from there to here
a while ago about the difficult transition into my current abstract style which happened about ten years ago, and this time, I'd like to go further back--the painting above of beetles is from 1980 when I was an undergrad at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. I painted this just before my first experiments with abstraction, and from then on, throughout the 80s and 90s, my work bounced all over between representation and pure abstraction, seeking a place on that continuum that felt right for me.
My first forays into abstraction involved breaking up, overlapping and layering fragmented images of natural objects such as insects, shells and bones. The painting below is an example (no date, but I think it's 1981.)
In my Bachelor of Fine Arts senior show in 1982, I showed mostly this kind of work, with insect forms predominating. Sometimes they were fragmented (as above) and sometimes set into surreal landscapes. Around this time, as I was preparing for graduate school, I wrote in one of my sketchbooks that my goal for the next few years was to learn to paint abstractly. I commented that I had absolutely no idea how to go about this. It seems an odd thing to write now, as I look back, because I can see that I was already on that path. I had moved away from factual rendering of form-- the still life approach that served me as I began my observations of insects, rocks and shells--and was seeking a different kind of spatial depiction. Although I was eager to explore new territory in abstraction, I know now that what I learned from realistic depiction was--and continues to be-- extremely useful, enhancing my work in terms of technical ability, and the understanding of basic art elements.
The etching below from about 1980 also shows an interest in the textures and forms of landscape that have been a consistent focus for me over the years.
In graduate school at Arizona State University (1982-1985) the space in many of my paintings entered the realm of the surreal, while the forms mutated and morphed away from identifiable natural objects. They retained a connection to landscape though, and to the strange plant forms of the desert. This work seemed to flow out of my subconscious, and in looking back, I see that I was fearless about painting the oddest things and putting them out for critique. I find a lot of this work disturbing to look at now, so raw and primal. In the arc of my development from early days into maturity I've become far more subtle, reserved and gentle in my work. A natural progression, though, if one's work reflects inner states of mind and being.
Please stay tuned for my next post, and a quick run through paintings from the years 1985-2000.