Journal

But a Little Consciousness

“Time present and time past. Are both perhaps present in time future. And time future contained in time past. If all time is eternally present. All time is unredeemable. What might have been is an abstraction. Remaining a perpetual possibility.”

— T.S. Eliot, “Burnt Norton” from The Four Quartets

Four paintings in progress, 2018

Four paintings in progress, 2018

Back in the studio, with fresh canvases stretched and primed, I have begun work on a series of four like-sized paintings. My initial inspiration for this series has been an earlier painting I made in 2016, The Memory of the Body, which is one of the pieces I’ve made that feels especially personal to me—intimate and complicated and difficult to let go. 

Paintings in progress, 2018

Paintings in progress, 2018

Painting in progress, 2018

Painting in progress, 2018

While the new works incorporate the palette and general brushwork as the earlier one, I am also interested in their relationships to one another—how they are similar and how they vary to, together, create a four-part composition or dialogues. 

Detail, 2018

Detail, 2018

Though this body of work is, of course, not musical, I have begun to think of it as a quartet. And I am reminded of T.S. Eliot’s own Quartets, which are among my favorite poems and have inspired me since even before I began to paint. I will allow, also to quote Eliot, “but a little consciousness” to see where these paintings take me.

Interlude, Paris

Time , Musée Rodin, Paris, 2017

Time, Musée Rodin, Paris, 2017

In between late last year’s sketches and a new set of paintings to come, I spent my winter break looking to other forms of inspiration. In Paris for a few days in December, I turned my camera to sculptures inside the beautiful Musée Rodin on rue de Varenne. 

History , Musée Rodin, Paris, 2017

History, Musée Rodin, Paris, 2017

Profiles , Musée Rodin, Paris, 2017

Profiles, Musée Rodin, Paris, 2017

Auguste Rodin is touted as the father of modern sculpture, but he is not just modern, he is also contemporary. The faces of his sculptures gaze out at us in the today, imbued with a human psychology, and even a compassion, that I believe we both recognize and need, perhaps more than we realize. 

Hands , Musée Rodin, Paris, 2017

Hands, Musée Rodin, Paris, 2017

I was drawn especially to the reflections of the present backdrops in the glass panels of the vitrines that house the sculptures, and I used my camera to capture interiors, windows, tree branches, other visitors, and even a bit of myself in the compositions. 

Reflection , Musée Rodin, Paris, 2017

Reflection, Musée Rodin, Paris, 2017

For this exercise, I was especially drawn to his plaster-cast sculptures, which feel raw and becoming, and their white contours, a perfect surface to capture the fleeting images of our own time.

Thought , Musée Rodin, Paris, 2017

Thought, Musée Rodin, Paris, 2017

Like Drawing for Painting

Studio table, 2017

Studio table, 2017

In between larger paintings and while looking for new approaches, I have been working on a series of small-scale oil pastel drawings. I love how quickly these drawings come to be, how spontaneous they are, especially in comparison to the paintings, which build and layer in a series of dialogues between artist and canvas. 

Red Angel , 2017

Red Angel, 2017

Black and White and Red and Skin , 2017

Black and White and Red and Skin, 2017

These drawings have helped while waiting to prepare and imagine the next paintings—and maybe they will help define the next paintings. Even if they do not, I like them as their own autonomous beings, documents, relics. They are, at least, the residue of these past days in the studio . . . 

Studio table, 2017

Studio table, 2017

The Paint Is Ecstatic

This autumn I have been working on a triptych that fills one wall of my studio. Since the inception of the three paintings, I had thought of them as a complete piece and had given the work the title "Cathedral." This initial title came from various sources. The three panels made me think of an altarpiece. I was also drawn to the idea that the shapes of cathedrals were derived from equivalents in nature, which is a theme I am preoccupied with in much of my work. And Raymond Carver's short story "Cathedral" inspired me, too, especially as I tried to envision the titular structure in this work and its many symbolic interpretations.

