My work has been primarily driven by the production of queer ecologies and a deep engagement with non-human animal studies. I operate from the position that questions of animality are not binary but rather a tangle of ecologies and richly complicated identities, framed by culture. Recently I have been working in collaboration with domesticated non-human animals living in farming contexts and on farm sanctuaries to enact rituals that foster mutual care. Each daily ritual results in a sculptural work in salt, bronze, incense, clay, or felt, serving as performative documents of our interspecies exchange(s).
Many recent works involved direct collaborations with non-human animals, including Goats, Mice, Sheep, Cows, Hens, Birds, and Dogs. For example, IDOLATRY II resulted from two weeks of interspecies grooming rituals performed on an Icelandic Sheep farm in Richmond, Vermont. Every day I massaged three sheep, Luna, Aurora, and Juniper, to remove burrs that had accumulated in their wool. Over time the sheep came to me without being called, nudging my hands until they received a massage. After two weeks, I took all of the collected burrs to create a performative document in cast bronze. This object represents a process of mutual care, touch, and kinship in a context whereby two species are brought together under the fraught carceral conditions of domestication.
In Queer Ancient Ways: A Decolonial Exploration, Zairong Xiang writes, “in order to unearth something, it has to be buried first” (Xiang 2018, 210). Material alchemy that occurs through elemental transformation, primarily minerals and fire, has deeply informed my material selections. Some works are ephemeral and designed to be burned or ingested. Some works are made of bronze, one of the most archival materials on the planet. When cast bronze is buried, it can still be unearthed intact and is arguably enriched with the lush patina of its deep entrenchment.
Creating enduring traces of non-human animal impressions in bronze is one way to repudiate narratives of the Anthropocene. The majority of academic discourse on the Anthropocene has wrongfully centered human-animals (linguistically and epistemologically) while minimizing the wounds of environmental racism and colonization, deepening the imminent climate crisis that impacts all species on the planet. Each sculpture is designed to be touched by human-animals to transform the patina over time and collapse spaces of animal touch while transgressing the ocular-centrism of art reception. Each material articulation allows me to poetically reexamine cultural binaries by critically looking at processes through which animal bodies are born, fashioned, commodified, fetishized, indexed, groomed, cannibalized, annotated, and embodied.
Over the past four years, my experiences working at farm sanctuaries and small farms have informed my understanding of the legacies of colonization and gender-based violence across taxonomic lines. The ownership of non-human animals and land continues to give rise to unspeakable abuses. With my work, I intend to open discourse about how trauma ripples across species within extractive economies, making all human animals (including myself) complicit in violence that leaves impressions on bodies across spectrums of identification and species. By documenting traces of animal touch, both human and non-human, I strive imperfectly to create space for reparative forms of mutual care and polyvalent gestures of beauty. I want to provide elemental touchstones—carved by Goats’ tongues and hollowed by the teeth of Mice—that might serve as catalysts for small sparks of interspecies kinship.