[On view April,2020 in the exhibition “Rivers, Mountains, & Magic: Embracing the Mystery” @ Alexander / Heath Contemporary, 5th & Campbell, Roanoke, VA]
Lately, navigating transitions seems the stuff of life. It may be changes of profession, expectations within one’s work, or within one’s self, or changes in a relationship, adapting to loss, moving where one lives, even adjusting to the seasons. I’m learning to accept that life is rarely static and adapting to the shifts is an unending process.
Shapes dominate some of my paintings. Areas emerge that become specifically defined. There may be dozens of little bits, or a work may be divided into grid like sections, or a few large shapes may clamor for attention. Sometimes in our lives we manage to accumulate responsibility for a myriad of small tasks — we know what they are, find brief moments to take conscious breaths, and manage to get through a day/week/months attending to them without much room to think. At the end of such times, we look back and all those pieces have come together in a beautiful mosaic-like fashion. At other times we might get the option to arrange and order things in a regularized way, create an expected order and neatly schedule our duties and joys. In other phases of life, a few large priorities might come boldly to the fore. These times oblige a certain restraint as these issues establish the re-direction and composition of our lives. It may even be just one thing, settling in to a new home, or a tragedy, or attending to the health of a loved one, that may suddenly require all of our focus and attention. Amid these times we might crave the option to have room for the “rest” of our lives — in all meanings of the word.
Then there are those slightly discomforting in-betweens; those inevitable periods of transition. The times where we’re headed into something different, new, a moving beyond, often into an unknown or unknowable. It seems natural that we may feel apprehensive or anxious relinquishing the familiar. Complex creatures that we are, as is well documented, we crave habits to such a degree, that sometimes even when a situation is not joyful or unhealthy, we may still resist change.
When I am painting, at a certain point a dialogue develops with each work. It’s unpredictable if this connection will evolve quickly or take much meandering, effort, “conversation.” Sometimes I can sense it developing, but it’s a subtle and challenging thing to hover in that space — both aware of the moment yet not self-consciously thinking about it. This painting began as fluid, flowing shapes. In responding and revising it, the colors and textures assumed a voice. But within the process, perhaps because the goal was less defined—or perhaps because the flow of the process itself became the goal—the shapes slowly dissipated and the textures became the prominent element.
At one point, I added dozens of small colored linear marks, like stitches in a quilt, woven across the surface attempting to tie it together. Perhaps this was my effort to control the discomforting vagueness, the transitional arena that was this painting. A desire to order and define a “direction by demarcation” during a period of uncertainty about where it was headed. As an artist I’ve long felt most confident as a draftsman speaking with calligraphic lines, so it’s been one of my personal challenges to discover what happens when I let go of this skill. Ultimately, in this painting, the stitchery became an underpinning, the color still sets the tone, but both were overtaken by hundreds of little notes of texture. So it is.
And so it has me wondering: Despite the value of content and importance of organization, if the texture that we create and communicate daily in our lives, our intention and tone of voice and the presence of our being WITHIN our actions, is all that really matters in creating a harmony that we might share with others.