Friday, February 20, 2015

An Artist Statement An Artist In Tent

The role of the artist is to create and allow the writerly reader to bring the meaning to the work, or so I was taught. Actually, if I'm to be completely truthful, that was merely one theory that I was taught. Nowhere do I feel was it mentioned that the artist should direct te viewer unless the piece presented is a performance piece. Then the artist has invited the viewer to be a participant in the piece. Ultimately the goal is to make the viewer a participant. 

I have also been told in my many shows to not be too specific in my artist statements. Once again, the goal isn't to direct the viewer too much. The viewer is educated and wants to bring their own theories and experiences to the work. I was fine with this logic for some time, but now I've grown curious. What is the difference between my process and my completed pieces. I wonder this not because the research is such an engaging one that I need to share it, but because my work is ever growing more than it may be changing. I keep refencing the same types of objects and systems. Slowly the systems overlap. The logic blurs across different topics. I am talking about an entropy and an order. The order is given to us and the entropy is created by our own decision making. 

I have begun working on an artist book for my next show wherein I will explain some of what I am doing, share writings that are arriving at the same sort of questions that the artwork is after and images of sketches and preparatory drawings. I will be doing a wood cut for the cover. I think it will be much better than Posting the artist statement. 

In the meantime here are a couple images of a piece that I have been working on for the installation at the center of this show on May in Bangor. 

This piece is really exciting me. I'm very pleased with the ideas of migration and rhythm that keep popping up in my head. More research on that to come


Friday, January 16, 2015

The Contradiction is the Point

I am a little lost as to how to proceed with the piece I started working on in studio today. The current state of the piece is good. I am very pleased with where it has ended up. I chose to work through the suspicion that what I had in mind was an incomplete thought (painting.). 

The initial surface was covered in paint so I sanded down revealing aspects of the original painting and the paint that had gone over top and finally the newest piece that I began today. I painted in a checker board pattern that stretched from the top to the bottom of the piece with intermittent falling houses cross hatched in ballpoint pen over top. The tree painting on the first level of the piece is still vaguely visible through the hatch marks. 

This collection of curvilinear lines works we'll with the falling houses and the checkerboard pattern as does the color, but I fear that the limbs made of pipes do not add anything conceptually to the piece. Part of me thinks the color is working too well to sand any further down so I suspect that only working ballpoint pen back and forth with solid haloing colors is going to pull the eye away from the pipe layer of the piece. The other part of me suspects that I must remove the line work in the base layer. 

The right half of the work is occupied by a more warped grid bearing a painterly cassette. This grid is built off of the panel about an 1/8th of an inch and occupies the lower right hand quadrant. The negative space created above the grid seems unruly. I am not sure whether to attemp to attack this area with a subject that I can repeat across the panel, perhaps distracting the attention to the tree forms or to treat the area more atmospherically or finally to add another, more organic appearing pattern. I was trying to think this out tonight in my sketchbook. 

No answers are coming to me. I've worked myself into a corner of my choice. I am under the impression that I will have to just take a step while I am working on the piece, something that does not fit particularly well which will arrest my eye and change the course of the work. 

I fear that being too conservative might make the piece feel a bit constipated but if I do not plan the piece out at all there is a good chance of over working it. I am determined at this point just to go to studio tomorrow and see what happens.


Thursday, January 8, 2015


The amount with which I have felt this week is substantial.  I began the week waking in my best friends house.  She and her husband are my son's godparents.  I haven't laughed and smiled that hard in ages.  I then taught a workshop on Sunday night to a mixture of adults and children, feeling as accomplished as ever.  The next morning I was featured on WKAN The Bill and Allison Morning show, achieving a certain level of "rock star" that I had always dreamed of.  I then had dinner with a good friend of mine on the way home from Boston, and got turned around on the T because I forgot to read the station that we entered at.  I then drove home and walked through my front door expectant of two of my greatest friends greeting me, but only one did and the other never will again.  It has been a tumultuous turn to say the least.

The show in Kankekee seems like a great example of a small community within a tiny city rallying around the visual arts.  The citizens seem open and eager to talk to new people with new ideas.  It was quite refreshing working within the space.  It also seemed rather fitting to be on the radio in reference to a show in which I had hung a large installation piece depicting stereos and radios.  Here is a link to the interview in full.

Ultimately, when I arrived home, I found my beloved feline friend, Cedric curled in his spot on the couch, dead.  I am so immensely saddened by this as the two of us have been through so much together.  I wish him the best in the kitty heaven that was awaiting him.

It's back to studio as normal tomorrow.  I'm hoping getting in the swing again will help.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Coal Trane: Gotta Git it in Your Soul

It is my fourth morning in the Midwest. A wet snow has started to cover the ground. Word from home is that there is a larger snowy blanket awaiting my arrival. But yesterday was a cold rainy day, which found me in Feed Cultural Center's window, sporting headphones and finally installing Coal Trane: Gotta Git it in Your Soul. 

