I’ve been reviewing past work over the last few weeks for a variety of reasons. Sometimes I am looking for an idea or motif that has not been in use for some time. A new lead to re-examine and follow anew. Sometimes, it’s pure nostalgia, looking at the work as group with a small bit of pride, like a parent looking at photos of their kids. And I sometimes go back through my files because they serve as a form of memory for me. While I may have the details of most of my work stored somewhere in the folds of my brain, I can’t always pull them forward. Seeing the images brings back everything in a torrent.
The painting above is a good example of this rush of detail. Titled Archaeology: The Story Told, it’s a 20″ by 30″ canvas from the 2008 Archaeology series. Although I don’t like to publucly state that there are pieces that are favorites, this painting was one of my favorites from this group.
There is so much I like about this painting from the moody duskiness of the sky with its purples that grade downward to the way the underground boulders create a visually rhythmic counterpoint. But the thing that always stuck out for me was how the underground debris came together to form a narrative, which is where the title originated. There was no intent in painting this. All of the debris was painted in a freestyle manner, with each piece being painted independently from one another outside of possible relationships in size and shape. It wasn’t until it was done that I began to see a stroyline running through the heap of items.
For me, it was the story of this country starting with the obvious prompting of what looks to be an American flag at the center of the bottom. There was a bell that reminded me instantly of the Liberty Bell to represent our Revolution and a Viking helmet that told of the earliest European explorers here. There was a cowboy boot that symbolized our westward movement and what appeared to be a lance for the weapons that the native Americans used in their defense of their land. There is a pitchfork for the agriculture that sustained and help the nation expand. There is an electric light to represent the inventors like Edison who transformed our country and machine parts for the industrialization. There is a baseball bat for our national pasttime. A peace symbol for both its inherent meaning as well as for its use as symbol of protest and our right to speak freely.
It’s all loosely associated and many may not even see them in a unified way but for me it all came together in a single glance and that was how I immediately read the painting. It’s unlike any of the other paintings in this series in that way and that makes it special for me.
Gary T., I hope you don’t mind me showing your painting!