Artist's Statement

I began my work in metals after having already formed a career in graphic design. Mid-twentieth century typography and science fiction illustration has had a profound effect on my visual language from childhood. The bold use of line, color, and dramatic metaphor translate directly into my creations, which I think of as three-dimensional illustrations. Conceptually, science fiction has the power to challenge and entertain us by creating complex worlds and characters whose strangeness helps bring our own world into focus. Through the dramatic and often prescient visions of the human future sci-fi provides, I create pieces that speak of past optimism, present problems, and future possibilities.

I have always had a fascination with scale. Through scale I can experiment with notions of reality, representation, and humor that provide me with layers of perception and critique, which allow my work to communicate with many different viewers. Tiny rockets, diggers, bulldozers, even flying saucers become characters in the pantheon of my work, recognizable as individuals in mythic struggles that reflect back on both wearer and viewer like fun house mirrors, simultaneously comic and tragic.

I attempt to engage wearers and viewers in a visual dialogue about issues of value and body adornment, as well as the wider consequences of such systems of value. I make a point to use precious, semi-precious, and common materials in combinations that can be surprising. The resulting aesthetic is complex, evocative, and functional.

In many of my pieces I directly address the hierarchy of view problem that is an issue in jewelry design. Activating multiple views in these pieces creates a tension for the wearer, who knows the story is being told on all sides of the work. This enables the wearer to take part in the telling of the story by choosing to conceal or reveal what is hidden or obscured from view.

Engaging wearers and viewers in this on-going dialogue, this dynamism of narrative, communicates delight in and critique of contemporary society through visions of science fiction. I am able to blend my design experience with the medium of metals to further refine the notion of the narrative in art. Finally, my work is my commitment as an artist to raising the status of metals and jewelry as an art form, and exploring ways in which art can be manifested in everyday life.

Series Statements 

Flotsam/Jetsons, on-going

As Tacey Rosolowski notes (Metalsmith, fall 2003) regarding the ambiguous use of scale, “Rooker's ironic wit takes a lighter tone in the Flotsam and Jetsons series, as "Grand Theft," demonstrates. A rocket tows a fifteen-millimeter cubic zirconium, and Rooker captures the mission as it is sabotaged by two flying saucers, one "armed" with scissors to snip the tow-line, the other with a catcher's mitt to grab the loot. Are the UFOs tiny, or is the c.z. enormous, towed by a NASA-sized space vehicle?… These pieces turn life's annoyances into "one liners," as Rooker says; all fantasists have playful corners in their imagined worlds. Rooker sci-fi vocabulary traverses mundane tales and the grand narrative of politics, ecology, and the impact of mass culture on consciousness.” 

In this series, I intentionally address issues of adornment through an on-going by-play between characters such as rockets and flying saucers, and how these characters interact with the wearer and viewers. The rockets take on a persona of questionable, valiant tradition while the flying saucers become the mischievous “other”, a way to explain the unexplained or uncomfortable in everyday phenomena. These pieces are worn as hair jewelry, brooches, on eyeglasses, as cufflinks, shirt studs, piercings, rings, earrings, tiaras, and in many other assorted expressions of personal adornment. Materials include sterling silver, niobium, aluminum, mokume gane, steel, brass, gold, ebony, as well as assorted precious and paste gemstones, and found objects. Costume jewelry is often integrated into the pieces to highlight issues of value and preciousness.  

Short Stories, on-going

In the Short Stories series, I use the styles and forms of science fiction pulp art to create mixed-media wearable objects that illustrate simple narratives. Crafted with humor and an imaginative fascination for small detail, the pieces reflect a toy-like quality. They are miniature scenes of possible futures in work, environment, and society that are rife with conflict and adventure. These pieces can be worn individually, or displayed as small groups that encourage viewers to look beyond the surface both in concrete and abstract ways, as illustrated by the backs and undersides of the pieces which are parts of the narratives as much as the “front” surfaces. These pieces include enamels, carved woods, electroformed copper, anodized aluminum, titanium and niobium, cast silver and bronze, as well as many other materials and techniques. Examples from this series include brooch planets with specific themes such as natural resources destruction, social class, colonization, and a masculine bracelet/manacle addressing the futility of war. 

Rocket Science, on-going

In my Rocket Science series, I combine the styles and forms of sci-fi pulp art with traditional objects to create one of a kind flatware, hollowware, and small-scale sculptures. I design these objects to be both functional and fun: fun to look at, to play with, and use. I try to share the core humor and enthusiasm that is part of the creation process in the making of these objects with the viewer. High craftsmanship contrasts with the playfulness evident in the work. Examples from this series include a rocket teapot and flying saucer cheese gouge in sterling silver, anodized aluminum, and gold; and a bake ware set designed after traditional scientific tools and made of copper, silver, glass, and wood. These pieces are intended to engage the user’s senses in multiple ways, and raise issues about our perceptions of utility and value in functional objects.  

Regular Programming, 2000

The excuses we make for our actions, especially those that deny our possession of free will, are represented in two distinct parts of seven works which hang together: a narrative wearable, and installation apparatus with a graphic background. In the tradition of science fiction, I use robots to comment on society. The wearables feature a robot character in dramatic and comic situations. This character and key props contrast a lack of humanity with characteristically human actions. The backgrounds incorporate familiar images taken from print, Internet, or video sources that illustrate the seductive and the grotesque in the programming of the viewer. Aluminum brackets and glass globes recalling a mad scientist’s laboratory suspend the robots in their own delusional confinement. The combination of pose, props, image, and apparatus depict the programming of not only the robots but viewers as well. Wearable and background unite suggesting the Seven Deadly Sins. These iconographic metaphors for human frailty capture the core struggles of individuals in our society. These struggles exist in a media-saturated present indicative of the future, encouraging the viewer to consider their own participation in flawed human actions.

Artists’ Books, on-going

Artists’ books are a small thread of design and literature in my work that blurs the boundaries between 2-D and 3-D categories. Using traditional typographic, graphic design, and book making techniques in combination with metalsmithing and sculptural approaches to object making, the objects I produce draw the viewer in as active, imaginative reader. Stories from authors such as Isaac Asimov and Orson Scott Card are illustrated and designed to enhance the meaning of the questions raised, and engage tactile visual dimensions readers are not used to using as part of the reading and interpreting process. Examples include a scroll made of computer parts, presented in elegant Torah-recalling form, and a hammered copper, hand sewn codex.  

Rooker Logo
artists book