Finding and collecting curiosities in thrift stores and junkyards is a lifelong preoccupation and a passionate experience for me, rather like going to church. Three or four times a month I visit one of Tucson's four junkyards. I walk around alone, looking at the forlorn piles of bent, twisted and rusted metal lying all over the place. Now things start to happen very fast; everywhere I look I begin to see metal transformed into finished sculptures.
Most of my sculptures are conceived right there in the scrap metal yards where I find both the vision and the ingredients for my work. I just see a piece of metal and immediately imagine the completed sculpture it suggests. Most of the time, on one visit I am able to locate all of the actual metal parts which will be necessary to complete many sculptures, but occasionally an exciting piece of rusted metal will languish in my studio yard for months, waiting for the day I will find the piece or pieces that are missing.
I like the immediacy of welding; it is a glue that sets up rapidly, in seconds. This makes metal become either plastic or rigid. But I never bend or cut the metal I use. This self-imposed limitation forces me to respond to the object as it actually is. My art lies in the assemblage, not the cutting and shaping of its individual parts.
I like my work to remain unfinished, even when I have carried out my initial vision for it. I resist signing the work for this reason. If it remains unsigned it is a piece in process, and more things can continue to happen to transform it after it is sold. If I sign it, the process is closed; instead, there is a result. I'm never happy about that.
Co-incidentally I hate to say goodbye either to my work or to people. The work and human relationships always have the potential for new life, and more redemption. I always expect that.
Making art allows me to have a spiritual and a psychological life without being directly involved in any theology or ideology. Through art I can engage my life deeply, and can impact other people's lives through how they experience my work.
The Catholic Apostle Jude is a figure of special significance to me, and to my work. The patron saint of a small Tarahumara Indian village in Mexico, his life was the manifestation of betrayal and redemption, twin themes that are central to my own experience.
When I discard something, I betray it. When I find it, conceive a vision of it renewed, and make art from it, I redeem it. All objects have the potential to be redeemed through art, to be transformed through human vision. So do all people. If a person were to be discarded like a piece of rusted steel, it would be a profound experience. But if it happens to an object, everyone takes it to be insignificant. I can't accept that. Art makes the redemption of the world possible.