I’m an American that grew up on a dairy farm close to the Canadian border. I studied art at university but, like most artists, didn’t graduate with an immediate commission or exhibition. Instead I got a job on Wall Street. It took me a while, but I eventually returned to my art. I have lived in Britain for over thirty years, and I’m currently working on a collaboration with the National Justice Museum and Nottingham Prison, which is why this piece was commissioned. It was inspired by a person currently serving time at HMPS Nottingham, and their answer to the question, “What makes you, you?”
This commission is a daily challenge. I am creating all of the images on an iPad. You might think that an iPad would be fast, but it actually takes many hours to draw in fine detail. I often work pixel by pixel. What makes using digital technology so exciting for me is that I literally have my canvas with me. No more studios and no more stuff. It is liberating to no longer be concerned with materials but to simply concentrate on a single image. It has given me freedom in a way I never thought possible; I can work anywhere in the world and I can connect with one individual anywhere.
This image was the first in this collaboration series, so I wanted it to be representative of what was to come but at the same time represent one individual’s answer to the question. This public, yet intimate, project is a constant in my life, a series of endless stories. I wake up knowing I have something important to do, the challenge of visualising the words people have written about themselves. It is a responsibility but also a great joy to have a never-ending art project.
Lost and Confused was just one of a number of responses gathered from conversations with people living and working at Nottingham prison when asked “What makes you, you?” With their names removed to protect their anonymity, other responses included:
“I am an angel falling from the sky.”
“My past and the ever-flowing present from which I am constantly upgraded.”
“Rebirth of the phoenix – self-destruct then get back on track.”
“Never think of the future, it comes soon enough.”
“Logical then irrational, confident then lack of self-esteem, consistently unpredictable.”
“Cut me open and you will see food flow out like blood.”