In late spring of 2020, I was invited to do a solo show that would open in October of 2020.
What do you do with that?
Getting to the work was harder than I expected. I couldn’t focus on making with the world in tumult. I couldn’t focus on reading, either, or anything more than the frantic eruption of bad news followed by more bad news overheard while chopping onions .
Still, I am one of those people who put marks on a page to figure out what my life means. At some point that summer, I lost the ability to differentiate between subject and interruption.
This has long been the focus of my work: capturing a tentative form on a page and then adding more and more until it converts to pure energy. The friction between elements simultaneously define and dissolve each other.Read More
What do I mean? Well, I had a life. 2020 came and I locked myself in. It was the same life in most respects except that my relationship to it re-oriented.
Events related to topics I understood to some degree—such as prejudice, supremacy, brutality and policing—forced me to reshape my understanding.
I had to shift the size and place of each aspect and piece them all back together into a new comprehension of my world.
It happened again and again.
Law enforcement gassing protesters unseated presumptions of “protect and serve”….who? San Francisco was good at following rules, at least Covid rules. Who would have guessed that one?
Curators intermingling excellence and fraternity until they couldn’t tell one from the other. Doing the impossible by accident when carbon emissions zeroed out after the world stopped.
As in Korean television dramas, characters build each other through events (this has been my literature of late which has different foundations of story building. This one is the idea that we become ourselves through our relationships)
Just like that, these new works begin with a tentative figure: the shadow of a plant (a garden is central my world even as I write this in August of 2021). I render specific organic forms lightly in ink or medium. I then overwhelm that tender vine or pine or grass with bold color, meaty materials (oil paints), and lockstep repetition.
You would think the fragile thing would drown, but no. The fine stem holds its ground against intruding plaid and dot and red.
Similarly, images of sailboat and squall and shifting planet are placeholders for us fragile humans in dangerous times, also inundated by patterned forces. This visual struggle
leaves viewers jockeying between field and figure only to find themselves caught in an unresolved whole.
I recognize how absurd it is to talk about George Floyd and carbon footprint in relation to artworks filled with calm and common content, as if the connection were obvious.
These issues storm my daily life. I hope they serve as a demonstration of how art and reflection can be grounding forces.
In a drama I am watching now, a structural engineer explains his field. “Every building is a battle between external and internal forces. Wind, load, vibration. We calculate all the possible external forces, then design the internal forces stronger than that.” Which sums it up pretty nicely for me. I have been shoring up my internal structure.
In the recent upheavals, I have to tend carefully to myself; to keep quiet and small while watching out for the next catastrophe. You, too, I’m guessing. It would be so easy to collapse. Many do.
Making art, particularly this art, is a bit like fiddling as Rome burns.
But my sphere of influence is small and begins with me and reaches out in small gestures. I paint and think and write of all the boats in peril.
Beyond the resulting works, artists serve by demonstrating how to hold their meaning and value in a void.
It would be tempting to make big angry works that slash at the world. I am plenty angry. But for me, art is slow. Spacious. Quiet. Galleries and museums have jumped at that bait, generating shows about “NOW.” I have agreed to contribute something on the subject this Fall. I’ll let you know how it goes.
Fall passed. I submitted a few small works. That’s how it went.