Monday, October 6, 2008


To the left are two details from a large (6'x8') collage/painting currently in progress. The details show a bit of how these get figured out--through layers that are initially pinned and eventually glued together in sections. I am at a point of reevaluation though because while I used to think gluing them down seamlessly was the way to go, I am now intrigued by the evident layers apparent when they are pinned.

To back up a bit though and talk about all this sorting out in paper...I had a remarkable teacher in graduate school--a painter named Squeak Carnwath. During my first MFA year, I dispensed with oil paintings in favor of making chaotic paper installations all over my studio walls. I was not wholly sold on making my pale version of not-quite-drawing-installation-or-painting; I wanted to make paintings, but I knew I couldn't continue making paintings in the same vein. And the only clear notion I had at the time was the belief that I wouldn't break/change my painting hand unless I sorted it out in a medium apart from paint on canvas. All you learn-paint-by-painting-painters out there are cringing here I know, but I wholeheartedly believe it is possible to redefine/expand notions of painting as a medium by thinking about painting through something apart from the stuff (paint) itself.

But back to Squeak....So I was at once LOVING the making of these paper installations BUT I also knew they were an interim phase to who knows what else. Cluelessness is not a comforting state to claim when one's evaluating graduate committee is coming into the studio, but nonetheless I was clueless about the future--despite my clarity in the present. Squeak got everything completely. And with that inimitable, magical knowing great teachers possess, she grasped what I was doing more than I understood myself. She talked about acquiring knowledge of painting at a "cellular" level, and that all my wrangling with paper and physical space was not me deciding to move into installation art, but rather my means of tapping into a deeper understanding of how to make a painting--through a self-customized method.

I relay a grad school scenario because I'm wrangling with paper again. For the past three years, I've been pinning paper together on my studio walls because the ability to reconfigure, easily and literally take away, and the shifting constructed ground make more sense to me than the fixed support of a canvas or singular piece of paper. In the last week however, I've begun to get glimpses of how my work in paper is once again recasting my approach to painting. I'm thinking about the layering in particular.

Some thoughts milling about for now:
-that layering is just as much about what is covered up as what is perceived
-that layering introduces vertical movement into what had been a real interest in lateral movement--building up in addition to spreading across
-that layering in paper allows for little spaces in between, where nothing physically resides but which are nonetheless critical spaces in the accumulation--can there be spaces in a painting where literally nothing resides? What is the importance of that nothingness to the overall whole?

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