Ecstasies  in progress, 2016

Ecstasies in progress, 2016

As the piece evolved, it felt somewhat unruly and I struggled to bring it into a cohesive form. Unusual to my painting practice whereby I typically let the paint provide most of a work's direction, I sketched some basic drawings to help me. One of these sketches gave me the idea to give each canvas a separate form instead of one flowing field across the three paintings.

Study for a Resolution , 2016

Study for a Resolution, 2016

The result changed the general concept of the work and along with it its title, which is common in  my practice—many paintings have a few different titles before the final one settles in (and sometimes I have returned to change the names of my paintings years later). The new title—Ecstasies—was born during a particularly challenging—and eventually ecstatic—day in the studio and also bears a religious connotation. 

Ecstasies  in progress, 2016

Ecstasies in progress, 2016

It is interesting to me that the original title, though discarded, was generally in keeping with the subject of the final piece. It is as though the theme was always there, even before the first layer of paint.

Light in August

This summer I have been working on the first layers of a new painting, a triptych that fills one wall of my studio. The first layers of my painting, as opposed to the later layers perhaps, tend to rely heavily on instinct and chance. Often the early manifestations can seem the most like nature, with the painter's hand more subtly revealed than it may seem to be in the final composition.

Detail of new work, 2016

Detail of new work, 2016

While working on this painting, I saw a similar "painting" on the wall of my apartment, which I was able to photograph. I love the late-summer light as captured in my camera, and I especially love the common movements and depictions of light and paint.

Light on a wall, 2016

Light on a wall, 2016

Conversations with Old Paintings

Desk and painting, 2016

Desk and painting, 2016

Recently, two of my older paintings came home after a friend was moving out of her apartment and could not keep them. Having the canvases here again is a bit like seeing old friends. In the paintings I remember, fondly, another time, and I see how, though different from my newer works, the earlier ones most certainly inform the latter compositions.

Although it is difficult to imagine making the same paintings again today, it is also difficult to imagine today's work without the earlier pieces and what I learned from making them. At any given time, I think that I am always the most interested in the painting I am working on, but looking back at the older compositions does carry the same depth and delight as seeing an old friend, or like leafing through old pages in a diary.

While Waiting for the Paint to Dry ...

Because I work in layers, much of my work happens in intervals of waiting for the paint to dry, before the action takes place again. In the interims, I spend time looking at the work and thinking about the next applications. I also spend time accessing the painting in forms of other media. For example, as many of my paintings are about light and movement, last week I spent some time at the ocean, studying the wave patterns under the sun. From that afternoon, I created a small series of photographs, Studies of Sea and Light

From  Studies of Sea and Light , 2016

From Studies of Sea and Light, 2016

Also, when I am traveling and away from the studio I try to find other ways to stay connected to my work. Visiting museums is always immensely satisfying, as is creating small drawings or photograph albums. On a recent trip, I stayed in a hotel next to a river and made a small film of the water's light reflected on my room's ceiling. 

As always, these studies form some part of the paintings that emerge around them. Though it seems impossible to know the exact relationships, together I feel they form some kind of unified field with the paintings, a tapestry of sorts I am always interested to explore.

In My Beginning Is My End

Studio, 2016

Studio, 2016

As one painting finishes, another begins. I love seeing parts of the old work in the new, and parts in the new work previously unseen. As a painting concludes, parts of it — parts obvious, parts hidden, parts unused, parts inspired by, or even parts seemingly unrelated to — emerge on the new canvas. And in this rise and fall of connectivity, in one painting's end is another's beginning. 

The Figure Fragmentary

Over the holidays, I was delighted to acquire at long last a figurative sculpture for my home. The piece, more than one hundred years old, is missing its head and parts of its arms, and other portions of it are corroded or darkened with time. I still love it, though, and, in fact, I probably love it more than if it was complete. 

