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Here, I Am, 2009

paint cans, machine cut vinyl, rust, paper plates, oil paint, steel shelves, wood panels, 95” x 108” x 16”


Here, I Am was inspired by U-M Astronomer Dr. Fabian Heitsch’s computer model simulating the birth of stars from turbulent molecular clouds in interstellar space.  I have borrowed his explosive shapes, which represent the slow eddy, swirl, and collision over time beyond human imagination of the most basic star building molecules, and attached them to stacks of empty paint cans using machine cut vinyl. The same spills of color are mimicked in low relief mounted to the wall behind the cans, using one thousand paper plates, painted, cut, and layered onto wood panels in their own bright swirls. The central set of cans bears my images representing the letters I AM, reading from top to bottom. The can bails have been painted an alternating pattern of black and white, arranged to create a rising and falling rhythmic layer that loops before and between the flat bright colors. Color is reflected from every angle on the exposed curved steel surfaces between the vinyl shapes. I have scratched and abraded the steel on the outer edges of the relief to introduce another chemical transformation, using water and salt to break the membrane separating iron from oxygen, inviting the oranges and browns of rust to soften the mechanical rigidity of the cans and accelerate the tempo of their own molecular dance.


Stacked on a painted steel shelf in its alcove, this wall of 143 cans nods to Warhol’s stacks of cans and boxes. And it winks at the explosive gestures of painters flinging sprays of paint from heroic tubs of color.  But, finally, irony is not sufficient to express the simple wonder that I am, at all, here or anywhere, owing to the long slow swirl of molecules in interstellar space.