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Brick by Brick

oil, acrylic and papier mache on recycled materials
size variable

In Philadelphia - a city rife with culture and symbolism - carved stone motifs provide both decorative and symbolic significance adorning the structures of historic buildings. While some of these symbols have ancient origins, I recreate them using bits of printed daily news. Appearing heavy, each piece is mostly hollow under the exterior coating of the newspaper pulp. Once isolated, the pieces and their meanings are literally and figuratively disconnected from their structural supports - the buildings and the context that originally imbued them with significance. I then stack them in precarious groupings, so they appear somewhat structured but not necessarily placed in their intended position. These new haphazard orientations invite reinterpretation of the forms' symbolic encoding. The fragility and precariousness of the stacks parallels the contingency of meaning itself - how cultural symbols, when severed from their origins, can be reconfigured and their meanings can shift over time. The stacks begin to feel like ruins, fragments from a future when Philadelphia is the historic past.


Brick by Brick - Worth & Weight

No Synthetic Colors, a PAFA alumni exhibition at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, July 20, 2023–April 7, 2024, Hamilton Building. Courtesy of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia. Photography by Adrian Cubillas.

This project is particularly relevant to my early life in the Midwest within a guarded evangelical community, where signs and symbols of American democracy and Western empire often had cameos within Christian Nationalist spaces, and vice versa. Growing up in this insular religious environment sensitized me to the interplay of cultural and political symbols and ideology, and how these signs, disconnected from their origins, can intersect and be redeployed in new contexts to convey authority. This experience influences my perspective on the way meaning is constructed and how belief systems collide, shaping my approach to the fluidity of symbolism in my work.

Water is critical to our existence. As far as we know, life itself isn’t possible without water.


Painting water provides a nice counterbalance to structured bricks and tiles because water is somewhat formless: it takes the form of its container and its motion. To me, the water in the fountains refers to the infinite, the all-knowing, the soul. In many of the paintings it reflects the sky above. In literature, fountains symbolize preservation of youth and healing.


Sometimes the fountains look like alien and human figures. Named collaboratively with ChatGPT and Claude Opus, these paintings explore mythic springs in the age of technological exploration.

A vast reservoir of possibilities is available within a new idea. Will technology bring us closer to eternal life? Transhumanists think so.