At the MacDowell artist colony in 1980, I
experimented with form and texture on a grand
scale—stacking 40 cords of firewood into
large cylindrical forms whose surface was
defined by the placement of the pieces. Through
this piece and my photographic studies of
it, I became fully committed to texture as
equal in importance to form. Back in my studio,
I began using the turning tool incorrectly,
interacting with the structure of the wood,
instead of the traditional woodworking process
of obscuring the natural structure, trapping
it inside an unnaturally smooth and opaque
At MacDowell, I had used many pieces of wood
to create large forms, whose surface had depth
and texture. Now I focus on tapping into the
depth and texture of the surface of a single
piece of wood. In creating these pieces, the
tool was as important as the material. I used
chainsaws, routers, and other power tools
with my lathe, to create textures and patterns—patterns
that would not have existed without that action
of that specific tool. The first major piece
I created using this technique was made from
a piece of wood given to me by the MacDowell
colony in 1980.
As I applied my new techniques to the inside
of the bowl form, I found the interior of
a bowl could be larger than the exterior.
When you view the entire bowl, you can see
its relationship to the space it exists in:
it is a bowl, it’s smaller than you are. But
when you focus on the interior, you are removed
from your environment, the way you are when
you look at a painting. A painting can encompass
a small space, like a single flower; or a
space as large as a mountain range.
When I look deep into the bowl, its connection
to actuality is broken, and the space expands.
I might be looking at a canyon wall. Sometimes
the orientation of up and down reverses, and
I’m looking into a soaring dome.
To create these works, I used machines and
tools on the scale of an operating room, or
a recording studio. The idea of making a work
of art using only one tool, which is the theme
of this show, presented a unique challenge
for me; eventually drawing me back to my experience
at the MacDowell colony. I had used no tools
in the creation of that work—simply picking
up pieces of wood and stacking them.
I decided to create a bowl by stacking dowels.
I would need just one tool, an applicator