Preparation for my November Exhibit

Taking multiple paths to a destination takes much longer; however, diversity of experience provides a fuller understanding of the territory through which we we travel.

 

Preparing for a solo show, or building a body of work, takes a much deeper exploration of a subject–an inquiry into the why as much as the how– compared to just painting a single, or even multiple pieces, around a vision or idea.

 

I joked in the early stages of making this body of work that I could call it ‘figuring out the figure.’ As a primarily abstract painter, I spent months exploring different techniques in approaching the figure. I held figure-drawing sessions in my studio. I’ve studied books in technique and pored over the work of historical artists as well as current favorites. I’ve taken workshops (ironically, about abstract composition, even though I created figures throughout the workshop). I’ve watched endless videos on content and technique. I’ve dug through every medium I had available to decide which approach would articulate the vision I have had bubbling in my brain for years.

 

I drew and painted daily, searching for the right path. I struggled, I screamed in frustration, I cried over my inability to capture that magic I envisioned and I wrestled those bodies to the ground. Making art can be physically and emotionally exhausting. It requires discipline and a commitment to falling short daily in order to find the gems that become something bigger than just an idea or concept. That was the how of it.

 

The why of it goes much deeper, as I believe it should. There is a lot of art out in the world, but for me, it is the why that holds the purpose and meaning. I also think that the why–the concept– is lost without the craftsmanship of the how. Finding a place where these two qualities can hold each other up, in a way that the viewer can experience meaning, is a precarious balance. The figure is both the epitome of perfection and yet we are all flawed, scarred, broken and disfigured in our own unique ways. Capturing these contradictions–the distortions of body and mind–were part of the conversation. I would render something technically on mark and intentionally go back and mar, distort or alter it into a less ‘pretty’ or ‘perfect’ version to dig past the simple representation and seek the complex content of human experience.

 

I wanted to harness the deep physicality of my abstract work and blend it with the delicate fluidity of the figure in a way that created a complicated, multi-layered narrative. I wanted imperfect lines, distorted form, and altered depths. I wanted the viewer to experience the emotional intensity and cultural relevance of the exposed figure, echoing back the reality of being a female in this world. I wanted the contradictions and juxtapositions to expose the vulnerability of the body and mind, and in that very vulnerability and exposure emanate the power and strength that is the core of being female.

 

Wrestling Down My Vision

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This last year has been a whirlwind of activity building a new studio and apartment in our backyard and had been a major focus of my creativity and energy. I am moved into the new space now, although not technically out of my old studio that I have been in for over a decade. To say there have been major life changes and stressors in the last year would be an understatement.  Through this whole process, many areas of my art practice have been limited. I stopped teaching regular workshops and only saw establish therapy clients, but I never stopped painting and drawing, even exploring some new techniques and multiple mediums to discover some deeper questions 
I am wrestling with as I approach my new body of work.

I am settled into the new space now and have been hosting workshops, taking on new clients and hosting community figure drawing sessions. My main focus is building a group of dynamic paintings for an upcoming solo show this November. I have focused mainly on large scale abstracts with encaustic paint over the last several years, but I have a passion for the figure, but find that it must be handled ‘just right’ for it to convey the complicated emotions I am trying to capture. This is a huge challenge for me and I am diving in and experimenting with many approaches, trying to seize the magic and power of the body and all the depth of stories it contains. I know I will never be truly satisfied, but that is the glory of giving myself an impossible challenge; I will have an ongoing inquiry of both a technical issues as well as the greater challenge of capturing the complications of the human condition over a lifetime.

There is a rawness to this work, both physically and emotionally. It is easy to over paint (which I often still do), and I am trying to find that perfect moment when to stop and leave pieces exposed or unresolved for the viewer. I want to leave my physical presence in the work, my hand, the marks I have erased or painted over, the random and deep texture of the encaustic when carved and manipulated, drips and brush strokes. I want the viewer to witness the making as much as the made in the final piece.

The content of my work is deeply personal and complex and as I get closer to completing this body of bodies, I will share more about the inner workings of my psyche as I wrestle down my vision.