Inflatables have had an important place in my work since 1989. In most of these sculptures and installations I have used industrial fans and simple valve mechanisms to animate sewn forms with lifelike gestures. My use of light and papery materials, like Tyvek (and more recently nylon spinnaker), has been significant to the character of their development, specifically to my focus on movement. The weightlessness of this material allows it to respond with surprising subtlety to the action of air within it. I use air to animate my work because it provides an effortless naturalism. It not only looks right, it feels right, recollecting our sensation of breath.
Inflatables are the medium of enchantment, fantasy and optimism, but things do go wrong. Take the Hindenburg, for example. Macy’s Parade balloon characters occasionally crash into the crowd.
In my work the distress behind the whimsy takes different forms. Scale is one factor. My giants, for example, are intended to overwhelm. In contrast to similar commercial counterparts, they are out of control. They appear to struggle, but why and to what end? However that sense of disruption is read also depends on what the individual viewer brings to the work. For some, gasping for breath, endlessly straining to rise, portray an image of playfulness, and even resurrection, while for others it is distinctly an image of torture. Both cases however involve physical empathy, a bodily recognition of the elemental—powerful and tenuous—forces that animate us all.