About My Work:
The plethora of viewpoints, direct and mediated, available to us at the beginning of the twenty-first century, create labyrinths of information simultaneously clarifying and distorting landscape. Utilizing the ancient activity of mark making, with its evolutions of symbolism and use, I experiment with form, color, and subject while exploring issues of aesthetics and how they relate to the self and society.
Early in my painting practice, I was repeatedly dissatisfied with the different greens that I mixed and applied trying to represent plant life; I could never get green to look alive. This led to the idea that plant life, along with ocean, sky, rock, dirt, and mold, all impact the senses in ways that perhaps could never be reproduced with paint. However, this effort to evoke experiences comparable to looking at parts of landscape is essential to my work.
With acrylic paint on canvas I experiment with texture, translucent layers of color, space, genuine accidents, contrived accidents, as well as attempts at machine-like precision. I work on many canvases simultaneously, organizing them in bookshelves and stacks, putting several on the wall and ground, making marks on individuals, and putting wet paint in the sun to dry. I like the properties of acrylic paint, including the ways in which the pigment is dispersed when carried by different mediums and dried at different rates. I often make marks/glazes/washes and let them dry slowly or, with the help of the sun or an electric heater, speed up the drying process in order to see the result.
While hesitating to introduce explicit subject matter, I repeatedly find myself mimicking certain landscape elements in these paintings: the horizon line, land, dirt, rock, ocean, sky, the moon, clouds, and mountains. This subject matter––the background––provides a foothold in landscape while leaving formal qualities in the foreground. I want aspects of the things that I am looking at and interested in to bleed through these formal qualities.
As part of my art practice I am constantly building websites and projects that I use as tools for collecting, organizing, and looking at images, videos, and ideas found or self-captured. I am interested in media that is in the public domain––for instance, the 1880 tintype of Billy the Kid [image] (bought this year by William Koch), an 1862 wet collodion negative of Allan Pinkerton with Lincoln [image], and Courbet’s 1854 painting The Meeting. These works were made in a time when photography was becoming more common, leaving us with more images than ever before, and at a time when the last of the American frontier was being thoroughly “tamed.” Cormac McCarthy writes in his 1985 novel Blood Meridian, set in the mid-nineteeth century, that “not again in all the world’s turning [would] there be terrains so wild and barbarous to try whether the stuff of creation may be shaped to man’s will or whether his own heart is not another kind of clay.”
For the past fifteen years I have been shooting photographs and video of landscape. I first fell in love with these mediums as ways of looking while visiting my relatives on the volcanic island of Pico in the Azores, a Portuguese archipelago situated along the mid-Atlantic Ridge. A mountain rising one and a half miles out of the Atlantic and with a Mediterranean climate like that of the Bay Area, Pico seemed both ancient and familiar, and I wanted to capture all that I saw so that I could always “go back.” My use of this way of looking has continued and evolved with a similar kind of passion for the environment I encounter on my commutes throughout the Bay Area. These tools for looking have become important to my existence as an individual living in a particular area––a citizen––and, in turn, to my practice as a painter. I’ve grown to love the shapes of the horizons from different viewpoints, acknowledging that they seep into consciousness.
During the 2011 Reykjavik symposium Other Perspectives, Nicolas Bourriaud delivered a lecture [the video] in which he described Louis Althusser’s concept of interpellation by using the example of advertising calling one out and by doing so transforming one into “the subject of the consumption sphere.” I am interested in land’s capacity to call one out (as Bourriaud puts it, “Hey you there!”) and to what extent this happens through––and/or in spite of––a society that increasingly ignores the background, putting so many screens in the foreground.