an artist statement
Yesterday I faced that recurring challenge, writing an artist statement--this time for Wilde Meyer Gallery
, which is mounting a group show of abstract artists that includes my work, opening next week (1/10/08) in Tucson.
A few years ago I took an online course from Alyson Stanfield
about writing artist statements that was extremely helpful and has helped with this chore ever since. Through various interesting writing assignments, she guided participants towards crafting a statement that was concise and intriguing enough to lead the reader to want to know more. The sort, condensed version isn't right for every situation, though (and this was also addressed within Alyson's class.) What I needed for Wilde Meyer was a longer and more detailed statement, that they could use as background information--to attract press, to inform collectors--something with substance to help them answer questions about my work. I'm sharing what I wrote, both for readers who have questions about my work and just because it's as good a summary of what I do as I've written to date, and I'm kind of pleased with it. The accompanying image is Vertical #15
, which will be on display at the Wilde Meyer exhibit. It is 66"x12," oil on board. Artist Statement
I live and work in a beautiful rural area of west central Wisconsin, and this allows me a great deal of solitude and connection with nature, which is an important source for my imagery. I have been working as a professional, full time artist for over 20 years, since graduating with an MFA in Painting from Arizona State University. In that time my imagery has ranged from representational views of the landscape to pure abstraction, to a blend of abstraction and referential images. At present you may see textures and colors reminiscent of rock, rust, foliage or sky, alongside areas of pure color or abstract markings or symbols.
I use many techniques in my work, including some from an early foray into printmaking, and I maintain an open, experimental attitude towards materials and tools. All of the following, and more, can be found on my work table--paint sticks and tube paints, metallic colors, powdered pigments, powdered graphite, marble dust, cold wax medium, brayers, rollers, rags, bits of plastic, twigs, whisk brooms, dish scrubbers, sponges, squeegees, paint scrapers and palette knives.
My techniques involve building up layers of paint over many painting sessions, and also selectively removing and erasing certain areas. I do this by scraping, gouging and dissolving paint so that underlying areas emerge. Sometimes I apply a thin layer of paint, and then burnish it to allow a glow from underneath to come through. The cold wax medium that I use enhances the transparency and brilliance of the oils, and creates a smooth matte finish. My techniques result in a subtly nuanced, rich surface that resonates with the complexities of nature that I look to for inspiration.
Most of my paintings are made of individually painted panels, which are then mounted together--the divisions between panels providing tension and structure to what is otherwise flowing, organic imagery. I lean towards either a vertical or square format for my work, both of which seem to enhance its abstract qualities. I think this may be because a horizontal format is often associated with realistic landscapes—when I do use horizontal compositions, I notice more of these associations. So it becomes a matter of my intentions for the painting.
I’m often asked how I decide upon the arrangement of panels. Sometimes, the need for certain colors or textures in order to resolve a composition guides me as I paint--and other times all the panels evolve separately and come together later. I consider the specific arrangement of panels very carefully, and can spend nearly as much time figuring this out as I do actually applying paint. There is an aspect of collage work to this, in that I often discover unexpected and pleasing juxtapositions in the process. I regard everything as in flux and up for change until finally settling on what works best—what is most evocative of a place, a memory, or is just inexplicably “right”--and then I have the panels permanently mounted together with bolts.
Even in my own mind, there is no single interpretation of my work. Each painting is an open-ended exploration, undertaken with this blend of spontaneity and careful analysis. It is my hope that in the end, my work has a clarity and integrity that invites contemplation and the viewer’s own imaginative response.