I really only fully understand my own art and am largely art
ignorant. Year by year, I have a greater understanding of the
art of others and less and less patience for art that plays it
Wes Modes' Pencil Sharpener
I love work that asks you to participate in some way. I want
to be part of it. I want to twiddle or tweak, interpret or
analyze, get lost in reverie or be jolted into the present. I
love art that makes me use my body or my head or my heart. Or
better yet, all three.
If I didn't make stuff, I'd get restless and anxious and
bored. I run around like a madman when I am on an art tear.
It is more than a avocation and isn't quite a compulsion (but
close). If I had a few hours to kill, it's possible I'd rather
be in my studio than doing anything else in the world. I think
the word is vocation, of which one dramatic definition
is "a calling by the will of God." Though I hope that isn't
I bristle at the notion of art as expression. I'd rather
my art listened, rather than take the floor. I want it to
reach out and invite you to play some role, a button pusher,
a prayer whisperer, a diviner of mysteries.
I have little formal training in art. So I was surprised to
find that I owe an intellectual debt to the Dadaists and
Surrealists. It may be a testimony to the long-lasting effect
their work has had on all of us that today's artists find
themselves unknowingly indebted to the surrealists. Infectious
spores of whimsy are still free-floating in the collective
conscious. These artists set out to move an entire society
toward the absurd, and did.
Discovery, I think, and mischief are major components of what I
do. About half of what I do is hopelessly useless and
hopefully inspiring whimsy that owes its being to
Marcel Duchamp, early purveyor of art mischief. He saw himself
as an anti-artist with the responsibility of turning the stayed
art world upside down.
You'll also find about half of my work owes a debt to
Joseph Cornell, quiet and reclusive creator of hundreds of
glass-fronted assemblages. Cornell was greatly influenced
Joseph Cornell's Hotel Eden
by his friend Duchamp. But Cornell's work seems to put aside
the iconoclastic ambition and settle into a nostalgic reverie,
a grasping for the security of a universe in a box.
When I started, I didn't know about Cornell, though I was
following in his large footsteps. I think it all starts with my
fourth grade California history project. As usual, I did
something half-heartedly the night before only to come to
school to find that other kids had made amazing diorama shadow
boxes in such luxurious detail, you wanted to get small and go
live in them.
You'll find my work walking a line somewhere between the two,
the extroverted work of Duchamp and the introverted work of
Cornell. In a sense, so does the artist: I want my art to
intrigue and engage you, but mostly I do it for my own
Long before I started assembling them into collages, I was
collecting interesting bits and pieces of junk. I want to share
that sense of discovery I have exploring a junk store, an
abandoned factory, or a desert wash. When viewing my work, I
want you to feel like you've unearthed a lost treasure or a
At the best of times, creating my work feels like channeling,
and I am grateful that I can be the vessel of creativity. If
my work touches something in you, the feeling is all yours.
We've reached out to touch something together and brushed our