Asking questions and understanding visual language through writing.

Wingspan II, ink and acrylic on Claybord, 40x80", 2016

I have always dealt with issues of fragility, weakness and decay, but as I dig deeper, this work is becoming more about overcoming or living alongside these challenges in terms of physical, psychological, environmental, social or in other words, the human condition. Going even further, these messages can be understood on an atomic level, therefore encompassing the earth, galaxy and spiritual world as well. What seems like an aerial view might also be found under a microscope, for example. 

The introspective visual language I’m developing stems from my own life and art experiences, but the messages I am discovering in the process relate on a fundamental level to others, making my personal story less important as it relates to the picture itself. This allows for a more fulfilling interaction for others with the work and makes it less about me; I can just be the conduit.

I find intrigue in making symbolic visual connections between the natural world and universal conditions whether it’s physical, spiritual or emotional, etc; a mountain that takes flight like an eagle, for example. Why not? Something immense and heavy becomes weightless and finds escape and perseveres through adversity. This idea is not new and can be found in the work of Remedios Varo, one of the few women artists to be labeled a surrealist. However, the surrealist movement generally saw women as only inspiration or muse, so their rules did not always apply to her*. In pure abstraction, I could instead choose to paint a large heavy shape or a dark color floating weightlessly in space like Rothko.

Escaping our bodies and minds both temporarily or finally should offer a sense of peace as well as knowing that everything is not permanent, but ephemeral. That we are all part of something so much larger and complex than our minds can feasibly comprehend, something more profound should put our minds at ease, right? Is this something that genetically dwells deep within our subconscious? Honestly, dying and transition scares me and always has, which is why this idea has captivated me for so long in my search to understand it. So for now, I am at odds and looking for just the right language to describe all of these questions without the use of words. The pictures ask us the questions, we don’t always have the answers, but we seem to learn a lot searching for them.

Sometimes, I harness the power of the natural elements to age, transform and alter the work until I decide on the right time to “stop process”. The environment then becomes one of my mediums, also reflecting the idea of change, transformation and decay. And, some of the materials I use are unconventional, temporary or from popular culture, which reflects the underlying ideas of fragility and temporality. However, I protect the pictures using archival processes so that they will last indefinitely. The initial sentiment is still preserved, kind of like a butterfly that has a limited lifespan, but can be stored forever. 

I would like to think my process is about chance and letting that happen, but I know better. I do things with paint you generally should not do (says art materials technician) and I exert quite an amount of control over it, more so than I probably should. While I allow certain chance encounters to happen, I am very much looking for a story to bring out, shapes to form and sculpt just like looking at the moon to find the rabbit or in other words, pareidolia. I do think that is something everyone does from time to time and part of human nature and how our minds work. Historically, it’s a device artists have used for hundreds if not thousands of years.

I am going to think more about the questions that came up in this essay and maybe post an update once I’ve had some time to digest the enormity of it all. Really, I just like to make pictures, but I find in writing, I come to a better understanding of the conversation between us.

* This is an amazing book about Remedios Varo by Janet Kaplan: