About Coming of Age
I came of age in apartheid era South Africa, growing up in the privileged environment of a northern suburban Johannesburg. My upbringing was sheltered, and it was not until my mid teens that I became aware of South Africa’s complicated history and disturbing injustices. As a labor policy negotiator, my father was intimately involved in the politics of the country, and through his work he strived to bring about change from the ground up. He saw and experienced many difficult things, but kept that part of his life separate from our family. Much of my work has dealt with the repercussions of my coming of age rather late in life, and how my childhood security and happiness is re-experienced now as a father, in retrospect.
My children are also growing up in a privileged environment. We live in a small college town in Montana. Life here is idyllic, in many ways, but is not completely sheltered from the complex world that surrounds us. Information of all kinds is available at the touch of a screen. It is a world that is often difficult to understand and make sense of, especially for a child. At 9 and 11, Kaylie and Aidan now ask a lot of serious questions, many that I have a hard time answering. There is a growing awareness (on their part) of the absurdities of everyday life and the world at large. As parents, we have chosen to be as open with our children as we dare. We answer their questions with as much probity and truthfulness as possible, wondering about the repercussions of our decision. As the nature of the world we exist in continues to evolve, each generation must come of age to face the essential challenges of their time. When and how we each become aware of injustice, inequality, corruption and violence—and how we make sense and meaning of these discoveries—shapes our humanity.
These photographs of children are large inkjet prints on a fine, semi transparent, Japanese Washi paper. The pieces are large, generally 40”x50.” They are painstakingly hand cut and hand embroidered, with each piece taking several months to complete. My starting point for the cutting and embroidery are found wallpaper or fabric patterns. As I work, these designs mutate into my own imaginations (taking on contemporary political themes). In these artworks I address issues of gun violence, surveillance, climate change and war. As an artist, the contemplative process of patterning, embroidering and mark-making act in counterpoint to the often difficult themes depicted.