When I arrived at the San Francisco Art Institute (SFAI) in 1999, I had never heard of performance or conceptual art. Prior to my enrollment, I had been working in small cabinet factories in Boston making furniture. My entire application portfolio for art school consisted of pencil drawings that I made while taking night classes in the Massachusetts College of Art’s continuing education program. Since I was transferring about a year of credit to SFAI, an admission counselor called me at work and informed me that I needed to choose a major. SFAI didn’t specifically have a drawing major so I asked the counselor to tell me what my options were. She went through a long list: painting, printmaking, photography, filmmaking, sculpture…etc., but I didn’t know how to do any of those things. Eventually she said the words “new genres,” to which I inquired, “What’s that?” This very kind and well meaning admissions counselor paused, thought for a moment, and then replied, “You just kind of do what you want.” To which I replied, “Please sign me up for that.” When I finally arrived at SFAI one of the classes that I was enrolled in was Intro to New Genres. During the first class the instructor showed us an extensive slide presentation of the classic works of performance and conceptual art. After taking a break, we then watched I am Making Art (1972) by John Baldessari (see photo below.)

As we watched the 20 minute video, I remember looking around the room and wondering what my classmates were thinking. They all looked cool. Some looked bored. Some attempted to watch the video with earnest attention. Some were asleep. I remember taking it all in and thinking to myself, “I don’t know what this is, but I think I can do this. I think I have been doing this my whole life.” So after that first class, I decided to dive in head first. We never got assignments at SFAI, but we expected to show work in each of our courses 2-3 times a semester. The pace was very fast and we were expected to start making work right away. Besides pencil drawing, the only thing I knew how to do was make wooden furniture. So, I decided to go with what I knew and made my first body of work that I call the Cabinetmaker Series (1999-2002). For this series, I constructed different pieces of furniture that would change as the audience interacted with it or as I performed with it. After each project was completed, I would remove whatever was “artful” about the piece of furniture and then give it to someone that experienced it as a work of art. I sometimes wonder if any of the furniture is still being used today. These projects are really special to me. I had so much to learn and being in the New Genres program at SFAI was an amazing gift and stroke of random luck. I never meant to be there, but the unbelievable education that I received at this institution set the course for the rest of my life. 

Cabinet Maker Series, 1999-2022 | 2024 | Cabinet Maker