My work casually travels within arenas of installation, sculpture, performance and photography. A ceramic pinhole camera is used to capture a single image on paper or film. The final product is both the silver gelatin photograph documenting one moment in time as well as the device, which recorded that image.
I started out as a sculptural ceramic artist. I primarily focused on a hybrid combination of animals with human characteristics. Over time, I noticed that the sculptures, when viewed in a larger space, created a context. I realized that by capturing this larger tableau, I could broaden and reinforce my concepts. Photography was a natural medium to capture my visions of life, art and time because of its ability to freeze time into a visual experience.
As new ideas for installations began to manifest, I decided to use clay to make the props. First, it was easier to make a giraffe or camel than it was to rent one. Clay was ideal because of its immediacy, and because of the ways each property of the material lent itself to different capabilities. For example, after using raw clay in an installation, I could easily recycle it back into mud to be reused for the next idea.
The idea to dump my Minolta and make my own cameras came about during my last visit to Southern Italy. The camera that I used to create my prior photo installations broke. There was no convenient place to get it repaired and there was no cell reception to even locate an online site that would be able to help me. I was left with the sobering, though liberating, decision to work with the natural resources around me. I grabbed a shovel and dug up mud from a nearby creek. Pulling from my long history of working with clay and other materials, I started to form a shape that resembled a rudimentary camera. I used muck and random bits of hay and rocks to hold the device together. The camera was designed with slits to insert the paper and holes to capture the light. The first image I shot appeared to be of a boy running on the beach from his shadow. The image was fantastic. Upon returning to my New York studio, I quickly reengaged with that moment in Southern Italy. I turned the wet clay into a ceramic camera in the kiln and processed the silver gelatin film in my dark room.
This story of how the ceramic cameras came to be is reflective of my own set of technical rules that drastically challenge and alter how I work with materials. Rough edges, irregular margins, and haphazard tonal range are suggestive of retraced borrowed memories from my grandfather and the working-class way of life that he experienced when coming to America as an Italian immigrant. My grandfather utilized these informal methods when he used recycled wine bottles to fill in behind a retaining concrete wall or when he made moonshine in our 50-gallon fish tank. As a teenager, my grandfather encouraged me to learn how to paint houses with my left hand so I could work twice as long and not get tired.
My subject matter is typically the family and, most specifically, the relationships between a father and son. The specific moments in time that I create strive to produce art that triggers emotions and memories for the individual viewer.
Technically, I could shoot and print a clean picture, make a fine pot or well-designed sculpture, but that would be boring and unrepresentative of my need to explore new territory. Working in the studio allows me to work through many questions that I have always had. But, as in any field of learning, my research results in more questions that need to be answered.