The last few years I got to a point where I felt there was no meaning in my work anymore, it was only an improvisational exercise, gestural abstraction or some such. I could not tell you or anyone what it meant and I had no idea when starting an artwork why I was doing it, other than it is what I do. It was just doodling and it was eating away at me. I could not any longer endure a practice in which finding any meaning was an exercise in pareidolia.
I read Charles Mann’s book 1491 and thought I would make three small paintings based on the Niña, Pinta, and Santa Maria. The ideas of the Columbian exchange and colonization aligned with other ideas I have. The last five years of being a public school teacher has been an education in understanding my privilege and I was flailing to grasp something greater than myself, trying to connect to what I care about in my work. I wanted my work to not be about me, and my noodling around. I started these 3 paintings in my usual way and began improvising shapes putting them on a mostly barren plain. while I was working on these little paintings I began think about the landscape that I dropped my imagery in without any thought of where the place was. I began looking at old master paintings backgrounds and how I always enjoyed the landscapes in them, like the landscape behind the Mona Lisa. So the thought hit me that I would begin to take out all my stuff out of the paintings and explore the places I had been putting stuff without any thought of where it was. What place did I just put things? The landscapes were no longer afterthoughts, just backdrops for my constructions.
To give a little more personal background, seven years ago I began practicing veganism. It has been a source of much fulfillment in my life and I feel more aligned to my values. I have been trying to find ways to express this through my work without being didactic. How do I express my deep sadness about the destruction of the natural world, my perception of the suffering caused by human activity. This has been a disconnect for me for a long time. At some point the “taking things out”, colonization, extinction and virtual worlds all collided in my head and that is where I am now.
Terrain Study (red). 20" X 24" oil & acrylic on canvas board. 2016
My day job is as an art teacher. I had been working with high schools students for the last four years, this year I will be working with K-8 students! I am really excited and a bit terrified. I volunteered this summer and worked with K-2 students and really liked it. The student's enthusiasm and joy in creating is invigorating.
The image above is a drawing that a new painting is based on. It is on a big panel (36" x 48") and will be in a primarily blue monochromatic palette. More updates soon.
Rose Canyon. Acrylic and oil on panel. 6" X 8". 2016.
I am excited to get some time to further pursue the direction the paintings have taken recently. The two images in this post I have entered into a juried show and I hope they get a chance to be exhibited. My painting process has recently changed a bit, I am using oil paint as well as acrylic paint. The surfaces are gorgeous and the color is luminous . This summers goal is to bump up the scale of the paintings and work on a commission for a sculpture.