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