Thursday, October 23, 2008

the breadth of artists' bodies of work, or, an important explanation


it's always been somewhat of a concern of mine that on the surface, there seems to be two distinctly different bodies of work i create as an artist — one of a serene nostalgia via landscape pieces of some sort (actual classical-esque landscape paintings; more contemporary-looking sculptural pieces; quiet, calm drawings) and one of a dark, visceral "punch" (the tongue-in-cheek, yet simultaneously serious "heavy metal" routed-out paintings; the old intaglio prints that feature little vignettes of flowers dying, paleontological digs of dinosaurs, and lots of maniacal text).

it has been inferred by some gallery owners in the past that i am an artist that lacks a specific focus in my oeuvre, and that this is somehow extremely problematic, but i often brush that off. it's my opinion that to label someone as a "landscape painter," "printmaker," or "sculptor," and to think that sums up their work, is awfully short-sighted and quite lay. it means you're seeing the artist as an investigator of "X" (one's particular medium), not an investigator of "Y" (that artistic searching that is difficult to explain with words — that emotional exploration — i.e. CONTENT). [sure, good artists often spend periods of time in an intense immersion into working with a medium — really getting into the act of pushing paint around, for example — but i think you know what i'm getting at here].

think of the oft-repeated scenario that either makes artists laugh or drives them batty:
patron of arts: "are you an artist?"
artist: "yes."
patron of arts: "what medium?"
artist: (dumbfounded... grits teeth...)

why am i bringing this up? it's not because of any recent incident that has fueled a fire or anything. it's more just a simple exercise in self-reflection, as i sit and think about the three new pieces i started this week. it seems that during every late fall, and into the winter, my work becomes more dark and brooding. it's definitely a stepping away from what i made this spring and summer, and a return to what i've investigated off and on throughout the last 15 years. however... it's not particularly a departure in content..

see, my vibrant landscape paintings with ebbing & flowing grasses and dust in the atmosphere have never been a plein-air "celebration of the land," they've always been more a longing for an idealized existence that falls short each and every day when one is surrounded by concrete and grime. the delicate grass blade line drawings, complete with titles that bear my niece and nephews' names, are signifiers of another longing for an idealized existence — innocence, youth, and a lack of the woes of adult life (bills, work, death). the key here is that even though those two examples are of the former type of work i described in the first paragraph of this post, the same thing goes for latter type of work i described up there. this part of an artist's mindset may be confusing to some folks, but any ridiculously maniacal piece i make comes from the same emotional pool as any serene, quiet piece. they're just different ways of expressing an artistic thought. to give an example, say a bad day at work - complete with thoughts about the inane people around me and the dim horizons ahead - manifests itself artistically as part of a larger motif of... well, hell... "human suffering." the point i'm making is that sometimes the ensuing work of art will convey a quiet, bittersweet longing, and sometimes it will convey a loud, intense hatred. even though those two pieces will look rather different, they're more similar than one would think.

so, i digress...
throughout the next weeks, stay tuned for some ridiculous, vicious, visceral hate, as well as some stuff that is a bit more refined, yet still dark in tone.

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