I came across the following text today that I had written during my exhibition "by the time i tell you it will all be forgotten" in 2011. The questions were presented by my gallerist, Kerry Inman, to help prepare and frame an artist talk we were going to have at the gallery with Katie Geha (an Art Historian, Writer, Professor and Curator currently based in Athens, Georgia).
In re-reading this text, I was surprised to see how well I understood the work... after the show was up. I remember making every piece for that exhibition feeling like I was fumbling through the dark, following a small tiny light. I was in Roswell, NM, with Wes on his residency, I had a studio, a vast landscape out my window and utter quiet. A few months in, after the mental chattering, which started as loud uncomfortable worries and fears, died down, I was able to enjoy the quiet- I learned to listen and trust... trust the process, trust the ideas, trust the experience of making. I felt vulnerable, but authentic. I remember having very little idea where each piece would end up or what exactly it meant, but in the end it came together as if i had choreographed each step.
I'm gearing up for my fourth solo exhibition at Inman Gallery this Fall and though I'm not surrounded by the same kind of quiet (I have an adorable energetic toddler that sees to that! ) I am charting those same muddy waters, looking, listening, responding with a similar trust. Everything seems a little foreign right now, a little scary, a little exciting... but if all goes as "planned" I'm looking forward to knowing what I've been up to sometime in late October.
How do the different mediums (large canvas, drawings, sculpture) play for you - what do they each do for you as an artist.
Are there different aspects that you explore through each medium?
First and foremost, the work, for me, is about constructing meaning. In some ways it’s akin to diving into muddied waters, seeking little clues or defining points of interest, and pulling them out to be displayed- almost like specimens. Each image and object, in many ways, serves as a remnant. They are remains, scraps, and residue.
The drawings in particular work in this way and in my mind serve as a kind of “documentation”. These are the hard cold facts, as much as a drawing can be anyway. The straightforward accounts of the ‘life” or story in question. The black and white descriptive record of what was found. Each pencil mark searches for meaning in its description. Like writing something a 100 times in order to learn it. Chanting. Plucking out a song on the piano until you know it by heart, hoping somewhere along the way the soul of the song will manifest. They are a form of recitation. They are on the outside looking in… but trying to step inside the thing as a means of getting to know it. They are the beginnings of a conversation- or a scientific hypothesis.
They are meant to be seen as icons or emblems and read for the symbolic meaning they might hold.
The paintings are different- they work to dramatize emotional potentials. Rather than performing as a straight record- they take on an opinion. They play out potentials of the found element. They suppose. They argue for or take the clue and make fantasy from it. They are the heighted elements at play. They are the part of the story that runs off the rails. Leaks out. Bleeds and cuts and tears open all sense of logic or comfort. In a flash it all falls apart but you want to be sucked into them. They are seductive and sexy and lure the viewer into a drug like state.
The sculptures I think function in yet a different way. Like the drawings they are bits and bobs of found information- like the clues found at the bottom of the sea mentioned earlier. But they take those elements, those objects and images and obsess, they play, they toss and turn them to better understand them. Perhaps the way one obsesses over a past love. Where everyone you see out of the corner of your eye looks like them. Where their hair sprouts form trees and their smell follows you. The sculptures play with universal signifiers of connection. But they are the getting under your skin parts of the story. They are the itchy but sweet parts. The way an addiction works on you. Your deep heavy cravings that are only satisfied briefly before you hurt again.
Formally each medium supports the distinctions above. The drawings are “meticulous”. Searching for every detail. Using the information given, and only that, as a means to find meaning. The paintings use large heavy swaths, color and dynamic compositions to take the viewer into their haunt- to seduce and capture, to take them on an emotional journey.
And the sculptures, they blend the two in small ways. The thin, delicate marks of the sculpture or hair, the fragility and fine line qualities mimic the drawings. They are real in 3 dimension but they sprout. They shoot off in a fantastical way like the paintings but on a much ‘closer to the chest’ kind of way. They hurt, I think. They are meditative, contemplative. Formally they feel softer, a little more dreamy in palette than the paintings, but maybe pricklier than the drawings.
I think in general I’m curious about our relationship to objects, to those things that we hold onto. I’m curious about the still images that represent our stories and the things we use to define moments in our past. I’m interested in how one might interpret experience through them…in appropriating or re-contextualizing these elements. I am interested in looking at the shifts in meaning based on one’s social context while also examining the flexibility of that reading. In opening up a sense of 'knowing' and maybe finding some pleasure or emotional response in seeing something familiar, but all together unfamiliar, at the same time.
In the end, for me, they all serve a similar purpose. They combine precise references and oblique allusions, creating a body of work where ideas and symbols shift meaning to elaborate upon our understanding of social constructs.
The objects, paintings and drawings serve as a collection of meanings… each clump of a sculpture, small contained drawing or large saturated painting serve like scenes in a film, with shift in scale, shift in perspective, shift in tactility, or color- yet I prefer that they be associated with scenes in a poem or written narrative. In this way they could hopefully be more affective or evocative, rather than explicit.
How has this experience of presenting all three together been for you?
They might be seen as three different veins of thinking, one documentarian like, one emotionally charged/ heated, one more contemplative, tactile, dream-like. But these works, seen as separate and as one whole, hopefully form a poetic space. A hum. If one chooses they can go as deep into deconstructing the images as they’d like- perhaps finding their own associations, symbolic gestures and meanings. Or they can stand back and take the works as a more superficial whole. As an aura. It’s the difference between hearing a symphony or zeroing in solely on the violinist’s part. Both ways of shifting perspective might be pleasurable or rewarding for the listener but each presents a different way of knowing the composition.
I see the objects and images almost as props; echoes; after-images of a particular point in time that the viewer might create a script to. The works, no matter their form, talk about something, they are uttering over and over again a specific experience, and I hope that that uttering, or muttering, engages the viewer and lures them into the discussion. For now, I prefer that openness instead of presenting images that appear to integrate a multiplicity of readings. The work in the past carried the heavy task of doing just that. Here, with these works, I’m teasing out those emotional pockets and allowing them to sit side by side, to speak with one another. Less like soup- more like salad. All the elements together make up a whole but they can be seen in their distinct forms first before seeing their role in the whole. Really, I am interested in creating a temporary psychological landscape that contains a possible narrative- rather than narrating specific content.
I think people today are charged with dismantling the world around them but often fail to articulate what it is they are experiencing. Most are visually literate on a intuitive level but can’t translate into words the emotional charge that advertisements, media or even body language reveal. As an educator my colleagues often remark that when they present a film or image to their classes the student’s critical eye shuts off. The same students that could deconstruct a text like nobody’s business- shift into “being entertained” mode. I think this is extremely interesting. And it’s for me, questioning and highlighting those quiet signifiers that are communicating regularly yet going undetected, that I find fascinating. These visual codes that create a reaction, that ‘talk’ endlessly, that send out a signal that people are often picking up and absorbing but not digesting…
I love the elusiveness and openness of imagery, the way it can perform on many levels, and is completely subjective to the one who is looking. The gallery or museum space can provide a stage for these codes and signifiers to play out. By isolating objects and images and asking what is this? Why is it here? Of what importance does this discarded thing have? The gallery can become a place of inquiry.
This show is becoming more and more about those questions for me. Trying to figure out what is the ‘just right’ amount of information to create those questions or emotional triggers. I see these works as a proposition, each piece a suggestion, a figment, an image that slips past. Yet, existing in a world where any little fragment might have grand meaning. Elevating the mundane to an idealistic heroism or an indication of tragedy- A glimpse at where things began to fray, or where the soil began to shimmer.