essentials, estranging them from their original contexts and functions to see how they operate on their own terms. I often extract part of the object — a knob from a stove, a coil from a vending machine, or a figure from a logo — organizing them in dark grounds or imagined spaces. As stand-alone subjects and symbols, they become abstract and defamiliarized, ciphers of memory or partial thoughts buried in the deep recesses of the mind. One series of paintings depicts refrigerator manual pages, focusing on the language used to describe and explain the appliance’s function for its user. The text and Magic Chef logo are painted onto white grounds, emulating manual pages. Rendered in a clean graphic style, the images are empty enough to serve as a more-or-less stable vessel for a consumer’s projections of desire.
My installations transform the packaging of these appliances into camera obscura set-ups. They become sites for performance, allowing me to turn the mechanized complexities of everyday technologies into projections of alternative internal workings. A recent installation, Magic Chef Camera Obscura, projects the image of a ceramic pepper shaker onto a blank wall. Floating inside the box is the ceramic pepper shaker object, which spins atop a levitating magnet. Its movement animates the static object, and in this scenario a pepper shaker performs as a moving image. With the empty fridge box, a lens and some LEDS I break down the mechanisms of more contemporary and complex technologies into something analog. Like the manual paintings, the installations function as a way to develop a more personal and idiosyncratic relationship to embedded technologies like a refrigerator through deconstruction and re-assemblage of parts.
Collectively, my work presents a roaming set of objects that describe — in absence — a human subjectivity both suggested and disembodied by these technologies. The form of the knob calls to mind the ritual turning of the hand and cooking routines, while reducing the human gesture to a prescribed, perfunctory movement. The knobs turn, and we turn with it.