I wasn’t planning on featuring another older blog post. But in recent days I have realized that some of the struggles I am going through in the studio are very similar to those I experienced in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks in late 2001 and through 2002. My reaction to those attacks and the the current state of the country has been very similar.
But there are differences between now and then. How these will come out in the work is still to be seen. It seemed in 2001 our angst was a matter of simple light and dark. Right and wrong. But the situation now is much different. It is almost Kafkaesque in its absurdity. Truth has become a matter of perception and belief rather than factual evidence. We are no longer facing a darkness from some outside force.
Instead we find ourselves in a tangle of lies, disinformation and misinformation. Deeply divided visions for our future. A giant Gordian knot of our own darkness. And like the Gordian knot, the solution to undoing this tangle may come from an unlikely person or source. A unique strategy that involves thinking outside of the box. Or the stroke of a sword.
While I have yet to act on this impulse, I am seeing my coming work, much like I did in 2001, in darker tones. Deeper shadows. And like that earlier “dark work” the focus and strength of the work will not be found in the oppressive nature of the darkness. No, it’s strength will hopefully arise from the hope found in the light that will be there.
And there will be light.
This is from back in 2008:
My work had a dramatic change for a while in the months after 9/11. Like everyone, my worldview shifted that day and this was reflected in my work. It became darker in appearance and tone, a bit more ominous in feel. A lot of this had to do, technically, with the way the pieces were painted. I was using a dark base and adding color in layers on top of this base, slowly building up my surface. Much like painting on black velvet. Normally I start with a white base and add layers of colors, taking away color as needed to achieve a desire effect. As I pulled paint off the surface, the light base would come through and give the picture plane a glowing presence. My normal technique is basically a “reductive” style whereas this new work in 2002 was “additive”.
Being untrained, these are terms I’ve adopted to sort of describe what I see as my technique. They work for me.
This new work was not nearly so optimistic in feeling as my previous work. People were a bit slower to embrace it and I wasn’t surprised at a time when our nation was still reeling. But it was a true expression of how I felt at that time and I remember my time at the easel with these pieces as being very trance-like. I would start a piece and have a hard time stopping. A virtual intoxication of color. Or maybe more of a refuge in the scenes. I don’t know.
Since the public was a bit more lukewarm to this group , which the galleries call “the dark work”, I have several of these pieces still and I am still both excited and calmed when I look at them. They are rich and bold and very still in nature. They may be dark but I still think there is hope in these paintings but it’s a wary type of hope.
And in the end, hope is hope…