1. Can you describe your practice?
· I grew up on a farm in the shadow of Sierra Nevadas always interested in landscape but in the grandeur here is this dormant volcano that erupted 100 years ago this last year actually and there are a lot of pictures in school they talk about this little volcano these old black and white pictures and here I was in the farm which was this manipulated landscape and I didn’t know it at the time and I had a sense of the landscape Im not telling you im some prodigy I was aware of it remember being aware of it and all of my work even architecture and then graduate school sculpture and it always involved the landscape but it was a very open idea of landscape because it could even be a psychological landscape seeing the whole of things and rebuilding my idea of the world as some parallel world.
· Current practice is this lava thing which has gotten a lot of play on the internet and on television and science channels and stuff. But that is the simplests way I can tell you, give the same version to my mother I don’t dumb it down to people who don’t know anything about art I love the big landscape paintings and painters from the 19th century who were all trying to paint the sublime, literally trying to paint God and I was fascinated with those because those were these big paintings in museums and people just standing there in front of them like what are they looking at. I know I see it as an artist and I can’t paint to save my life I’ve never really tried so I can’t really say that but I cant paint to save my life
· I just decided to make my own landscape and make it as accurate as possible. I started that in 2007 when I made a sand dune in a gallery in LA its an accurate sand dune and it’s a shape you rarely find in nature it’s a hard to find shape in a field of sand dunes because it requires the wind to be a constant direction it can’t change, it forms these crescent like shapes seen in mars anywhere that is an atmosphere, but they are rare and they are a pure form, the only form a pile of sand can take and that interested me because now it is absolute, its just physics on its best day. That’s where it started and I think of those as landscape paintings and I think of the lava as ultimately a lava field as landscape painting it just happens to be as real a volcanic eruption in Hawaii Iceland wherever happens to be a hotspot and I see them as landscape paintings. I could give the whole rap on Schopenhower and Hegel that define the sublime its really at the end of the day I want to make geomorphically accurate landform. I feel like a landscape painter, I just don’t paint. I love the idea behind painting and everything but I cant think of me in a room with a canvas
2. How did you feel working with National Geographic?
· It was the best shot thing I have ever been in. I wasn’t supposed to be in it as much as I was, I got very good on camera, talking in partial sentences and being very emphatic about the color and the physicality of the color. Actually, they didn’t even show what they were there for. A glass tea kettle that had water in it, wanted to set lava in it and then it would boil. We told them before hand that it dumps so much heat out of the furnace, so pre-heated the water before and it was supposed to show that the connection between what’s going on in Iceland and when water hits that lava. Then it became about how much we know about lava and how we work with it. Originally was supposed to be a science demonstration and not about me. The camera just followed me around in the meantime and saw something on discovery channel with me, and was interested in that.
· They have recorded me many times and I say I am a landscape painter, but they never include that in the final shot. What they are interested in is that an artist thought of this and artist is doing it, and not a scientist.
· I don’t even consider myself an artist anymore, a sculptor, I consider myself just this its engineering, its fluid dynamics , is science, its geology, its art and I don’t know the name of that person is, I’m just doing stuff and lucky to get paid for it.
· When you’re doing these types of interviews with National Geographic you don’t have much control, you have to watch what you say.
· It’s only after a video goes viral online do they come around, and discovery channel is different wants me to be a chimp who dances around, for them and I pushed back and said you want me to do a new experiment and I said you are going to have to pay me because that’s what I do for scientists and I charge them.
3. With the lava, is it more about the process than the product and the experience of lava as a material? Is there an endpoint to the process where you prioritize the lava as a finished piece for display? Or is it an ongoing process?
a. It used to be up until Toronto is used to be about the end result, the process jumped up and got up on its hind legs in Toronto. For a while it was spectacle and process and performance, but I was always interested in this end result of this lava field and then it changed in October and I didn’t’ expect it to change and be what it became. First it was about the end and now it’s about the whole thing.
4. What is it like working with various disciplines and kinds of people?
a. I am not afraid to ask anybody, now that I’m known people will talk to me, but before as an artist I was just the crazy artist. Now I am the crazy artist who has really done something. You can’t be afraid to ask.
5. Who might discover one of your lava flows in a place with no volcanic activity, for example how broadly do you define your audience?
a. I want my mother to come to it and say “Oh what a lovely lava field” and I want a geologist to come and say this doesn’t belong here but it is exactly what it looks like.
6. What is the biggest lava form you have ever done?