Category: Process

I believe in remembrance

March 23, 2011

A while back I scanned a book that I made back in 1994. I was living in Boston at the time, and happened across several old books that had been discarded. Actually, it looked as if someone had died, and their apartment had been cleaned out.

Included in the pile were some old medical books, some children’s books in Russian, and central to the creation of this work, some notebooks used for practicing written English.

There were many interesting phrases. Why, for example, would one practice writing “to take a walk down quicksand?” It was an evocative image.

I began to tear phrases out of the notebooks and arranged them on a table top into a collaged narrative. The process took a few days as I shuffled the fragments around, adding new bits here, taking out bits there. I then began to collect images from the other books to create illustrations of the constructed tale, and arranged the pieces into pages.

Click on the first thumbnail below to view the complete story.

Martyr reworked

March 22, 2011

The original version of this painting dates to 2006 and was exhibited at the Parts of the Whole exhibition at the Conrad Wilde Galley in 2007.

Collage and acrylic on canvas
16″ x 20″

A couple of years after it returned from Conrad-Wilde, I decided to rework it and added another layer.

Collage and acrylic on canvas
16″ x 20″
reworked 2009

New Painting in Progress

December 21, 2009

Here are a couple of photos of one of my new – thus far untitled – paintings in progress.

I’m not sure if it is done yet, but I like where it’s going. I’ll let this one sit until Phase 3  – if there is to be one – makes itself known.

Updated March 8, 2010: Phase 3

After working on this other painting, I decided that the surface seemed too thin or weak, and I worked on this painting once more. I think the palette in this iteration is much richer.

From Black Site to Questioning

December 11, 2009

Here are two photos of a recently completed painting in the ongoing Sebastian Series.

Phase 1 – 2007 – “Black Site”

Acrylic and collage on canvas
20″ x 16″

Phase 2 – November 2009 – “Questioning”

Acrylic, collage and block print on canvas
20″ x 16″

A long and winding road that may not yet be over

December 1, 2009

Here is a painting that has gone through quite a few re-workings.

Phase 1 – A first layer of old journal pages is laid down, and some earthy-colored shapes are added.

Phase 2 – New collage layers are added in the attempt to create an entry point, a new center of focus. The figure, arguably the previous focal point, recedes into background. Additional paint obscures large portions of the journal text.

Phase 3 – The main focal point of the previous version is largely obliterated, and new text added from a different source.  The figure is further obscured by the addition of the kouros image on the right. The painting becomes increasingly dark and murky, and I set it aside.

Phase 4 – After moving to a new studio, I do a radical re-working of the picture with major changes to the palette and the submersion of much of the previous version. A few collage elements from Phase 2, as well as the text and kouros from Phase 3 remain.

Phase 5 -  I toned down the high-keyed palette and quieted the overall composition with large areas of texture and more subdued colors. All of the original journal text has now been completely covered. Nothing, in any real sense, remains of the first phase.

Is it done? I’m not sure, but I have once again set it aside, and it feels more done than at any another point since the first one. I admit I kind of miss the embryonic form, but I like where it is now. The current working title is Specimen.

New Works

April 8, 2008

Here are three recent paintings, completed since the beginning of the year. Well, at least I think they’re complete. They feel complete but they are also still in that lingering phase, and they all need to be titled.

The first painting below currently has the working title of Collaborator. Previously it was called Captive (2). I’m not completely sold on either title yet. I think I need to get a better photo of it, but I’m very happy with the outcome of this painting. (Note 04-14-2008: new photo taken, the title is growing on me.)

The second painting is another in the series of St. Sebastian themed works. It has the working title of Deluged, but that’s not really working for me. Other titles under consideration include The Lonely Age, Darling Whore, and The Summing Up. Those are derived from chapter titles in the collaged table of contents from the book The Homosexual Generation. Another chapter from this ridiculous diatribe is called “The Wave of the Future,” which probably informed the addition of the wave shape at the bottom of he painting, as well as the current (non)working title.

Finally we have another Sebastian painting. This one is currently just Untitled. Someday the right title will fall into place.

From Typhoon to Comfort Zone

January 4, 2008

While every picture might tell a story, sometimes the back of the picture hints at several others. Scrawled, scratched and painted on the back of the painting now titled Comfort Zone are the following notations: MAY 2001… Reworked 6-10-01… Re-Worked Again August 2002… “Typhoon”… 2005 NOV… COMFORT ZONE 2007.

