Revising Explanations

September 10, 2017

The challenge with artist statements, for me, is to distill the essence of my practice into a paragraph, that explains both my motivations for art making, and also explains what my paintings are communicating.  The first semester of working toward my MFA at SAIC has shifted my understanding of my artistic practice; new ideas are emerging, while older ideas about my work are resurfacing.  Through revisiting old artist statements of mine, that I felt were outdated, I have been able to get a better understanding how my work is developing and what my priorities truly are.

 

My work is currently focused on the experience of language, from my perspective as someone who has dyslexia.  I'm interested in capturing the experience that I felt learning to read, through my paintings, with forms that appear to be numbers or letters, yet are incomprehensible.  The viewer has an experience that is similar to what I felt with learning how to read, feeling like they are about to comprehend something, but at the last moment it slips from their understanding.  

 

Some of the paintings I made during the summer residency at SAIC really discouraged me.  While I thought the forms in the paintings were interesting, I became concerned that I had abandoned my concept, because the forms did not always read as resembling letters or numbers (see below image).  A fellow student suggested that perhaps these works are part of a visual language that I am creating.   An older artist statement of mine came back to me as being true and relevant to what my work is about: "Language, in all of its elegance and complexity, can often fall short in describing what people know to be true, leaving us to fall back upon well-worn clichés to convey what we mean.  This is what compels me to paint: to communicate realities that are outside of the scope of verbal expression. Through color, texture and form, a visual language emerges, allowing me to say what cannot be said any other way."  

 

Many artists talk about being a visual person, and that that is why they make art.  This can be mistaken to mean that they are not skilled writers if they are choosing to communicate visually as opposed to verbally or through text.   Rudolph Arnheim proposes that through an image so much more can be said, and it can be said all at once.  The artist is choosing the image because of the specific vocabulary that the image allows (which is to be able to say more than can be said in writing).  From language to language, not all ideas translate-- and maybe this is why it is so challenging to write an artist statement-- because the artist statement is not only speaking about my practice, but is the translation of what my paintings are saying in their own language.  Yet translating the visual into the verbal, through its many revisions, is necessary because we do not all speak the same language.

 

 

Past and Present, Artist Statements:

 

Artist Statement 2014-2016

Language, in all of its elegance and complexity, can often fall short in describing what people know to be true, leaving us to fall back upon well-worn clichés to convey what we mean. This is what compels me to paint: to communicate realities that are outside of the scope of verbal expression. Through color, texture and form, a visual language emerges, allowing me to say what cannot be said any other way.

 

Artist Statement 2016- 2017

My work is rooted in process.   The paintings transform as they are made, being informed by me learning and changing as I work on them, and in turn the paintings are influencing and changing me.  On the canvas, ideas are: constructed together, deconstructed and reconstructed into something new throughout the process of making the painting.  The experience of construction, deconstruction, and reassembling is an essential component to the world we live in; as well as in my work.  Material things are broken down by other material things, like water weathering rock.   In ecosystems the death of a plant or animal is the nourishment for another living thing.  Disproof of what was thought to be fact leads to deeper intellectual inquiry and new frontiers in human thought.

 

By having this reality of, the assembling, disassembling and reassembling into something else, unfold through paint allows me to connect to the important truth that our world, both natural and manmade, is constantly in this very same process.  After all the drama has unfolded on the canvas of-- form, color and texture-- having been made, remade, and pulled apart to become something unexpected;  the painting reaches a point of resolution.  This resolution is a completed painting.  Through the completed painting, in the very most convincing (visual) language I have, I say to you dear viewer: don’t fear the process of making, undoing, remaking and rearranging that is part of the world around you; though at times unsettling, in it there is sublime beauty and new possibility in it that should not be overlooked.

 

Current Statement (Summer Residency 2017)

In my work, the sublime begins to enact itself through language.  As someone with dyslexia, learning through reading is a sublime experience: one that both overwhelms me and conjures fears of failure, while holding tremendous excitement in the possibility of new knowledge and new concepts.  Through my paintings, my viewer has a vantage point that is similar to mine when I was learning how to read: of a form in my painting that seems to represent something, yet whose meaning slips from understanding.  It is a feeling similar to almost catching an object and then feeling it fall out of grasp.  The grappling to understand is of great importance to me: scholarly learning is neither quick nor easy, but in struggling to understand something truly complex, there is great pleasure and astonishment.  Through my mixed media paintings, I relay to my viewer these tangled experiences that are part of learning, both the chaos in ideas that have yet to congeal into coherent concepts, and the ecstatic feelings that come after the exhaustion and disillusionment.  Despite its elegance and complexity, verbal and written language is still a reduction of reality, in being so it has limitations in what it can express: in the presence of the sublime language fails.  In an attempt to communicate more fully I use painting as language with my viewer.  With an awareness of the materiality of paint, by using cake decorating tools to create frosting-like forms and irregular sculptural surfaces, collaged paper, glitter, and foil, I converse through painting as language my earnest beliefs about persistence, learning, and optimism. 

 

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