In early spring, the children at my school became obsessed with spending all of their playground time digging in the dirt. They had never shown a serious interest in digging before, but it was a now a furious passion, as they had somehow come to realize that along with warmer weather and afternoon showers, there was an advent of earthworms to discover just below the playground’s surface. My students were completely fascinated by the slimy creatures they dug up. One afternoon a very precocious 5-year-old excitedly opened her hand and introduced me to her most recent pet, a grub they had named Harry. “We are being very kind and helping Harry,” she told me proudly. “How?” I asked. “Oh.. just by giving him food, and letting him take naps, and building him a house!” I tried to disguise my knowing smile as I agreed that this sounded very kind, but advised that they not keep him out of the dirt for too long. Just a few minutes later, as more noticed the excitement around the grub and came to get a look, a small mob of children with a few eager shoves brought Harry’s untimely demise. He was squished in my little friend’s hand, to her sorrow and mild disgust, and despite her purest intentions.
I am fascinated by children’s desires to collect and protect, which echo my own artistic tendencies. They are constantly picking up small objects to hide in their pockets - plastic litter, delicate petals, tiny living creatures - all treasures in their eyes. They want to touch everything they see, but aren’t sure how to interact with these precious objects. They want to possess everything they find, but can’t safely hold on to anything for long.
I am taken back to my own childhood experience in nature, which continues to influence me and re-emerge in my work. The experience begins with a boundless awe and wonder: at the delicate natural environments all around me, at the creatures that expertly construct their homes within it, protecting themselves against the world yet still bravely exploring it. Intertwined with my awe is a deep need to feel a part of it. I want to find, touch, pick up and take home, searching for relics to display on my bookshelf or hide in a collage. Like the children at school, part of me believes that my presence may help in some way, my curious interference a beneficial rather than destructive force. But then the unavoidable disappointment: a recognition of my clumsy inadequacy in the face of nature’s fragility, an understanding of our helplessness against our tendency toward destruction.
My recent work reflects this desire to protect through acts of collecting, preserving and embellishing. I try to understand and capture the feeling of a place through the small refuges that I construct. As I go into the world and find delicate, beautiful things, I want to create spaces in which to preserve them. Ultimately of course my instinct for protection is not put to true use; the insects here were found already dead, the bones and shells no longer needed for a life. What’s left is an intimate memorial for the things under my care, an imagined story of their lives and homes.