Daniel Gray's research considered what do materials mean in the context of art. He writes the following about his creative project: As an artist, I frequently use natural materials in my mixed media paintings. My favorite natural materials include sand, dirt and vegetation from the Big Bend region of Texas. For me, these materials carry particular meanings — for example, Rio Grande silt is an artifact of the Indian wars as well as a symbol of contemporary immigration issues. I draw these meanings from my experiences collecting the materials and the histories I attribute to them. These meanings inform their use in my paintings. Likewise, for my wife, artistic partner and Co‐PI, these meanings inform the appearance of Big Bend subjects in her photography and writing. We share an academic interest in materiality — a quality of art that includes both the physical mass of created objects and the select materials used to create them. For this project, we want to expand on what the materials of the Big Bend region mean. To investigate this subject, I and my Co‐PI will travel to the Big Bend region; document the native environments and contexts of the materials we use in our art; document my collection process; conduct and record interviews with local residents and artists regarding the meanings they attribute to native materials; and create a video installation, as well as an essay and visual presentation, to expound on the expanded meanings of the materials.
Below is a trailer for a movie made by Daniel Gray detailing his project's progress: