Talking about artwork is a skill and often I think about what I am trying to convey in the paintings or what I would say about them. Thinking about the surface of my paintings, for over 20 years I have started each piece with “pattern skins.” The tissue paper used to make clothes. My first experience with them was at Junior Achievement at the age of 12 when Mrs. Bigda taught a group of us how to make and sew clothes. I’m obsessed with the lines, the color, the frailty, and the varied surface it creates on my paintings. Because it creates a surface so random and varied in the texture, I feel each piece is unique no matter the subject matter. Could each piece convey a personality for the human qualities that the word “skin” would evoke? Often times I think of the surface and the wrinkles they create as age, the passing of time and the subject matter as a moment in time, trying to capture and hold it.
In high school I was a doodler. A doodler of trees, covering every notebook and book cover. I would draw a large trunk and large number of branches. I certainly didn’t think much about it.
For me, high school was a time of anxiety, with the usual stress of fitting in, tests, boredom, boys, and waiting for life to happen. I feel like this might align with my current fixation on painting trees. To look at this painting compositionally, it may not seem like I was “going out on a limb,” with a big branch, some leaves, a mountain range in the distance, but maybe this is just another response to my current anxiety. I read somewhere that themes of nature can create calm in a stressful environment. If this is the case, maybe a big branch feels like a bit of support.
For quite a while I have been working on line drawings and silhouettes of dried weeds, hoping to one day incorporate them successfully into a painting. I have made a number of attempts at weaving these elements into a composition. For some paintings I think it worked pretty well and some not so much. To make the combination successful, the drawing and painting need to also flow with the lines, color and busy surface of the patterned paper. In this piece, the branch is meant to be representational and strong, while the weeds and leaves are intentionally transparent and wispy. It’s a big contrast to have a large, opaque branch at the top with thin and see-through areas at the bottom. By including more elements to the picture plane, it creates more opportunity, as well as more potential for disaster. My version of “going out on a limb.”
In the end, I think this painting represents a reasonably successful amalgamation of the pieces coming together, painting, line drawings, and patterned paper.
Could the limb be interpreted as a looming threat or is it sheltering what’s below? If my history is an indication, it is an exercise in calming anxiety.
*This is something I had written about my work fall of 2019. Because of COVID, I think something of this has changed for me. The busy pace of things before COVID made being invisible a luxury, now being invisible feels like indifference.
To be invisible is easy, just stay in place, don’t move, watch the world go by. It’s a noble thing to be filling in the landscape in an altruistic state of quiet.
These are symbols of local history, or a place that everyone knows, and no one sees. Slowly being erased over time, covered by weeds, and unique for its unkept nature. Who cares if the place looks messy, no one sees anyway. It’s like standing on the corner of the one main road through town, yet you are invisible.
I work to expose the sense of place and the uniqueness of the everyday that lives among us. Lines, paint and a surface that contorts like topography, to bring the invisible into view.
To me it’s the beauty of the past, a place that no one visits, a forgotten gem, or a ramshackle wreck that is alluring. A canvas of physicality with areas of transparency, as though you can see through the work, to the lines, to the beginning, such as the grass in Green Pond, or the fading lines of the birds.
I reconnoiter what our everyday travels glaze over but not as loneliness and isolation. Being invisible isn’t about being non-existent but is an expression of being part of the fabric of the local.