Ambiguity and Trust

During a recent open studio, I had the opportunity to have a lengthy conversation about my work with a woman who, when it was over, thanked me and concluded with “I don’t really understand what’s going on but, thank you!”  I replied, “It is the ambiguity that makes it interesting.”  I wish I had said it is the ambiguity that makes it possible for us to communicate about something not entirely defined or in a pre-digested way.  It is the ambiguity that establishes a trust that can be used as the currency between artist and audience for a genuine exchange from one human to another.


A fully formed work should have a controlled degree of ambiguity in order for it not to become the mere illustration of an idea or a didactic soapbox.  This fog of potential is necessary for letting viewers project their own personal history into the work and generate their own unique meaning from it.  Ambiguity fosters the deep, vulnerable connection that I want to establish with viewers, so that our communication is precisely open enough to nurture a depth of experience.


My practice is varied and has come to include performance, video, collaboration, and electronics along with object making.  I offer prayers for heathens in the form of l.e.d. and neon signs that are at once comforting and sad.  I take to the streets in the guise of a suited character, the Gentleman, and explore local geography looking for signs of connectedness and home.


My current project is to merge the conceptually heavy medium of illuminated poetry disguised as advertizing with the wordless openness of formal sculptural abstraction to make work that resists an entirely intellectual or visceral form of interpretation.  I want to make work that lovingly defies rapid apprehension on any level and yet is somehow also welcoming.



From 2013 Wassaic Project Summer Exhibit

Eve Biddle, Wassaic Project Co-Executive Director:

“Like some sort of strange ad-scape in a contemporary Blade Runner, Zach’s pieces are both funny and sad.  These pieces are sweet, comforting night-light and a sour, ironic prayer.”