John Grade
Artist
EVENT: Recent sculpture at Davidson Galleries (313 Occidental Ave S, 624-7684), through Dec 2.

Each of your sculptures looks so different to me, but there's a unified feeling to the show. "I see most of them as takes on one piece, so in a way, imagining them as unified is hard for me. The work is an intuitive response to place. I'll go someplace and walk around, get a sense of the place, and then I'll do some landscape drawings and start playing with forms. So I go over and over the same ground but with different forms."

What kinds of places? "I went to see these funerary towers in Peru, and I started to work more literally, with the tower pieces. When I first finished school I went to Mexico for the Day of the Dead, and it had a strong impact on me. After that there were all these coincidences of similar things I reacted to, like when I was in Vietnam, during a tour of the DMZ, I saw this tribal group that had a ritual in which they buried their dead in trees. I kept coming across these things, and then I started looking for them."

What inspired you to use termites in your work? "On the Peru trip I had some extra time so I went into the Amazon, where I met an entomologist who was studying cicadas. He had devised these traps to collect them, but the cicadas kept evading them. He'd build a trap, and then build an addition to counter their escape. When I got back, I'd gotten some textiles, and some bugs hatched in them and started eating things in my closet. And the way they ate them was interesting--in thin layers of patterns, and instead of holes they'd take things off in sheets. That inspired me to have the insects come directly into my work, so I mail-ordered all these insects--wood-eating beetles, termites, millipedes. The direction they're sending me in is fungus--it's doing some really interesting things, but it's going to take four or five years."

You work your insects hard. "They're my little collaborators. They're done working, so they get to have some nice soft wood for a while."

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