I had measured out the work but hadn't accounted for how significantly the balance of the work would be thrown off by the colored block transitions. After I had pieced together the top row and Coltrane had gotten into full swing with one of his more elaborate solos in A Love Supreme, I realized that I was going to have to modify my plans. Fortunately Feed has chop and scrap wood out back and I was able to make a dozen more sets of French cleats, saving my installation. The walls in Feed were not catered to taking nails or screws so that was a bit frustrating. Additionally, the extra cleats required more drywall screws than I had packed, but once again Feed had a few extras kicking around. These drywall screws were far more difficult to work with, however.  One set wouldn't work at all due to the stud behind the work. I eventually caved and used two pin nails to hold the last cleat in place and save the wall another hole. There is talk of improving the walls for hanging at the center and I think that that might be wise, but the folks that work there and the mission of the space are absolutely amazing. It's lovely to see such a center I a small Midwestern city. 

Overall, I am pleased with the way the installation worked out. Tonight I am doing a small totem workshop and there is an opening for Transmissions a show which includes six people who went to grad school with in Maine. 

It's a food start to 2015. 

Saturday, January 3, 2015


I am in Chicago sitting quietly on a friends couch waiting for the illustrious Shirah Neumann to pick me and drive us to Kankakee, IL, a town which I have never heard of, to install a show called "Transmissions."  The installation is loosely titled "Coal Trane," but I am not sure that it will stay that. En route to Chicago I started reading Amiri Baraka's "Digging: The Afro-American Soul of American Classical Music."

Baraka is an intense sound. At first I found his writing very difficult to follow. His rhythm fell very much in an African realm. It felt disjointed to me, a person who had never experienced that language in a medium other than hiphop and soul music. But after I reached his essay on rhythm the text began to move with a strikingly poetic fluidity. It is always difficult to read the history of blacks and other ethnic minorities in America as it is near impossible to do so without feeling an immense amount of guilt, but Baraka lenlighttened me with a truth that was always right in front of my face. So obvious was the thought that I felt not guilty, but embarrassed when he led me to it. We were always taught about the history of Blacks in America. This is what THEY had to go through. Even in the sense of our learning about the Afro-American culture we are encouraged to view this race as other. It's a little painful to be able to draw similarities between a David Attinborough special and the history of a people that make up a significant portion of our populace. 

And so Baraka has left me thinking. He goes on to speak about how people dig for information, for communication, for the need to feel as one, and for the love of life, exemplified rather than ignored through the need to get down. As I've read this book it has occurred to me how much the music has always meant to me. This piece started as a pun on Coltrane, coal Trane, because it sounded like soul train. This made me think of all the music that I thought fueled my soul, but I realize now that that is wrong. I realize now that the music is our soul. It is the personification of an idea that swims in the ether of our being. If you feel it you can hear, play it, paint it. But if you can't then you are left outside waiting for your heart to beat. 

So blow that horn blow and feel that jam from the ground through your feet and all over this wide planet. The key to the world playing nice is feeling. You can feel the world if you feel their jams. Don't listen. Be the vibe and find the groove.  Drop the needle and spin into another condition. You gotta git it in your soul man.  


Monday, December 22, 2014

The Trane Keeps Rolling

have two projects weighing on me as I come into this holiday week. I've scheduled an illustration to be finished before Christmas and I have an installation to finish by the first. 

I am putting together all of the artwork for the new Seasonal Disorders 7 inch EP that is coming out next year.  I've designed the front and back cover, the a and b side artwork, and possibly artwork for their t-shirt. I'm excited about the project and the drawings are coming along pretty well, but I've had the installation leaning on me heavy for the past coue of weeks. I feel like I can never get enough done for that. I would rather be assembling that the lady couple days than still painting and drawing. 

The installation is called Soul Trane. It is an assemblage of stereos, cassettes and trains. I've tried to listen to nothing but blues, hip hop an jazz while making the piece as an effort to channel some of the energy that I have garnered in my work from primarily black performers. I've been reading "Clawing at the Limits of Cool," which tells the story of John Coltrane and miles Davis. There is a lot of blues to reading the histories of famous black men, a certain reckoning and an overwhelming guilt. I'm a contributor to White Mans Burden ethos simply by not offering any alternatives, by not protesting, by not being politically active. I am not this outgoing extrovert, however. I am a painter, an introvert. My best friends are questlov, q-tip, Trane, Elmore James, lightnin' Hopkins and James brown. They give me a groove and a freedom to create. I am on the soul Trane and I will not get off, but I will not protest for anything. I will, however, hold the cause deep down in my heart and do my best to take that cause and push it along, push it along, push it along.....


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Teaching, Reading and Feverishly Working

I am not the Bohemian I once was.  I have changed immensely.  My social demands have grown slack.  I seldom hang out with people in the evening, seldom meet for beers, and have a more regular schedule than I've ever had before.  I am matured, married, settling into a profession.  I don't really understand how all of this has happened all at once.  I do know that I have little desire to return to the party or to the sporadic schedule.

