I notice quite a few components from older computers in many of your works. What draws you to these vintage devices as sources for your art?
These are a bulk of the computer components that folks are getting rid of. The laws of entropy in computer technology befit me very well. In addition, I guess I have acquired an affinity for these old pieces. The sentimentality of my childhood flood through these antiquated pieces that will be displayed for the audience to once again enjoy and appreciate.
How did you get started recycling PC components into artwork? How long have you been doing so?
This all started about 1996 during my first big job after graduating from College (UMKC, B.A. in Communication Studies). The healthcare consulting firm I was working for at the time was throwing away a plethora of computer equipment. So, I decided to scoop them up and crack them open. Initially, I wanted to see what was on the inside and just inspect the architecture of the CPU, keyboard, hard drives, power supplies and such. Then, I realized after my technological archeological dig that these pieces looked completely cool. I think I had some spare wood and good glue to assemble my first piece. From there, the relationship was solidified.
How do you come up with your ideas -- you know, what sort of creative process do you go through? My ideas evolve over the course of weeks gathering a wide range of different computer components. Once I have accumulated enough pieces, I begin laying them out all over the ground. At that point, planning and spontaneity meet and the piece begin to mentally form. From there, I start to assemble that ensemble into the beginnings of a piece of artwork. Do you start with a firm idea in mind of what the end product will look like, or does it grow on its own as you work? All of these pieces of art essentially evolve out of spontaneity versus serious planning. It’s all basically a whimsical activity minced with hard work that produces something worthy of a thought or smile. Are you always working on ideas in the back of your mind, or do you sit down and plan them out? I know the ideas will come, but I do have to hoard as many old computer parts as possible to make the concept a reality. How does your full-time job in IT influence the type of work you put out? My full-time job acts more on my subconscious when I go into creating the pieces that I make. I mean, it’s there in my conscious brain, but the repetitious sight of computers and their innards play on my creative side that produces the art I create.
How do you start a project? I start a project based on the amount of old computer parts that I acquire over a said amount of time. Then, I find a sturdy piece of wood and begin constructing what I would consider cool computer assemblage art.
How do you know when you're finished? I know I’m finished when my gut says my full vision of the work is done. This is a very subjective assessment of my process, but it’s hard to put a finger on the pulse of my creative flow as to when the conclusion happens. It just feels right.
What other artists or pieces have influenced you? I really like the surrealist movement (Salvador Dali), early abstract period (Picasso) and a couple of guys called ‘The Art Guys’. These two fellows used humor throughout cleverly constructed assemblages. In one piece, they actually had 99 bottles of beer across a wall on a ledge and had a little anecdote over each one. Their art influenced my notion of assemblages.
Existential question time -- As an IT professional and an artist, what sort of lessons have you learned about yourself through building these pieces? Both of these crafts and desires of mine have taught me a lot about the construction of a great many things in our world. The time, troubleshooting and planning of an IT related issue or project has taught me a great deal of patience in my art process, as well as my personal life. So, overall, I have learned that there is literally an infinite amount of ways to construct art work as there is to construct computing code or actual PC’s.
How do you get your kids involved in your art? My 8-year old Zen likes to unscrew all the covers and see what’s inside the CPU, Power Supply and such. He’ll strip all my pieces into nice digestible components that can be put into my assemblages. He really enjoys the whole process of tearing the technology apart and seeing the final techno/art assemblage that results. My 2-year old boy, Miles, loves to look at and touch the final pieces of artwork once completed.
Do you ever worry about people not 'getting it' when they view your work?
Naw, I don’t worry about this. The one thing I drive for with my work is a response no matter if it’s someone getting it or another being confused. I have taken my life and made an imprint on theirs. My vision became a reason for them to ponder another facet of this reality that is so vast, cool and fun. I have had many confused looks and perplexed stares at art shows over the years that it’s worthy of a solid chuckle when it happens.
If you were completely free to do any type of art you could think of, what would you do? I would love to go much larger. First, I would love to recreate a version of Max Headroom with all the CPUs and monitors I find. Also, I would like to construct big assemblages of full power supplies, CPU’s, monitors and motherboards into a cool looking robotic concept or UFO kind of thing. Finally, I would love to make these assemblages in a large scale to be placed in schools and government facilities. Essentially, I would like for this work to be placed in institutions where idle time could be used looking at one of my ensembles and would make waiting feel like time well spent.
As you know, I collect PC games and write occasional article for Vintage Computing & Gaming. What are your thoughts on the intersection of art and technology? Have you seen computers or programs that can stand on their own as artistic works? The reason why I do what I do is because I genuinely feel that computing is art. From the design of a custom CPU case to the ingenuity of computer animation, I feel that art is the backbone of anything that is worthy of capturing a huge audience. That said, there are a plethora of quality games that are really complete canvasses that have come to life in a fascinating way via the magic of a programmers ‘0’ and ‘1’ knowledge. The fact that an enormous stack of zero’s and one’s can make something as cool as Sim City is completely fascinating if you really think about it. I think the line of new Mac’s are sleek pieces of artwork, while any number of new computer games that are on the top of gamer’s lists are indeed artwork all on their own.
Do you have an educational background in art? Most of my education was through the public school system in Liberty, Missouri, some classes at UMKC and one course I took about 5 years ago at the KC Art Institute. Other than that, it’s been a process of having good friends in the beginning and a thirst for teaching myself new concepts and patience over the years in the grooming of my artwork.
Do you try to convey a message through your artwork, or do you work more on a purely aesthetic basis? I want people to laugh, smile and be otherwise entertained by my work. If folks can forget their bills or politics for that one brief spate of time while peering into my art construction, then I am a very happy person worthy of the title ‘artist’.