For the River

August 28, 2014

I created this piece after a friend broke his back in the river. He was not paralyzed, mercifully, but healing was slow and painful. For months, it seemed as though the best parts of him had been taken by the accident, locked away somewhere. I wanted to set those parts of him free. The bronze cast is of the vertebra that he broke (T12), and was made to be thrown back into the river on the anniversary of his accident.

Rescue Series

I use the symbol of the first aid cross in a lot of my pieces to represent art as a means of self rescue. We all have something in our lives that we use to rescue ourselves. For some it’s raising a family, for others it’s volunteering, for me it’s making art. 

This series is an ongoing act of self rescue. When I am struggling, when I am questioning my place in the word, I grab my steel cross and I make something with whatever material has showed up in my life that day. The pieces are ephemeral, so I use photos as a way of documenting them. Once the photo is taken, the piece is destroyed.

Finding Land

October 8, 2014

I am drawn to places where man has tried to make a mark on the land, but the land prevails. I find beauty in decay.

All photos taken with my trusty 250 Polaroid Land camera or a medium format toy camera (Diana, Holga).

Born of Failure

August 28, 2014

The life of a creative person involves a lot of rejection, which often comes in the form of a self addressed stamped envelope containing a letter from an editor or an organization saying Thanks, kid, but no thanks.

I have spent many nights pondering success and failure. Is a piece of writing or a work of art only a success if the right person says it is? Only if it is published by the right people or shown in the right gallery? Is it possible to find a measure of success in simply having made something meaningful, in having put a piece of yourself out into the world?

Around the time I finished writing my first book, I read a quote by Winston Churchill that said, “Success is the ability to go from one failure to another without loss of enthusiasm.” I wondered what I could do to buoy myself in the face of all of the rejection letters that were bound to come in from agents and publishers.

That’s how this sculpture came to be. Each time I received a rejection, I cast an envelope in resin with Churchill’s quote brailled on the front. It was my way of making each rejection into something beautiful, something tactile and tangible, to create a success born of failure.

Garments of Goodwill

When you break a bone, it is tradition to have friends and family sign well wishes and blessings on your cast, so that instead of looking down and seeing an injury, you are reminded of the people who love you. It is part of the healing process. I wanted to translate that tradition into everyday life. Who among us doesn’t walk around wounded in some way, broken hearted, or in pain? Who wouldn’t do well having an article of clothing that acted as a buffer against suffering, something to remind its wearer of everything that is good in the world?

I bought a leather jacket from Goodwill and started wearing it everyday. Whenever someone shows me a kindness, brightens my day, or touches my life in some way, I ask them to write something on it so that I will always have a reminder of our interaction. I keep a small notebook in the front pocket to help me remember each person.

The only rule about this project is that people have to sign the jacket while it is still on my body. It makes some folks a little tentative, but it creates a kind of physical intimacy that one doesn’t usually experience with people, especially strangers. They lay their hands on me.

In addition to creating a piece of armor that protects me from the vagaries of life, the jacket attracts people into my life. One woman saw me and followed me across town before coming up to me, asking me about the jacket, and drawing something on it. It starts conversations, it starts contact, it engenders kindness, this magic jacket of mine.


This is the first sculpture I made about my life as a writer (the second is here). I had just finished writing my first book, which had taken five years and what felt like a near-endless supply of faith and perseverance.

I didn’t know what would happen to the book—would it ever find an agent, a publisher, an audience?—but completing it had shifted something in me. I had fulfilled a promise to myself, and I began to feel as though I was coming into my own as a writer and as a person. 

I made this self portrait using paper from every draft of the manuscript.


If you look at a cross section of a tree and follow its growth outward from the heartwood to the bark, you have a record of that tree’s entire life. You can see which years were the lean years—with less water or sun—which years the tree thrived, how long it lived.

I like this as a metaphor for life: good times, hard times, beauty, imperfection.

In celebration of a dear friend’s 50th birthday, and to mark what I believe is a watershed time in her life, I took a section from a downed old growth Ponderosa pine and inlaid the 50-year growth ring with pewter. Click here to see photos of the piece in process and to read the story of how it came to be.

Seven Books That Saved My Life

August 18, 2014

I made this sculpture to pay tribute to the writers whose books have saved me over and over again. I use the first aid cross in a lot of my work to represent art as a means of self rescue.

The books:
Nothing to Declare by Mary Morris
Stuart Little by E.B. White
The Shadow of the Sun by Ryszard Kapuscinksi
The Ticking is the Bomb by Nick Flynn
The Chronology of Water by Lidia Yuknavitch
Just Kids by Patti Smith
Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson

The Mean Something Project

In my studio one night, I found a small scrap of paper and wrote on it the truest thing I could think of:

I want my life to mean something

Seeing it so plainly, I wanted to scrawl it over and over and leave it everywhere I went, to remind people that we all have the same fundamental desire. We all want our lives to mean something. We all want to matter.

I had stickers made, and put them up in spots where people would be surprised to run into them, often in neglected or overlooked places. Then I started sending them off with friends, family, and strangers. People email me photos of the places they have chosen, and I post them here. (Click on any thumbnail to scroll through the full-sized images.)

Seeing photos come in from different states and countries, from places I’ve never been, has been such a thrill. There are currently stickers on three continents, and it’s my goal to reach all of them. If you’d like to participate, contact me and I will send you a sticker.

Woman Skin Rug

August 28, 2014