Date of Award

5-2018

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts (MFA)

Department

Art

Committee Member

David M. Detrich, Committee Chair

Committee Member

Todd A. McDonald

Committee Member

Valerie A. Zimany

Abstract

This work acknowledges the tangible and intangible attributes found in the complex relationship between man and nature. The human capability of manipulating the environment continues to grow at an exponential rate. The technology by which this is achieved has progressed to unprecedented heights. While this evolution has made leaps and bounds in the continuous struggle to achieve mastery over the natural world, advancements in technology challenge the very foundations of human experience. Processing this phenomenon through my own background in the rural American South, there is a nostalgic and anthropologic component to the display and content of the installations as a whole. My first-hand experiences working with the land has informed my position that technology and digital media expansion contributes to the growing gap between contemporary society and nature. Gravitating toward found objects, such as common landscaping tools and building materials, the objects are emblematic of Southern working class culture, as well as metaphors for a more instinctive connection between man and the environment. The tools themselves require direct human interaction and physical energy that is often strenuous and labor intensive. This is an almost antiquated experience that has given way to the current rise of technological prowess. This process of heavy-handed, intense manipulation of the outside world is reflected in my choice of steel, wood, and stone as the material basis into which found objects and natural forms gradually merge. Rather than using truly digital components to represent technology, I chose highly tactile, primitive materials. These require an intensive process that echoes mythical ancestral struggles between mankind and the forces of nature. These sculptures are a personal meditative experience through which my unique connection to intuitive impulse, energy, physicality, and the interaction of the self with elemental materials challenges my awareness and connection to nature. To allude to the intangibility of the digital while concentrating in three-dimensional materials and space, I looked to the building block of digital design: the polygon. Black, angular, geometric forms are signifiers for the digital side of technology in a minimal, abstracted way. Their synthetic, planar features are contrasted with organic materials from nature such as driftwood and corporeal imagery of animal and human figures. Topics such as Transhumanism and Biophillia are explored through the union of man, nature, and technology. These seemingly disparate subjects and forms are merged in relatively large-scale sculptures that encapsulate the simultaneous conflict and symbiosis, of nature, technology, and the human element. Transitions between industrious material such as steel to wood, and organic iconography creates a visual metaphor of natural experience in the path of transitions to come in the digital age. These pieces advance the unique idiosyncrasy sculpture practice employs to communicate between the viewer and the work, through a first-hand interface. This relationship challenges the common filtered exchange through flat, digital screens, by offering authentic experience with the “realness” of sculpture. These explorations converge with the goal of cultivating awareness of one’s individual confrontation with the fundamental questions of human beings’ position in relation to nature, technology, the self, and the cosmos.

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