A detail of a miniature from last winter. The structure at left is a combination of three different facades, and designs of my own making, but based largely on an abandoned (now demolished) high school in Detroit. At right are embedded and ignited match heads and are based on pilings. They have become shorthand for violence and appear in many of my paintings.
I often pair the painted structure with an ‘actual’ structure. This creates for me an immediacy throughout the creative process, and shifts my attention to now, responding to a real thing as opposed to a remote, imagined or remembered thing. This proximity makes the work far more urgent and direct, and removes much of what had been heretofore hazy or nostalgic. It has sharpened my focus and clarified my intent. Perhaps more importantly, this act has reoriented my perspective so that I no longer think of painting as painting, but as building, so that the painted structure is now a thing unto itself, competing for its own existence alongside the burned, wooden structure. This conceptual shift in perspective has played out on the panel in literal ways as well, as the facade sits face-forward as though in a portrait while the ‘pilings’ at right are in my mind viewed from above.
This was made entirely from fireworks my son made. I’ll spend much of the winter developing this work. I’ve already began building a cathedral along the diagonal line at the lower left. This will be a months-long combat.
Materials should lend themselves to the conceptual framework of the work at hand. The basic question “Why am I painting this?” is central to understanding what it is I’m doing. If what I’m saying is better said with another material, I don’t argue with that.
Intent is paramount. There’s nothing haphazard or random in this process. All sorts of factors must align and find cohesion within this framework. Uncertainty is always present, but it’s through the winnowing process of self-honesty and devotion to what specifically I’m trying to say that something new and strong emerges.
Detail of Łódź, a small painting (12″x12″) based on a large abandoned pier I once saw jutting out into the water. Łódź means ‘boat’ in Polish, and is the name of a Polish city in which the Łódź Ghetto had been established following the 1939 invasion. This pier, the rotting brick building, and a boat which will never come has resulted from the stories I’ve read of Łódź during WW2.
Currently developing series of 12″x12″ miniatures which confronts the nature of mixed materials.
I’ve began to see what I’m doing as building and not painting, especially while using paint. These various structures made of different materials compete in a sense. They can’t help but be what they are, however, so each are their own reality, and exist in their own way. But somehow, if I build in paint successfully enough, the painted structure can exist with the others and hold its own. Of course just the act of painting something on one hand and constructing it w/aluminum or cork on another holds lots of interest in itself. There’s something of value there…. Intent is really in the forefront now because materials have such unique properties. They have to be handled correctly, though what drives this intent is something I’m just beginning to understand.