The fall semester is drawing to a close.  This last semester I taught two sections of 2D Foundations in Design.  It seems as though life has come full circle when you end up teaching the class that you had the biggest struggle with in undergrad.  I've also begun to settle into my teaching.  This semester I assigned a 3000 word essay on the formal aspects of one classic and one contemporary artist.  The process of grading these papers was intriguing.  There were some students who really gave me a window into a new world of artist while others rehashed ideas that I have heard for ages about the heavy hitters, like Van Gogh, Monet, and especially Keith Haring.

Teaching has helped me in my own art making.  I am reminded on a daily basis of ways to improve my images.  It is like developing a sense of zen with my work.  I am more present with the work than I have been in the past.  I am making more conscious decisions, whereas before I had been falling into a set of visual tropes that I had had success with and settling for compositions as they popped into my head.  I was much more concerned with getting to the paint and not so concerned with drawing.  While teaching has made me more present with my visual decision making, it has played a much heavier influence in helping me establish changes within my work.  I have begun to experiment as I have not done in the past.  I have attempted watercolor, worked in micron pen, worked on paper, played with scale in a more fulfilling way, and relied on my conscious decision making, not style, to make it all work within my overall body of work.

I have also spent this last year, truthfully since I was married a year ago August, feverishly reading.  I have been reading non-fiction about art, mushrooms, music, history, and physics.  I've also read a fair share of fiction.  My favorites have been by Saul Bellow and Haruki Murakami.  Reading has granted me more empathy.  I feel less exasperated when people don't understand my work.  Also, I feel like I have been making more work that fulfills a universal feel.  A friend of mine, Shirah Neumann, told me that one of her old professors spent a good portion of his career painting the interior of his studio.  Stuart Davis spent nearly a year working on Egg Beater paintings.  I've been developing empathy for the objects around me, the ideas that I have in my head, and the icons that I have utilized over the past decade to communicate my point.  I have simplified a good deal of my work.  Rather than showing a complicated setting of cloud constructors, or a world of audiophilic birds, or robots conducting human acts, I have been focusing on stereos, trains, city skylines, and tape cassettes.  I have been drawing and painting these objects and scenes and learning how to paint, how to express myself via the application of paint rather than worry about the big plot to pull people in.  It feels more natural.  It feels like my drawing and painting skills are improving again.  It feels like the challenges that I am presenting myself with are no longer based on production levels but more on experimental and quality levels.

Additionally, I have not been using this blog space as my sound board.  Most nights I sit across from my wife and we chat.  Often we chat about things that I am not wholly present for as I am still trying to find the calm after finishing painting work, reworking pieces in my mind, questioning where to go next.  I have not had that time to remain possessed by my work.  I have had to compromise with my wife and find a more inclusive manner of working out those post studio energies.  Perhaps I just need to refigure what my goal is for this space and that will help me determine how to proceed with it.  I have started to use instagram in the same manner as I used to use this space.  I never did cull many comments on this platform and I get a whole lot more feedback with just the image.  Maybe I ramble too much.

I had intended to share a couple images of current projects that I have been putting together.  I will attempt to post some more work from each soon, detailing the process behind each series.

These two images detail a recent series of miniature city scapes that I have been putting together of Portland, Me.  I thought that perhaps by looking in spots which were not quite so obvious I could find a certain kind of beauty in my surroundings that I cannot find by paying attention to the everyday things that I find in front of me while walking around the city.  I began the series with watercolor on wooden blocks and have since switched to acrylic paints for archival purposes.

This second pairing is from a series of works for a "soul train."  I have been listening to nothing by John Coltrane while I've been working on the piece, not because he did soul music, he obviously didn't, but merely for the tenuous connection between his nickname, "train," the "soul train," and regular trains.  The work is about music and repetition, about defying the left to right structure in music and letting the form of the instruments create the direction of the printed page.  The work is for a show in Illinois.

The last work pictured is from my small series of deconstructed boomboxes.  The work is spontaneous in the drawing so it made a lot of sense to color the work with watercolors rather than the more meditative acrylic paints.  The drawings are based in the roots of Malevich and Kandinsky but picture an archaic but more modern device.  I thought that by giving myself the rule that I was only allowed to draw the stereo, I would take my work to the level of abstraction which Braqcue and Picasso achieved with their violins and pitchers.  It has been a good experiment thus far.  I have even lined up a small show of the work with The Studio in Laconia, NH.

My life is different. I have had difficulties accepting this in every facet.  We hope, at times, that one thing or another will stay the same so that we may have something to depend on.  The fact of the matter is that as soon I was married the expectations of my time became different.  There were suddenly two people determining what I was going to be doing with my time.  It is a good thing, but it is very difficult, even a year and a half later, to get used to.