My work takes a critical view of the present concerns of Appalachia, more specifically the coal industry and its effects on the economy, ecology, and social fiber of local communities. My subject matter stems from my personal experience with the Appalachian region, where I was born and raised. After moving away, I grew more critical of regional issues. This gives me a unique perspective, as I am able to view these issues as a local and an outsider. I have personal attachment to the objects in my work, but they are filtered through impartial research.
My work relies heavily upon an exploration of tradition and viewer expectations. Drawing from art history, I compose my work with traditional techniques featuring conventional imagery and exploiting preexisting contexts. Accordingly, I am elevating the importance of the objects chosen, which have historical context in Appalachia. For example, coal is valued for its role in shaping the economics and social fabric of Appalachia, and I have presented it as one would present a prized possession.Taking inspiration from 17th C. Dutch art, I position traditional still life objects beside pieces of coal, which elevates the coal itself to a precious status.
I filter my project through the eyes of a period Appalachian explorer and artist who is discovering the consequences of the coal industry for the first time.This individual is the creator, and I am merely studying his findings. This mindset allows me to detach from the creation and act as curator. As curator, I carefully consider and choose the objects best suited to support the overall concept. Taken as a whole, I am approaching my work as a conversation. This conversation reveals a critical eye and provides commentary about Appalachia’s social and economic struggles. My goal is not to tell the audience the message, but to let them discover it for themselves.