Pilgrim’s Process 2015 – 2018
Spanning the past few years, the work here represents a progression of sustained exploration. My artistic approach focuses on the formal qualities of color, line, shape, texture, and composition. Like many artists, I create a visual patois that makes sense intuitively. I rely on process rather than intent. Venture first; meaning may follow.
Some argue that formalism is void of significance; art for art’s sake is less than…, say, a portrait, a political stance, an examination of what’s out there. I disagree. I believe there is value in an inner recursive approach to creation. How do I know what I mean until I reflect on what I’ve created?
2015 to 2018 has been a time of shifts in both my personal world and the outer world as I have experienced it. There is a story here. It chronicles the journey of creating and reflects my response to the currents of time, the changing political landscape, daily life, and the solace of nature. I try to capture what excites me and keeps me working in face of no obvious external rewards.
The story begins after 2014 when I took a year off from making art. I had completed two series of works in quick succession and a friend urged me to simply stop painting in order to rest and renew.
After a year off, I started back up when I took a month-long residency at Byrdcliffe Arts Colony in Woodstock. The result included three paintings–North Clearing, South Clearing and West Clearing. The palette is pared down to avoid the distraction of color. Each piece is composed of dark forms, land masses perhaps, set against a textured white surface. The masses float off to the sides, presenting a cleared space from which to start again.
The painting Landing, started at Byrdcliffe and finished a few months later, presents a symmetrical composition. The light and dark areas oppose each other, separate but connected by a slender white line. The layered surface quality makes it seem like two land masses floating, anchored by the U shapes that frame the sides. After the clearing, here’s where I landed.
The paintings Tracks and Stacked, started in 2016 at a retreat at the Saltonstall Arts Colony outside of Ithaca, were inspired by my daily jogs along country roads that surround the colony. From clearing to landing, I started to travel along the rolling hills at the peak of autumn in central New York.
My fascination with rocks, pebbles, and nature’s textures can be found in the Pilgrim paintings. Surface, shape and composition convey both the strength and fragility of relationships, while also suggesting a pathway.
Meanwhile, my partner and I now owned 34 acres of wooded land on a ridge between Honeoye and Canadice Lakes. Over the past few years we’ve cultivated a mile or more of paths through the property. With the help of maps and GPS, we have come to know the possibilities of this land. Hiking the paths through woods and fields intensified my fascination with line and this became evident in the paintings North Trail, East Trail and West Trail. These works were executed in late 2016 and early 2017, a time when the national political landscape shifted dramatically and I found myself in a dark place. In a 2007 interview with Border Crossings magazine, Sean Scully notes, “I think that my struggle is more with the world than with painting. I’m very affected by all the things that go on in the world that are not right. It makes me very, very sorrowful. And I bring all that to the painting.” Though I didn’t realize it at the time, these paintings present a vast dark space with shadowy floating organic forms—new forces of command. Light peaks through scratches and the darkness gives way to a bright thick line of color, suggesting the necessity of hope in dark times.
Digital photographs taken from drones and maps generated from GPS allowed us to plan pathways and create a gravity-fed water system on our land in Springwater. The images from the technology influenced the larger paintings A Map of Getting Lost, Finding a Way Home, Midway, and The Path Forward. My interest in line extended to creating webs and regions of texture with paint squeezed from a dropper and guided by gravity. The paintings could be seen as aerial views of zones or expanses among layers of glazes punctuated with small geometric shapes and a few hard lines. With these paintings, the process becomes the journey which becomes the image.
When referring to the intersections between life and art, there is the process of integration, whether conscious or not. Rauschenberg famously said that he worked in the gap between the two—life and art. The past few years I’ve given myself more time to reflect and less pressure to create work, meanwhile maintaining the focus of a creative practice. As time passes I continue to grow. Everything seems more meaningful but less impelling. I now wait patiently for the painting to tell me the next step. It may take days or weeks, but something usually comes along that points me in the next direction.
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