Artist statement for Right On, Weatherman:
work in a variety of media-- namely wool, photography, and
small publications-- and my work is funny, stupid, and thoughtful.
I am interested in commerce, politics, home, history, urban
community, and bicycling, among other things, and ideas
about these subjects populate my work.
This project, “Right On, Weatherman,” includes
three sweaters adorned with political slogans borrowed from
the late-1960’s political group, Weatherman. The sweaters
meld Vietnam-era political resistance with the current U.S.
involvement in Iraq.
My projects in various media reinforce consistent ideas,
regardless of the obvious differences in materials. Of late,
I’ve been making a series of photographs showing small,
free-standing businesses. They range from an insurance office
in Montebello, California to a catering business in London.
The barbershop, church, psychic, auto accessory store and
other small businesses I’ve photographed run the gamut
from tiny to almost comfortable, and the only rules (breakable
if necessary) I’ve set for myself with the project
is that the building must be small, permanent, completely
free-standing, and the business must take place within the
four walls. (This leaves out drive -through espresso stands,
taco trucks, and a very cute hot dog stand in West Hollywood
which serves through a sliding glass window, with no room
for customers to eat inside.)
I was, of course, thrilled to see a photograph of the new
kunsthal in Copenhagen. This tiny jewelbox, 4 walls to the
elements, its primary business of showing art transacting
within its boundaries, was a prime example of the kind of
building I currently covet.
Using the kunsthal as an opportunity to showcase photographs
of other small businesses seemed vaguely and disturbingly
cannibalistic. What intrigues me about the small businesses
I photograph are their modesty, their individualistic gumption,
and their determination to survive and prosper in a world
of “big box” megastores and corporate chains.
These ideas, which make these structures so appealing to
me also brought me to a project using traditional sweater
patterns in conjunction with contemporary cultural, social
and political ideas.
Last summer, I embarked on a knitting odyssey influenced
by a sweater-wearing rock star named Rick Nielsen, who sang
for the Illinois pop band Cheap Trick. His sweaters were
weird, custom, and frequently adorned with random snippets
of conversational text, like “Don’t Steal My
Nielsen of Cheap Trick
weatherman Henrik Voldborg
struck me about his sweaters was the friction between the
permanence of the material and the liveliness of the language
and content. Unlike T-shirts, sweaters are worn for decades,
and handed down through families. Working with a knitting
machine, I made sweaters to reinforce my allegiance to a
particular presidential candidate. When he lost, I made
sweaters about contemporary politics, the war in Iraq, the
number of soldiers and Iraqis killed and other current topics.
Some of the sweaters were current only for one day, the
day that they were made. By the following morning the statistics
were history. And in ten years, the sweater would still
function as a warm garment, but the text would ground it
My sweaters use traditional Scandinavian designs mixed with
handwriting and other motifs. For U.S. knitters, Scandinavia
is regarded as a sort of knitting mecca, regardless that
(as far as I can tell) knitting is currently much more popular
here in the U.S.A. However, since Scandinavia has influenced
my knitting, I figured Copenhagen would be an appropriate
place to show a few sweaters. When I inquired to the proprietor
of the kunsthal about the popularity of knitting in Denmark,
he steered me towards images of a beloved Danish weatherman
who wears meteorological sweaters adorned with the cosmos,
the country, and the weather.
Jumping off from Henrik Voldborg’s sweaters, I made
three sweaters which also celebrate the weather, but from
a radical historical perspective.