Chimeras & Underdogs
An underdog can only hold its status as such for a limited amount of time. At some point in the trials it faces, it will: be defeated, give up, or perhaps be victorious.
“Painting has been flogged, dissected, mutated and all but muted by theory. Yet, painting survives – evolved as a result of drama rather than in spite of it, into a particular place of condoned difference—an actual, rather than a restricted, pluralism. This is a rhizomatic difference, Lawson’s never-ending web, which has fluidity to include not just a critique of past tradition, not just a rejection of past traditions, but appropriation of them.”
--Sharon Orleans Lawrence
Lawrence champions a place for painting in the contemporary art world in her book, How the Materiality of Paint is Intrinsic to the Work of Art. She demonstrates that painting’s rich history both drags it down all the while legitimizing it. In theory, Minimalism led to reducing painting to an ultimate end; in actuality Minimalism has untethered painters from being part of any particular movement. Painters operate in spaces between art movements, in a never-ending plateau rich in possibilities. Painting is no longer moving in a tidy binary fashion. Just as paint slips, blurs, and bleeds on the surface its applied to, contemporary painting is free to spread in multiple directions. It is not an underdog, what it has become is a chimera, (of the mythological or genetic kind, depending upon each viewer’s tastes.) The hybrid nature within painting enlivens it, allowing painters to pull from a constellation of sources and materials.
Dyslexia helped transform me into a chimera. My disability dogged me through most of elementary school. Over the years, I learned multiple strategies to work around my disability. The mishmash of strategies I developed to survive and ultimately thrive in school altered me into someone who can find connections between things that are seemingly at odds with one another. Hybridity can start as a strategy for survival, and then it becomes an asset that is forceful and purposeful (and maybe an asset similar to the fire-breathing capabilities of the mythical Chimera… depending on the person or painting). Be it using cake decorating tools to manipulate paint into strange forms, or coating bubble wrap in resin to have a surface to paint on, these hybrid objects that I make create a visual language that is fashioned out of necessity and resourcefulness.
This visual language that painting affords is of great importance. Verbal and written language, even in the hands of the most skilled scholars is still a reduction of reality. Rudolf Arnheim describes the dilemma that philosophers and scientists face with verbal and written language in that they “constantly struggle with the verbal shells which they must use to package their thoughts for preservation and communication.” Meanings in words shift over time; words mean different things to different people. The words that contain carefully articulated thoughts can fracture over time or as they travel to different people, the information that was contained in those words becoming lost. The way that verbal language operates is in a binary format. I am not advocating to avoid written language, but to accept its limitations and encourage the addition of more holistic methodologies in communication. In a painting, I can tell you so much more, and I can say it all at once.
Painting is only an underdog in the imagination of those who wish to ignore that this hybrid creature has capacity for eloquent, thorough and rapid communication.