In the studio painting is like breathing —
The Erosion & Elemental Series' are about seeing the beauty in the natural event of decay and building an aesthetic around it. I have recently focused this series on abstract pod imagery derived from tending my Magnolia tree. These botanical and pod/seed/leaf images are either built in layers on panel or embedded within strips that form weavings representing the fiber of life. These new pieces use discarded paintings on panel or paper — repurposing and creating new life out of past work. Inside the studio and out — observing the natural decay of the life cycle has made me appreciate that within reduction the more possibility there will be.
As I quietly paint, I have both decisive moments and an earnest, listening eye. What occurs in the midst of this is nuance, happy accidents, intuitive associations, chaos, humor, brooding and reduction. Working on panel allows me to scrape and sand the various layers of paint liberally as I explore the boundaries between positive and negative space. Making these paintings is as much a physical experience as a psychological one. I embrace and process the nuances of this work and use the outcome as a vehicle to communicate a narrative about the world around me that exists outside of language.
LIFE IS A LOOM, WEAVING ILLUSION. Vachel Lindsay
This direction was started with sandpaper remnants from the reduction process of my Erosion Series panels. I’m a big believer in repurposing materials in the studio just as nature uses everything that decays to create new life. Using discarded paintings on Arches 300 LB watercolor paper, I start by painting over the existing piece allowing areas that I like to remain. The weavings begin with the vertical strips as this is the foundation of the composition. The horizontal strips are examined, used or discarded in an intuitive approach as I continue to construct the weaving.
In Large Scale Weaving #3, I introduced a large pod shape as a bridge from the Pod paintings. The dark brown/black area of the pod was created with an “oil spill” — a large area of liquid asphalt suspended in oil base polyurethane. I chose rebar for the armature — a product of the industrial revolution which is the single most corrosive contributor of the Earth's climate change.
The final step is the stitching with waxed thread that connects me with my late Mother who was a seamstress & nurse. The long strands left with the tie-off at the bottom represent hair roots. All life is interwoven—the removal of one strand begins the fraying process and makes the weaving incomplete.
Of all the substrates to paint on — paper is one of my favorites. When paint interacts with paper an indelible bond occurs that forces you to work faster and with more decisiveness. You end up with work that is more primal in feel. The Erosion Series has gone through many incarnations in the last five years. From total non-representation, to experiments with water, to Mars surface erosion, to the study of the life cycle of my Magnolia tree — decay as an aesthetic continues to fascinate me. These endeavors are either studies for larger pieces active in the studio or cut into strips and incorporated into my weavings.
An Exciting New Path
Every book project is a wonderful puzzle that requires a different approach for each concept and binding method that is pursued. In WEAVE (Live), I created a visual chronology of the stages of life through sandpaper weavings and chose coptic binding for the openness of the exposed spine + the ancient quality that works well with weaving. For Ode to Sumi Ink, I chose the accordion fold to highlight the flowing nature of sumi ink as this binding method is one long sheet. With aperçu, I bound 28 disparate pages together with the miniature tied binding method as this suited the overall concept of using up bits of discarded art elements & copy and highlights how every art endeavor leads to the next.
Through a wonderful group of fellow book artists I have come to love the complexity and simplicity of the craft. Book Arts @ The Open Press here in Chattanooga has opened a whole new doorway in the house of art that I have gladly stepped through.
My love of music and literature is the basis for my figurative work. Over the years I have developed my own textural vocabulary that challenges the viewer to alter their perception of a spacial reality. I begin each piece by applying various levels of texture and color that inform the direction of the composition. This process is both additive and subtractive — always allowing some part of the previous layers to show through. A process-driven approach to this work has each layer add to the richness of the surface and working on panel gives me more leeway to sand and scrape the image liberally throughout the pieces evolution. Ultimately — I am interested in the paintings resting in a final state of colorful chaos that enhances the images metaphoric quality and engages the viewer in an emotional dialogue with the visual story.