New work, “Self-Fulfilling Prophecy,” at Ogden Museum show “Virtual Idylls”

Working with Stacey Stanfill in her studio Bayou Clay was crucial to the creation of this piece, and a pleasure. Her guidance, skilled advice, and friendship were antidotes to hours in front of a computer screen.

Clay is a new medium and process for me. I avoided clay in the past due to hand eczema, which luckily has abated in the past years. I was inspired to try working with clay surfaces several years ago after projecting into a porcelain clawfoot bathtub at a show curated by John Otte at The Pearl, in 2011. I was seduced by the qualities of the porcelain surface, and even though I do not necessarily project on to the clay surfaces in “Self-Fulfilling Prophecy,” I have become a fan of the material and process.

That brings me back to John Otte, a talented artist and curator. In 2011 he staged a “satellite” exhibit of Prospect 2, in an ancient creole cottage in the 9th Ward of New Orleans. You can see video documentation by Reggie Michael Rodrigue here on youtube, and read about the show here and here.

Statement about “Self Fulfilling Prophecy”:

“Self-Fulfilling Prophecy” is a mixed media artwork combining projections of time-lapse animations and cast clay. Cast clay arms struggle to grasp the vine-y Cat’s Claw, a reviled invasive plant in North America, while the flowers and branches undulate, bloom and thrive.

The cast clay arms were the starting point for this piece, and were directly inspired by the Surrealist Jean Cocteau and his version of “Beauty and the Beast.” In Cocteau’s film, live human arms stick out of a castle’s dark hallway walls and hold candelabras, lighting a magical house. In “Self-Fulfilling Prophecy,” the arms struggle with Cat’s Claw, a cousin of jasmine, a pernicious fast-growing vine. It can cover an unattended house with unexpected speed, and will burst into yellow trumpets. 

The artwork on the surface level depicts a human struggle with nature, but deeper, it is a struggle with the nature of humanity. 

A self-fulfilling prophecy is a person’s incorrect expectation, that affects the reality of a situation, leading to its eventual confirmation.  I question how technological advances in media, such as the mass printing of the christian bible 500 years ago, and the invention of filmmaking 100 years ago, set the stage upon which human perception incorrectly predicts the future, and how actual events are influenced by these flawed predictions. 

The example of the apocalypse in the christian bible, as an eventual end to human life, is a human mass destruction expectation or ideation. We see this fantasy continually played out in hollywood cinema in the form of superhero narratives. Children are indoctrinated into these legends at an early age (mine included). Does this “destruction ideation” spread into real life? Many events could be argued as an extension of this mass fascination. It can also be argued as the way that our cultural unconscious deals with the fear of the unknown, essentially the fear of death, which also can invert itself into the worship of death (Thanatos). 

I try to engage with moving media in ways that provide alternatives to the apocalypse.