Sometimes I feel like the worst part of being an artist is both reading and writing artist’s statements. Usually this is only when I’m reading or writing artist’s statements, but you get what I mean. It’s unfortunate, because in a perfect world this wouldn’t be the case. I feel like the unfortunate trap is trying to make something that should be honest and simple sound grand and overwrought. I’ve been a victim of this trap. It’s a difficult trap to avoid. I’m not sure why others write the pretentious, seemingly intentionally impossible to decipher statements they do. Or maybe that’s wrong. I suppose to a certain extent I get it. It can be painfully difficult to articulate what you’re doing with words. I mean, if I wanted to write it down I’d be a writer. Sometimes artists really do have deeply complicated and difficult to understand visions, but probably not in most cases.
Really though I should only speak for myself. In the past I wanted my paintings to sound important I guess, or weighty, so I would use convoluted statements. They’re painful to read now. I was probably trying to dazzle some phantom curator rather than actually explain my paintings or be honest in any way. I was trying to prop the paintings up with words, to use the statement as a distraction from a much weaker body of work. Or maybe I didn’t know how to articulate what I was actually thinking about because I only forced myself to write about my art once every couple of years. Or maybe I was afraid. Maybe a combination of those, and probably some other problems too. I don’t want to do any of that anymore. It’s a cop out to say “I want the paintings to speak for themselves,” but now they’re strong enough they don’t need help, instead I can be honest and simple. At least I hope that’s true. And so here’s my latest attempt:
I've been making work in the last few years focusing primarily on the things I carry with me through my life: the everyday things, the burdens of sadness and anxiety and anger. The difficult to navigate and painful things that I have trouble talking about like an adult. The formless things, the uncertainty. I sometimes feel like I almost understand, like I can almost get my hands around it, why do I feel like this, why are they like that, why is this the way that it is? But I can’t ever sort it out. I can’t ever find a satisfying explanation.
And so I paint.
A long time ago someone very important to me told me “painting isn’t fun, painting is in the blood.” At the time I thought that I understood what he meant, or at least I pretended to. I didn’t really, but I do now. I’m not painting because I think the paintings are solutions. The paintings are just my problems spooled out using animals and flowers and smoke and fire and tangled, interconnected strings.
I like to use allegories and metaphors so a viewer can take what they need from my troubles without having to have precisely the same problems. I'm being vague and esoteric intentionally, so they can hang their worries from the same tree.
When it goes right I get a taste of something so amazing it’s difficult to put into words. It’s like a slow, warm rising tide when I can push light around with color, when I can make a feather read like a feather, when smoke looks like it’s billowing out of a fire, when I can make an eye flash like an eye, when I can feel the air in the space that I just made. It’s like magic.
It’s so strong I can stop worrying about everything for just a little while, about dying, about my future, about being alone forever. There’s no creeping dread, no hopelessness, no anxiety. But then it goes away and I have to try to get there again, and again, and again.