friday, october 24, 2008
Person, Place or Thing?

 

“As you know I don't much care for paintings that feature human beings…the inanimate is my favorite subject matter, not humans. We already get enough of them in reality.”
 
--Anonymous
 
This comment came to me from an old friend of mine that just recently viewed my work for the first time in several years. Upon receiving it I felt it necessary to clarify a few things about my work—not so much so as to secure his approval (although that’s always a temptation with me regarding certain individuals), but to further focus my own thinking about my work. Sometimes its difficult to say what my art is—but easy to recognize what it is not.
 
First, my work contains some information gathered from observation, some parts of a piece may look ‘realistic,’ but my intention hear is not simply to document events and facts in the outside world, “ depicting the miscellaneous facets of human life” as my anonymous friend called it. The interior worlds are much more important to me.  
 
That’s why I dislike most ‘realist’ art. Of course the word today is often misapplied to allegorists and symbolists and surrealists all the time.  I hope my work is not similarly misunderstood. I seek to boil the figure down to its essential psychic elements. That’s why the figure is usually centrally placed, and monolithic.  
 
I was well taught by Denzel Hurley, the abstract minimalist, that "if you are going to use the figure, you must forget that it is that person. It is not a person, and never will be." Subsequently, I started to use the parts my own body over and over again the way Morandi used his collection of homely vessels. It becomes evident to the thoughtful observer that these paintings are really not about vases and cups. 
 
I know when my work is not being well understood when a person asks "who?" rather than "what". One visitor infuriated me when he looked at The Handless Maiden and said
"you should give your figures feet, and a ground plane, and put them in a room or a specific place." No Way! That would defeat the whole point. This are not "people," these are objects. This is not a picture of something, this is a entirely new thing which did not exist before. The figure IS in a space--it inhabits the same physical space that we do right now!
 
That’s why these works really only read properly when viewed in person. In the 'flesh' as it were. They really feel more like sculptures. They 'feel' that way in the haptic sense. They are actual things that put off energy, not merely images on a screen. For that reason the plastic arts become more and more obscure to most people. We are so accustomed to staring at pixels of light, that we forget that the true nature of painting and drawing is rooted in the sense of touch. That paintings have skins; that drawings are physical bodies.  


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