It’s humbling and an honor to be under the same roof, on the same walls, and share the same air with world-renowned artists including Monet, van Gogh, O’Keeffe, Cézanne, Matisse, Eakins, and Rothko to name a few. I am beyond fortunate to have on display a nearly 4’x5’ photographic print in the Carnegie Museum of Art in the special exhibit “Unsettled Matter, Gaining Ground.” After having seen it hanging in the iconic Pittsburgh museum this past weekend, I am left vibrating.

The commission for this work came in this summer from two contributing artists in the exhibit. They needed me to solve a visual problem—create an arresting image that captures a 400 lb piece of spinning and smoldering coal. As you can imagine, an actual piece of smoldering coal in a historic museum presents several problems. I engaged fully for two main reasons. The exhibit’s importance “brings together historical artworks from the museum’s collection alongside contemporary projects and new commissions to narrate the complex stories of how fossil fuel economies have been produced and upheld; whom they have excluded and left vulnerable; and how they have shaped and disrupted cities, communities, and ecologies” [CMA]. Creating such an image afforded me to blend a nice mix of technicality, vision, and artistry.

There was a significant amount of time in conversations and meetings with the commissioning client, building a custom set, receiving the 400 lb coal structure with base, rewiring a glitchy motor, locking on perspective, lighting, blowing smoke [hold all jokes, please] and making dozens of digital captures. As a dear friend often states “plan the work and work the plan,” I love finding the vision, charting a nimble path to a solution, and then executing upon it.

The final image is a build from several independent layers. No filters or special digital effects were used. Every element of the image is authentic. I mounted the print to an aluminum dibond panel that I cut with a 30º chamfer and fit with a custom cleat so it would hang elegantly sans embellishments. The entire project was conceived, shot, built, and crated in the studio and then delivered to the Carnegie.

Special thanks to the commissioning clients, The Carnegie Museum of Art [always a destination filled with journeys], and the folks who were involved in the exhibit at large.