Powerful art is spiritual—not necessarily religious, but spiritual. It invites us to internalize and interact—to put ourselves into the journey rather than merely observe someone else’s story. My purpose as an artist is not to create things of beauty, but to uncover essence. I don’t focus on holding up mirrors of life; I express interpretations of life through universal symbols.
Those interpretations are deeply rooted in my own life experience. As a child and teenager, I dreamed of becoming a world champion cowboy, but at age 17, I experienced a serious spinal cord injury. After more than two months in the ICU and six months in spinal rehab, the doctors dismissed me to a rest home and gave me three years to live. Medicine offered me no hope for a future, but something deep inside me said, "Wait a minute. I am going to define my life."
Thirty-five years later, I still work from a wheelchair. My physical limitations have required me to create my own tools and processes for doing things, but my accident has also given me the opportunity to recreate myself and my world. This is perhaps expressed best by the inscription on my sculpture The Healer, displayed at the Craig Hospital Healing Garden in Denver, Colorado: "My body has been broken and may not heal, but my spirit can and will transcend my limitations."
The metal objects I use in my art were originally created to perform a specific function. At some point, they outlived their usefulness, were broken, and lost their value. I surround myself with them and ask the question "What is the best purpose for this object?" I search for each piece’s innate power and then resurrect it and give it a new reason to be. For me, the transformation of these objects is symbolic of my own journey—of ultimately transcending broken dreams and heartache. My artistic process is a reenactment of my life journey. I think that has power in people’s lives.