I am not the same person I was before the Iraq war. That experience changed me, both mentally and physically. I was teaching industrial arts at a local high school. As a hobby, I designed and built furniture. I thought it was important to be a functionalist. Because we live in a three dimensional world, we see the world in the round. I first worked in wood and ceramics during high school. Then I worked with ceramics and jewelry in college. I was trapped by this need to create functional items. I have recently found the strength to break out in creating sculpture. I began to feel that I was able to let go of my need to create utilitarian objects.
The underlying theme in my work is the dark side of humanity. A primary aspect of that dark side is malice. I learned that the Latin origin of malice is “Malus.” Because the first three letters “mal” can be translated from Spanish as “bad,” and the last two letters spell “us,” the hedgehog character that appears repeatedly in my work is called “Malus” and refers not just to these concepts, but also to a tiny creature I saw while in Iraq that was surviving in a hostile environment. I immediately identified with the creature and later took him on as a personal icon. Other influences on this work were Dante, Sun Tzu, and Nietzsche. Only those who have seen into the abyss can begin to truly understand its nature.
“He who fights with monsters should see to it that he himself does not become a monster. And if you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss also gazes into you.”
– Friedrich Nietzsche
Part of what we did in Iraq was to distribute toys, i.e. Beanie Babies and candy to the children to gain their trust, so to win their hearts and minds. I have chosen such benign objects as Beanie Babies, morphing them into creatures of malus. This is an attempt to understand my experiences in the war and how those experiences changed me as they did some of my comrades. How can you win their hearts and minds when you raid people’s homes in the dark of night? We had become the nightmare, not the saviors of civilization.
My first project “Beanie Babies and Bullets” is a takeoff from an old term all you need is “beans and bullets.” I changed the characters from stuffed Beanie Babies to bronze and glass to give these benign creatures a twist of character. By changing the material of the characters from soft, cuddly stuffed animals to cast bronze and cast glass, I hope others are able to interpret this change and to create their own feelings about my art and the situations I present. I chose to display the original Beanie Babies with their bronze and glass copies in authentic army polyester butt-packs, to symbolize that the Iraqi people and US soldiers were all in the same situation together.