I have spent most of my early life looking in, from the outside of the art world, living the life that was expected of me and not the life that I wanted for myself. When I was younger my parents opposed my study of art. When I broached the subject my mother took me to New York City (NYC) and showed me the street artists sitting on corners drawing people for $5.00 a session. She told me if I were going to be an artist this would be my life, sitting here on the street corner drawing people all day for little money. To me the world seemed exciting and adventurous; to my parents it seemed a nightmare waiting to happen. For this reason I spent the earlier part of my life teaching myself art by watching painters on TV and looking at art books in school.
By the mid 1980s I was simply copying what other artists were doing and not really having a sense of my own art. Not really knowing any artists, I felt I needed to get out and discover the world around me. So at the age of 16 I left home and started living on the streets of NYC. During the day I would go to school, and at night I would sit around Chelsea with other street artists watching what they were doing and trying to learn from them. Not really having any money I would draw on cardboard and scrap pieces of paper I could find. Once in a while people would give me a small drawing pad to use, which I would keep in a locker at the Bus Depot or Grand Central Station.
I was drawn to much of what was going on in the city at the time. I spent a lot of my free time traveling around the city to catch glimpses of what people like Andy Warhol, Keith Haring, 182, and Jean-Michel Basquiat where doing. Tired of getting no where and having no money I continued my studies in school and when I graduated went to college as part of an Opportunity Program for Homeless Children. Not able to study art as part of the program I studied criminology and psychology, but would draw for group organizations and clubs when I could. After a year of being bored, I joined the army and set off for different parts of the world.
From time to time when a unit commander would find out I could draw and paint they would ask me to paint a wall for the company or to design a poster for an event that the unit had. During my travels and time in the military I would experience things that would not only change my views on the world, but my art as well. It would not be until I left the army that I would go back to my love for art full time.
For several years I continued with my painting, and then I started to think about what I wanted my art to talk about. Being a former soldier and a search and rescue worker at the World Trade Center I wanted to reflect on the ideas that were close to my heart, the images and effects of war on the world around us.
I started this process by writing down my ideas, which over time and through process has turned into a manifesto of my art. I begin talking about my disappointment in the art world around me, but lead into a more philosophical discussion on the general state not just of art, but our future as people in general. This manifesto continues to grow over time and become not only a mission statement for my art, but also a mission statement for my life. Wanting to change how I saw things to how I wanted things to be, I decided that if I was going to make a difference in the art world it was not enough to simply make art, but I would have to become a community based artist that brought not only my art to the public, but the public to art. I also wanted to make connections in art that have not been done before, making art a true international language with no boundaries. So I started looking for ways of mixing different culture’s traditional art with the themes and styles of contemporary art.
While visiting a Chinese Paper Cutting school, I felt an immediate connection between the art and my ideas. Not really feeling like I had a full understanding of paper cutting I moved to China, where I studied the art from some local artists. Wanting to add some of the qualities of western work and aesthetics to the pieces, I started using aluminum and mirror paper for their reflective qualities and placing the work in shadow boxes to give it the appearance of sculptural works that hang from the wall and ceiling.
After years of studying and learning the different styles of paper cutting I started to look for more ways to combine the ideas of the harshness of war with the fragile beauty of paper sculptures. Being an occasional sculptor I started to think of how I could combine the skills of paper cutting with my metal work. The one tool that struck me as speaking more to the destruction of war than any other was the plasma cutter. This idea of using such a strong object to cut and create such fragile and beautiful forms in paper spoke more to me than any of my previous forms of paper cutting.
During the past year I was introduced to a group called Combat Paper that takes old soldiers uniforms and makes paper out of them. The idea of adding this new element to my work interested me greatly. While I continue to work with vellum for its almost translucent qualities, the images cut on into this hand crafted paper made of uniforms gives a texture and appeal to the work that I can not get with regular paper.
Currently I am getting into curating shows and back to teaching art workshops and giving lectures on art. I am also working on several community based projects and looking at forming a studio for emerging artists.