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It’s been over three years. You’ve been dead for longer than I knew you now. There is still this raw piece of my heart, this hurt that I work to keep buried, but that sometimes surfaces unexpectedly. I try to keep it secret, thinking that nobody wants to hear about you, that part of “moving on” and healing is to not talk about you, worried that I’ll make my current boyfriend feel jealous, scared of making people feel sad, or making people think I’m wallowing in grief or using it all selfishly just to get attention. But it’s there, always, on the outskirts, sometimes appearing again in my artwork. I guess it always will be. When those images of you flash back I try to bury them again, hoping it doesn’t show on my face. What is a healthy way to keep someone who’s dead in your heart? How much should one reminisce, honor, worship the dead? How does one navigate how much to let go of and how much to cherish still? I guess it depends on how important they were in life. You were a shining wonderful thing in my life, the answer to what I always looked for; I fucking adored you! One minute you were alive, loving me, and then I found you hanging there, a light extinguished.
This painting is called The Brief Madness of Bliss, part of my thesis work which I dedicated to dealing with my grief associated with my fiance, Jeff Taylor’s, suicide.
For years I’ve painted things, my things – objects I’ve collected and inherited, positioned in an eccentric contrivance or a more conventional arrangement, sometimes nestled among abstract expressionist elements. Monumental objects that require immortalization as well as small almost incidental items that collected dust on a grandmother’s shelf for ages.
Now I’d like to combine my passion and my need to support myself. I’m available for commissions (various sizes and prices to fit your needs.) Send me a photo of your cherished, heirloom, beloved, item and I can reproduce it in paint so you can display an oil paint reproduction of your item next to the beloved item, or split up the heirloom and it’s intricate reproduction so you can keep one and your ever-squabbling sibling can keep the other, allowing everyone to enjoy said heirloom.
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Roll me over – oil on canvas
Recently I presented my work as part of the Greenhill Open NC Art Review program here in Greensboro. It was fun to participate and see other North Carolina artists’ work and offer feedback. It was good to present again, to keep myself from getting rusty after presenting so frequently in school. Here’s a recording of a presentation of my work, what it means, what I mean to capture, what I want to show to entice the viewer’s reactions and memories…
Kewpie Culture, charcoal and oil pastels on paper.
To interpret my individual culture, this was a bit of a challenge. This was the final assignment for a drawing class last year. Although my family heritage was mentioned to me as a child, it was not a major influence. My upbringing did not include much tradition from a specific culture. The biggest thing that molded me was the chaotic feminine energy I was surrounded by–my mother and grandmother and this dysfunctional triangular relationship. So instead of making my final drawing about that, I chose to draw something that makes me happy, something I want to look at, something other people might enjoy as well.
Kewpie dolls really turn me on. I discovered this sweet little doll in a consignment shop last year and immediately fell in love with her but the price was astounding, really…150 bucks! And her entire painted surface is completely chipping off. I visit her sometimes. Even though her price has been reduced, she still sits there, in a glass case, hidden behind some piece of hideous consignment furniture, hiding and waiting for me to come up with the cash–bail to spring her from the bondages of retail.
This drawing is of a kewpie doll on a fluffy, happy cloud floating over a cookie-cutter suburban neighborhood with various objects encircling her head. The drawing represents me transcending the mass-marketed, consumerist society that I previously thought I needed to conform to. I now intentionally influence myself with cultural items that I choose–art/painting, drawing, literature, Buddhism, the heart, music, and nature. I surround myself with a combination of cultural elements that bring me joy.
Buddhism, when revealed to me, made perfect sense. The messages have been packaged and repackaged in various ways over many years. My current favorite is Alan Watts. I know, he existed years ago, inspiring a turned-on hippy generation, but his relaxed attitude and simple down-to-earth delivery of ideas calms me, helps me make sense of things. I like to listen to Alan Watts recordings while I paint. On days that music with lyrics only adds to the swirl of ideas in my head, Watts helps me focus.
What began as a hurried trudge through yet another reading assignment for last semester’s art history class turned into an enjoyable experience, an essay that embodies several of the ideas that shape my world. It was Junichiro Tanizaki’s In Praise of Shadows.
I enjoy Tanizaki’s poetic almost rambling style and the rich images he creates with words (perhaps that’s due in part to Seidensticker’s translation.) Many phrases struck me so significantly that I’m compelled to quote them. His ideas of inhabitation, full descriptions of traditional Japanese architecture, music, paper, pottery, and jade, etc. are worth consideration.
Tanizaki describes Japanese aesthetic preferences, the elegance of age, the glow of grime, the beauty of Japanese lacquerware with its “colors built up on countless layers of darkness” and silverware and metal with dark spoke patina, “the tarnish so patiently waited for,” and the traditional Japanese reverence for shadows and compares them to Western preferences such as the desire to drive out as many shadows as possible.
As a painter who has explored light and shadow for some time, I really appreciate Tanizaki’s explorations in shadows and darkness. His description “how the gold leaf of a sliding door or screen will pick up a distant glimmer from the garden, then suddenly send forth an ethereal glow, a faint golden light cast into the enveloping darkness” captures something I strive to show in my painting. His ideas that “we find beauty not in the thing itself but in the patterns of shadows, the light and the darkness, that one thing against another creates” and we “create a kind of beauty in the shadows we have made in out-of-the-way places” give words to the concepts I’ve been working with.
I identify with Tanizaki’s humble, Buddhist sensibility: “we Orientals tend to seek our satisfactions in whatever surroundings we happen to find ourselves, to content ourselves with things as they are; and so darkness causes us no discontent.” I also battle the “evils of excessive illumination” (how fluorescent light alters the beauty of things) and I lament the loss of trees for the sake of building more highways, retail locations etc. “To snatch away from us even the darkness beneath trees that stand deep in the forest is the most heartless of crimes” exemplifies how I feel about the unnecessary removal of so many trees I see around us.
Give it a read and let me know what you think!
There is some magic that happens between the scratching of a design on a metal plate, submerging it in acid, watching tiny bubbles form…inking up the plate, painstakingly wiping the access ink off, placing plate and paper on pressbed, cranking it through the press, lifing up the blankets and paper to reveal a print. Pure magic.
These are some of my recent etchings.
Prints are for sale. Prices upon request.
At the beginning of the my independent study in painting this semester I was asking myself: What do I want to paint now? What do I want to say? Do I want to paint a variety of subject matter, maybe a landscape and a self portrait, things I don’t typically paint?
While I stressed about subject matter, my wise professor, Roy Nydorf, told me, “Just be painting; all the other questions will take care of themselves.”
I decided I wanted to illuminate little, overlooked objects, vintage toys, random things. I got lost in the details of the things I was painting and the relationships, or possible interactions between the items.
While I enjoyed the details and the suggested narratives, I also enjoyed just what I could do with paint now. I started painting with the idea that it didn’t matter so much what I was painting as how I was painting it.
As I combined various objects and painted them, stories began to form, memories were evoked. I thought about specific memories and how to reproduce them in paint and what viewers might see, what they would identify with, and how my vague suggested memories might ignite the viewer’s personal memories. I explored the relationship between vision and memory and experience and how these things shape how we see the world, the space or discrepancy between what we see and what we remember, and the pictures in our minds versus the outside world’s images and how they can spark our memories.
So, this body of work turned into combinations of vintage toys in secret little environments, sometimes little pockets in nature, evoking nostalgia and wonder. I found that viewers would look, and smile and/or laugh and say things like: “Wow. That’s weird!” and “I had one of those when I was a kid!” and “You and your creepy dolls!”
I wondered about the role of nostalgia in my work.
What is evoked for you?