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Feb 11, 2014

My Strange Forrest Gump-y Life

My collector, Ms. Tereshkova, lights the Olympic flame
What is the law of the universe that explains how during the Olympics opening ceremonies- a world event- three of the perhaps 100 or 200 people named on the screen (in a world of 8 billion people) are people I've had personal associations with?

One was a carrier of the Olympic flag, Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman cosmonaut, who owns one of my sculptures, Song of Another Voice. Then the flag carrier for the Serbian team is a skier currently going to my tiny alma mater, Rocky Mountain College. The third brought in the Swiss team, the gold medalist Simon Ammann, whom I gave my pen to sign autographs after his 2000 win in Salt Lake. Why these inexplicable connections?

If I were a famous person or if the Olympics were happening in Missoula, that might explain it. Still, given that this party is on the other side of the world, I live in Montana, and have been out of the public eye for some years, it makes no sense to me.

I've begun to notice how often I mention to whomever I'm with that some figure who appears in media is someone I've had an association with. This strikes me as a particularly bizarre Forrest Gump kind of phenomenon, one that I notice perhaps several times a year (last time was two months ago when Nelson Mandela died– I have three connections with him.) I can see how any person in the developed world might coincide with historical events maybe two or three times in a lifetime, but two or three times a year? Most of these incidents are not central to historic moments but ancillary to them– as I am myself. Yet the fact that I appear in so many of them points to some odd law of coincidence I will never understand.

It makes me wonder how common this Forrest Gump feeling is. How many people around the world who are not Olympic athletes or presidents of nations or are famous themselves share this experience with me? It strikes me as being the same kind of inexplicable happenstance as the Six Degrees of Separation phenomenon.

It is pretty cool though! [And speaking of Forrest Gump, I was once making a landscape painting when a film crew came along and shot me in the background of a scene in a Tom Hanks film. Not "Gump" but the one about the dog.] I should start keeping track...
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I'm a sculptor/filmmaker living in Montana, USA. I am using art to move the evolution of humanity forward into an increasingly responsive, inclusive and interactive culture. As globalization flattens peoples into a capitalist monoculture I hope to use my art to celebrate historical cultural differences and imagine how we can co-create a rich future together.

I see myself as an artist/philosopher laboring deep in the mines of joy. I've had a good long career of exhibiting work around the world and working on international outreach projects, most notably being the first American to be invited to present a one-person exhibit in the Hermitage Museum. Recently I have turned my attention from simply making metal sculpture to creating films and workshops for engaging communities directly, tinkering with the very ideas and mechanisms behind cultural transformation. I feel that as we face tragic world crises, if the human species favors our imaginative and creative capacities we can cultivate a rich world to enjoy.

For me the deepest satisfaction in making art comes in engaging people's real life concerns rather than providing simple entertainment or decoration. Areas of conflict or tension are particularly ripe for the kind of transformative power that art uniquely carries. I invite any kind of challenge that serves people on a deep level.