My paintings are about my experiences with urban exploration. Throughout my life, I have been fascinated with abandoned buildings, graffiti, and places that are haunted by traumatic histories. Of particular interest are sites in the South that embody compelling stories, and that evoke strong emotions in me when I visit them. I investigate the sites, take lots of photographs along the way, and then make documentary paintings of what I saw and experienced.
My most recent series of paintings is about defunct industrial buildings and other sites in Atlanta that have been transformed by graffiti writers. These include the Pullman Rail Yard, the recently demolished Glidden Paint Factory, and the John P. Whittaker Elementary School, among others. I am interested in how the specific spaces within each location – warehouses, maintenance areas, school classrooms, etc. – have been transformed from their original uses into enclaves in which the current occupants – the graffiti writers – express themselves and compete with one another for “street credibility.”
Among my earlier subjects are the defunct buildings and obsolete equipment of Georgia’s Central State (psychiatric) Hospital. This institution was once feared and reviled for its long history of maltreatment of patients and squalid living conditions. I feel that the abandoned buildings and artifacts themselves are imbued with the suffering that took place there, and I elicited this history through the paintings.
From 2007 to 2010, I made a series of paintings about post-Katrina New Orleans. These paintings, which convey the devastation of individual homes and churches, were based on visits I made to the city as a hurricane relief volunteer.
The paintings are a realistic interpretation of how I experience these sites when visiting them. I don’t consciously add any drama in the paintings because the subjects are already compelling as they are. However, I also believe the process of making paintings – as well as viewing paintings – is inherently subjective and conducive to contemplation.