June 21, 2011

Untitled (516)

ink, graphite on clayboard
© 2011 Lumi 9

I've been waiting to blog about this piece because it represents a mild, but important, departure from some of my more recently developed artistic habits (I finished it about two weeks ago). The major differences are: (1) the loss of symmetry (though it's truer to say that it has just been embedded deeper than before), and (2) I'm working from a reference for the first time in a long time.

The reasons for these changes are simple (and yet, not so): (1) though the obsessive symmetry employed in most of my pictures is a sort of "edge acknowledgement" of the object upon which I am focusing my attention [see Untitled (498), and Samhain], it can be a bit restrictive visually. I hopefully have done the best that I can to avoid this entrapment; but it must be admitted that the time required to breath life in a frontal, completely symmetrical, figural apparition requires a vastly larger amount of time than if I were to loosen my belt and release my forms from the grid. But with this newly applied "attitude" (more explanation to follow), I have completed similar works of similar size in 2 days, a piece - as opposed to the months required for works like Snakesong. But have no doubt, symmetry will return in my work again and again. (2) the choice to use reference material has more to do with not requiring the non-use of them in my methods of picture making. In other words, I've been interested in exploring the limitations (if there are any) of solitary, unfettered imagination for a long time and I think with the past year to year-and-a-half of painting has given me the confidence to let my guard down and say that I don't need reference material to make a work of art (notice I haven't said anything about good or  bad).

It was more of a challenge to myself to not rely on what my artistic education and experience has tried many times to convince me of what the backbone my practice should be: life drawing. I know I can draw from life. But for reasons that are felt as both idiosyncratic and necessary, I found it distasteful to heavily lean on the generously flowing streams of information that would pour from me in life drawing classes. It just seemed to come a bit too easy for me to be comfortable with the minor accomplishments of that setting. Honestly, I can't tell you exactly why I felt this way. But with hesitant approximation, I'll say I think I set my resolve to try to avoid the figure drawing tradition about 6-7 years ago when I was at the Kansas City Art Institute. I was (naively, I say now) trying to uphold another tradition: the avante-garde. Though my drawing skills have been intermittently abused in the intervening years in some pieces and art projects (see Emma, Box Watching), it has remained on the far periphery of my artistic output.

The fact that I am now inserting observational data does not insinuate that I'm finished with purely imaginal, symmetrical works. It is better to say it is the beginnings of feeling a bit more comfortable in my own skin and personal history. Obviously from Untitled (516), I have no interest in keeping the integrity of the original objects intact in the final work. I will continue to focus on the potential distortions and the plasticity of unbridled vision in a sufficiently loosened, yet composed pictorial environment. But the days of stubborn, obstinate refusal to use the basic tools at my disposal because doing so might make me feel like an artist with fewer limitations are finally beginning to wane (I remember a time when digital technologies like Photoshop were anathema for me... actually, also around 6-7 years ago).

I'd like to say that it's my newfound sense of humility... but it's more likely been the consistent hammering of practical concerns over the past two years. Either way, this new found artistic attitude is very welcome and I look forward to its output.

There's many things I can say about this work, but I think I've typed at your eyes long enough. But the short ending I want to leave you with is that works like Untitled (516) are going to be coming out of my studio much faster than the pieces made for The Other Folk show, so I expect to be working from this blog a lot more often in the future. So stay posted and you'll get to see the process unfold!


  1. I'm absolutely in love with it! Really. I wish I could see it in person.

  2. Thanks Ash.

    Our next feminist debate party needs to be sooner rather than later ;-)