Feb 4, 2015

VMFA Fellowship!

Well, I've been telling them for years... but the VMFA has finally concluded that I am, in addition to being a number one cheese deliverer and chicken tempura distributor, a professional painter!!

Since I do love a list...



2. While this photo was taken in Joe's adjacent studio, the temperature is the same...you get the point
3. Holla

Forest Bathing (fear not the landscape)

I'm still here! Let's see if I can beat my two posts a year habit in 2015. Unlikely, but hope springs eternal, even for boneheads.

More incremental progress in the studio as per usual. I sold some paintings at the end of last year which gave me a little buoyancy to carry me into what will be a new body of work.

I'm done apologizing for the landscape that constantly appears in my otherwise 'abstract' work. I'm not even sure to whom I was apologizing or why!

What made me accept this into the image? Because, even though the idea of painting mimetically from the landscape feels like the wrong way to go, I still find myself building images in the manner of a landscape. I find myself doing this not just out of habit- let's be clear. I broke myself of that habit and found some interesting results in grad school and beyond. This penchant is coming from another desire in me: to put it simply, to relate to the landscape. And let's be real, these "landscapes" are still pretty damn abstract. I was taking inventory of the things I set out to accomplish:

1. I want complex space in the work.
2. I want the colors I see in life (even if I don't need to paint the object)
3. I want to seduce the shit out of the viewer (people do love the whiff of the familiar or archetypal)

Of course, I could still do all three of those things without allowing the landscape in.

4. I want the paintings to have a clearer (but still enigmatic!) relationship to that which is visibly universal.

Enter the scape! The change happened in paint first, as it should be. I painted over this small piece that just never quite delivered and ended up with the most bizarre little "street scene":

While that had me scratching my head, I painted this:

which is decidedly tree-like… sorry for the glare
and then this:

which is probably the most traditional painting I've done in a while...

I'm not saying these are great, but they are little footholds, and I want to go somewhere new. Also, I like the idea of giving the viewer a foothold also...right before I pull it away and go somewhere far out. I'm piecing this together with some other changes, resolutions, etc:

5. To pay more attention to varying textures
6. To build more patterns of mark-making (not so many one-offs)
7. Pay better attention to value

From that comes this:

I need to fix a composition issue there... but Omicron Theta IV wasn't built in a day....
I'm thinking of titling that one the Holy Mountain after one of my favorite movies. Too much for one post. Maybe I'll beat my two post a year record after all.

Feb 3, 2015

All Up In the Grey Area

The favorite dance of a painter is what happens after someone asks, "What makes a work of art meaningful?" or "What is the meaning of this?"

The dance has developed over the ages, not because the artist lacks the answer but because the answer so often does not satiate most people asking. Here's the pattern: question is asked, response is delivered, querent stares (if they're nice they'll try and help you out), artist stumbles on words because things just got awkward, querent looks skeptical, artist gets freaked out and blurts something vague, unintelligible or just completely unrelated.

That does sound like a "me problem", doesn't it? Well, yes. But once I recognize a pattern like that, I fall right into it.


If anyone read this blog, I would no doubt get all kinds of responses to this...but the common zen-savvy answer goes something like:

A painting simply is meaningful if it is more than the sum of it's parts: that the whole somehow transcends the crude bits. 

Another version I've read/heard/experienced is:

The painting looks back at you.  OR The painting has a real palpable presence in a room.

So maybe now you understand why this answer is not acceptable for a lot of people. You now have a whole area of grey…a wide chasm for debate to ensue over which piece in here is meaningful. This is in contrast to the lens through which we usually view images, namely, "Do I like it?" The real reason this, "the painting has a soul" type answer is eye-roll-inducing to most people is:

1. The answer is fluid (changes even within a single viewer)
2. The answer relies on a judgement from the viewer (varies between viewers)
3. The meaning is not reliant on a single particular technique (although the meaning does arise out of the technique used). In other words, there is no hierarchy of technique aside/outside of the painting.
4. It carries the whiff of the metaphysical- and that is a polarizing whiff, believe-you-me. Yes...I suppose it is scary to think we might not know and control everything about our existence.


A lot of strange, new exciting experiences can develop if we fight this impulse to immediately dismiss that which doesn't immediately ring your bell. We might even...grow *gasp*