My philosophy for my own art has refined itself many times over the years. It’s now down to two words: “Have fun”. I got into metalsmithing as a teenager because it opened up new challenges, and was fun in ways that I’d never imagined. I stay with it because I’ve never lost that sense of wonder in being able to make my dreams real. I’ve also found that I do my best work now when I’m having fun. This isn’t to say necessarily light or frivolous works, simply that I focus on things that interest me, and that I find challenging to work on. Essentially: projects that are fun. Why else would I do it?
I would like to camouflage this basic truth in gauzy postmodern theories of incomprehensible complexity, but in the end, the ultimate question is simply this: if my art isn’t any fun, even to me, why am I doing it?
I’ve also discovered that I like to share. I have the most fun watching people interact with my pieces. Art sitting silently in a box in the closet doesn’t really exist, or fulfill the role intended for it. I chose to go through all the complex and frequently not-fun procedures required to make a piece of my mind step out into the light of day. The payback is watching people interact with this new thing. To give the gift of magic and wonder is no small thing.
Magic and wonder are strange terrain for the child of two scientists, who programmed computers using punch-cards before he could drive. Yet that contradiction is only one of the many that I find in my art. I love ancient metalwork, and equally embrace aerospace materials and techniques. I tell my students that art shouldn’t be an inside joke, all the while busily salting my own work with inside jokes. I consider myself a romantic, yet many of the ‘jokes’ in my pieces reference such cheerful subjects as biological terrorism and the inner workings of atomic bombs. I’ve spent years trying to regularize these contradictions without finding a good answer beyond simply embracing them as the nature of my particular beast.
In the end, though, it all comes down to the simple fact that the piece made me smile when I thought it up, and I’d like to share the fun.