A lovely mess of all these things


I was born in Buffalo, New York and raised in a single parent home. My brother and I stayed with my mother on weekdays and my father on weekends. My mom worked as a teacher and waitress, which made me a “latchkey kid.” My dad was frequently in trouble with the law, and he worked in concrete/construction between multiple stints in jail. From an early age I remember being fascinated with prison art, tattoos, and authority. I was also intrigued by other societal taboos: criminality, drug addiction, and gay sexual culture – all themes I explore in my art.

My hearing impairment has also shaped my life and art in important ways. Because my ears were underdeveloped as a child, I've struggled with my hearing all my life. I was mostly nonverbal as a child and spoke very little before starting school. This encouraged me to express myself not with words but with my hands. The isolation I experienced gave me a unique view of life not influenced by social norms. As a child I would play in dirt and pick flowers for crafts instead of playing soccer like other boys my age. I accompanied my father as he poured concrete driveways. Instead of helping, I’d build sculptures and flower pots out of leftover cement. I didn’t know it at the time, but this was the beginning of finding my voice in ceramics. 

As I got older and started school, I struggled with language but excelled in art. I remember first working with clay when I was 8 years old. We were asked to create our favorite animals. Unlike the other students who made simple shapes with four legs, I added teeth, claws, and scales. My teacher let me stay late to finish because she was surprised at the detail I put into my creation. I didn’t have the resources to sculpt in the years that followed, but my relationship with art continued, mostly through drawing and painting. In my teenage years I won a few amateur art shows. I also expressed myself physically as a wrestler on the high school wrestling team.

In college I majored in fashion design because I was intrigued by the idea of creating personalities and feelings with clothing. I loved the way haute couture fashion collections were presented – the music, the continuity, the signature techniques and colors. However, after designing clothing for seven years, I began to feel limited by sewing. I would constantly tear out seams and redo patterns, never feeling a sense of completion. Even though fashion ended up not being my final medium, I still pull inspiration from fashion shows today.

Perhaps ironically, I currently work full time as an acoustic product engineer. Using technical and mathematical skills to design and build products gives me another opportunity to challenge myself creatively. However, my time in the ceramics studio is my most important work. From my first class I have felt like I could communicate my feelings and stories better through clay than any other medium. Three hour studio sessions felt like they lasted 10 minutes. Within six months I was making vases that were 10” tall. My time as a wrestler in high school taught me to control my body in ways I now use in the studio. Maybe this is why I sometimes see my ceramics work as wrestling with clay instead of shaping it with the delicate touch of more traditional ceramic artists.