“This piece lingers in a border space, something that is real and yet still feels like you are only seeing it and then finishing it or making it real in your head. Like a piece of poetry made real, crystallizing for a minute.”
I began drawing butterflies about six years ago. They just started popping into my head. It was strange how they would come, I knew they were an important idea for my work, but it would seem that just as I was understanding why, the idea would disappear, and I was left with the feeling of having forgotten something important. I found myself struggling to remember the idea. So I began to draw butterflies. At that time I was still living and working in Birmingham, Ala.
A year later when I moved up to Ithaca, New York, the butterflies were still appearing.
I threw away the first year’s worth of my butterfly drawings, because they had no substance, they were just drawings of butterflies, the insect. This is the strange thing about drawing, sometimes you know you are just creating a space for an idea to grow, it becomes more of a muscular activity. I was deeply involved in other work at the time, so the butterflies were sedentary.
By the second year, it was clearer that the butterflies were about the pulling of memory. In the drawings they began pulling on things, on buildings, people and objects, tearing them down, carrying them away, lifting them up. Sometimes the drawings were dark and the butterflies destructive, other times they were a rescue or transformation. On my studio wall in pencil, I wrote “the butterflies of memory come in their outrageous beauty, they come to tear the buildings down.” I began to think about architecture and the second construction inside it, the second building, the one created from memory. The building that can linger long after the first one falls.
I started making butterfly sculptures and moquettes, but nothing I was happy with. They sort of lingered in my drawing room as piles of drawings began to build up. It was in these drawings that I worked out how the butterflies functioned conceptually, and why even now I think of this piece as much in terms of drawing as I do sculpture – in part because of the scale and visual distance created by the size and location of the piece, but also because of how the piece is meant to function visually.
This is not at all typical of my sculptural work, which is usually acutely concerned with it’s material reality and physical presence. This piece lingers in a border space, something that is real and yet still feels like you are only seeing it and then finishing it or making it real in your head. Like a piece of poetry made real, crystallizing for a minute. I think the piece will seem very unreal when it is up, the sunlight flashing and flickering on the gold, heightened by the fact that it’s temporary. You will see it and then it will be gone, and you will wonder if you imagined it. It will only continue to exist as long as it is remembered.