I don’t have photos of all these various states, but I do have pictures of the two most important states.

First is Typhoon:

Typhoon is a self-portrait. The title was taken from a fortune cookie fortune which is part of the painting (the long rectangle in the dark area below my hand). As the painting was reworked, the “Learn Chinese” text became illegible.

A key element of this painting is an image of a house, a recurring motif, and I think a symbol of the search for security. Additional images of note are a person swimming (above the peak of the house), a pair of disembodied wings (bottom right), and the Page of Pentacles (also at bottom right).

The image in the center is a Photoshopped photo of myself, playing my electric guitar circa 1999-2000. For the record I am a terrible guitar player, but I bought the electric guitar shortly after the end of a long relationship, and wailing way on it was somehow very comforting. I doubt my neighbors of the time would concur on this, but I digress.

The center of the painting was alway problematic. In the first iterations of this painting, the center was a void. Then it housed the above image of myself. And finally (?) it houses the image of a friend:

I took this photo back in 1990 as part of a final project for a photography class. The theme of the project was artists in their studios.

The painting is now called Comfort Zone:

It may seem odd to change a self-portrait into a portrait, but it makes a certain sense to me. At the time of the completion of Comfort Zone, she occupied a similar mental space as I did when this painting was first conceived. The painting feels more finished than it ever did before. Will I change it again in the future? I don’t think so, but I’m not willing to bet the farm on it either. Stay tuned.

The Hand That Takes

December 19, 2007

Sometimes paintings take several years and multiple iterations to find their final form, and sometimes they come together very quickly. The Hand That Takes is one of the latter.

If you break the painting down into its component parts, you could say there was a long gestation period. I took the photograph that appears in the middle of the painting in 1989. The hand on the left is a photocopy, enlarged over and over again from an image of a neoclassical sculpture, and dates to around the same time.

The painting itself was executed in 2005, and if memory serves, I completed it in one or two short sessions. A good friend (who is now the owner of the painting) came by my studio while it was still sitting on the easel. It was dry, but I was pondering what else might need to be done to it.

“It’s finished,” he said. “Resist the urge to go in and tweak it,” he added, knowing full well how sometimes my intended minor adjustments become major changes.

I took the canvas off the easel and agreed to set it aside. I let it sit where I could see it and moved on to another painting. A few weeks later I came to agree that he was right.

The Hand That Takes
Acrylic, photograph and collage on canvas
22″ x 28″

A heck of a job…

December 18, 2007

In a conversation at the Politics of Power reception, I was discussing how Crony (at left) was actually the third life of this canvas.

I can no longer recall what the first painting looked like, but Crony‘s prior incarnation was a painting titled Deluge (see below).

I created Deluge in 2005 during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, an elegy of sorts to the drowned city.

Deluge hung in my apartment for a while, but it was one of those paintings that quietly nagged at me. “I’m not finished yet, ” it would whisper as I would pass it in the hall.

“I know. But I don’t know how to finish you. Yet.”

Two years later I resumed working on Deluge. As it often happens, it was a rather spontaneous occurrence. I walked up to the painting and once again gave it the once over.

“I’m ready for you now.”

I had no fully conceived plan but I had a starting point in mind. I began by outlining the figure in the watery blue area at the bottom, a figure that echoed a news photo I had seen of a drowned body in the streets of New Orleans. Then I started working around the left and right edges. I liked the overlapping letters and textures, but I felt like they were distracting from the center. I began adding black to create focus.

As it often happens, I had planned to only do some minor tweaks. Somehow in the process, however, the painting changed from a vertical to its original horizontal format, and it acquired a new central element: an image of a Scooter Libby seated in the back of a limousine, post-resignation and indictment.

In some ways I suppose it seems like a long journey for the painting to have taken, from the deluge of a city to the exit of a White House crony. But these words just came to mind: “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job.”

Perhaps the journey was not so far after all.

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“The rulers of this most insecure of all worlds are rulers by accident. Inept, frightened pilots at the controls of a vast machine they cannot understand, calling in experts to tell them which buttons to push.”

William S. Burroughs

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EDITED 03 JAN 2008:

I just came across a photo of the original (or at least earlier) state of this painting. Before Crony, there was Deluge, and before Deluge, there was this untitled work.

I think about the only visible remaining element is the standing figure that appears here inside the red house. Also, as noted above, Crony returned to this horizontal orientation.