Mud Maps, 2014

Since 2013, one of my primary mediums is mud from San Francisco Bay—in particular the mudfats around Richmond Bay. Walking the Bay Trail I was struck by the deep entanglement of the human generated trash and the plant, animal and mineral generated material. Official signage designates the area both as a ‘natural resource protection area’ with its rich ecosystem, and as a ‘hazardous materials area’ due to past industrial and chemical waste dumping, and mercury deposits from the gold mining era. In my works, the mud performs literally as a matrix of the area’s histories, and metaphorically as mythic prime material—its malleability latent with infinite futures.

The Mud Map paintings are made with mud pigment on paper and loosely based on digital collages of photographs of shoreline debris. Their form references the mandala—a Buddhist symbol of the cosmos and life cycle that offers an ordering logic in a seemingly chaotic world. The Mud Maps self-consciously explore my very human tendency to seek meaning, pattern and narrative in disorderly surroundings and experiences. As the Enlightenment conception of an orderly, harmonious, fully knowable ‘nature,’ distinct from the human, unravels, and as I fumble for a new ethic of environmental conduct, this impulse has grown stronger but also less tenable.