Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Jotted on a tram.

I was on the way to have some tests done related to my eye (keratitis since January 17—such a drag not being able to see clearly) and was suddenly struck by the urge to write this about the paintings I have been doing. It's not very well-written but I'm glad it's beginning to crystallize.

The paintings are about me. Rather, they are a denial of the artificial, the mistaken identity with which I try to reconcile myself every day. Everything about them—the superficial scumbling of paint, their perspectival flatness countered by illusions of volume; the subject matter of volcanoes, which are by nature demonstrative, referential to some profound subterranean energy, with festering, dangerous tension; and finally, the act of painting itself: reiterative, contemplative, a mantra—all of these things are attempting to permeate the hard crust of "identity."

Monday, March 9, 2009


Things are in a happy state of flux so instead of uploading pictures of new paintings I am presenting evidence of my latest object of desire: the isle of Stromboli, a bump in the sea just above Sicily; little more than a village at the foot of an active volcano. I want to be in Stromboli my last week in Italy. It makes perfect sense that I should end up there, after I move out of the apartment and before I board the flight to the US after two wonderful years here.  What a way to quietly reflect on the work I have done and all the blessings that have come my way.

I put off painting yesterday for some easy things: letter writing among them. This marks the beginning of the most challenging phase of this series of paintings. I am working toward completing nine in total, each 100 x 100 cm. I've taken six to an acceptable level of finish and I began the seventh yesterday. But the longer I paint in a series, the more likely I am to discover new forms—new visual language—thus calling into question everything I have done in the earlier work. While I'm happy to say that each new painting seems an improvement in some way on the last, this also compels me to reconsider what I have done earlier. It's both exciting and maddening! Progress is welcome, but every new discovery makes its predecessors appear somehow inferior. Today I found a way to represent something—some smoke and lava, which I had painted many times before in a different way—that really excited me. But suddenly this new bit of progress made the new painting feel unrelated in some way to the others in the group.

Now the images I posted earlier are things of the past—they no longer exist. Yesterday, after arriving at this new vocabulary of form, I painted over parts of a few of the earlier paintings in order to take care of some things that have been bothering me: the balance of color and contrast; some compositional issues. I knew this would happen, and I'm not the least bit upset by it, but it does make me more conscious of the time I have remaining to finish them. It's the way it always goes. It's a balancing act, trying to keep myself from completely destroying things in this search for some cohesiveness with the series.

I have a busy week ahead, with meetings with students, a lecture and crits by a guest artist, and my trip to Madrid Thursday through Sunday. I think the best thing to do will be to work extremely hard every day and then leave things alone for the weekend, allowing the machinations, the successes and failures to steep a bit without action. I'm giddy about visiting the Museums in Madrid: work I have waited my entire adult life to see. What a gift.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Two New Paintings and Some Changes.

A couple of new things, along with the minimal revisions to older paintings. These continue to evolve and aren't finished. I think once I have nine brought to a cohesive level of finish as a group I will begin refining them.