Fragmented sculpture, 2015

Fragmented sculpture, 2015

This statue made me think about my charcoal drawings of the human figure, many of which served originally as studies and depict partial or incomplete forms. It occurs to me that in these works, I, too, prefer the fragmentary to the whole.

Cataloguing drawings, 2015

Cataloguing drawings, 2015

Charcoal drawing, 2014

Charcoal drawing, 2014

Charcoal drawing, 2014

Charcoal drawing, 2014

Often, I have struggled to complete such drawings, only to be dissatisfied by doing so. Perhaps, it is as Rainer Maria Rilke wrote in his famous poem "Archaic Torso of Apollo" that if the sculpture were compete, we would not be so dazzled, and it would not, "from all the borders of itself, burst like a star."

Art for Art's Sake

Brushes in turpentine, 2015

Brushes in turpentine, 2015

When I am away from the studio for a week, the brushes, turpentine, and oil paints conspire to make their own compositions in the cleaning jar. In this case, I love the yellow tint of the turpentine and the red spears of cadmium red. I also love the fragile Rothko-esque line that divides the pigment from the spirits. I hope these materials may form their delicate impressions on my canvases soon, too—and that I know when to let their beautiful workings be . . .

Brushes in turpentine, 2015

Brushes in turpentine, 2015

Blossoming

Painting in progress, 2015

Painting in progress, 2015

Very few of my paintings begin with any preconceived idea. Most of the beginnings result from an inclination toward a color palette and some raw instinct, then the paint begins to inform the impression. Titles for the works or general directions usually happen later, sometimes part way through a painting's completion, sometimes at its end. A few layers into the painting I am working on now, I realized that it would somehow reflect the qualities of a rose, although not in a representational sense.

From  Rose Portraits , 2015

From Rose Portraits, 2015

From  Rose Portraits , 2015

From Rose Portraits, 2015

To satisfy the urge of creating something less abstract and to lend some insight into the painting, perhaps, I undertook to photograph a small group of roses in a vase on my living room table. The side project resulted in a series of digital photographs titled Rose Portraits. I may not ever know how this endeavor affects the painting, or why I felt drawn to the subject and the study, but I look forward to seeing what emerges on the canvas ...

From  Rose Portraits , 2015

From Rose Portraits, 2015

The Secret Lives of Paintings

Bottom edge of a painting, 2015

Bottom edge of a painting, 2015

Much of my work in oils focuses on the paint and what it does apart from the manipulation of it. I am especially delighted to find the medium's own secret expressions in the studio: on the bottom edge of a painted canvas, on an easel ledge, or on the wood floor.

Easel ledge, 2015

Easel ledge, 2015

Studio floor, 2015

Studio floor, 2015

Many years ago, I came to prefer accidental portions of completed canvases over the whole and final compositions that I had intended. Eventually, I cut the unexpected parts out of the paintings to re-conceive new depictions, with a nod to Wallace Stevens: "In the sum of the parts, there are only the parts."

Two fragments from old paintings, 2015

Two fragments from old paintings, 2015

Fragment from an old painting, 2015

Fragment from an old painting, 2015

One fragment of six pink vertical brushstrokes felt especially remarkable to me in whatever its quality was that seemed not to be made by me. This small and unintended portion of a larger painting made more than ten years ago, continues to inspire my practice today.

Transfiguration

When I began to paint, I was drawn to the figure as a subject for my art. I had, at that time, drawn the human form in many of my classes, and so its migration to oil was very logical. I painted the figure for several years, and I continue to draw it to this day, but I often felt frustrated when I tried to render it in paint. Elements of line and form, so critical in the representation of the body, felt natural with the medium of charcoal, but with paint they felt forced and restrictive. Paint, which smears and bleeds and stains, often creates its own impressions, accidental perhaps, but these aspects could interfere with a successful depiction of a representational form.

Figure drawing, 2014

Figure drawing, 2014

One day, I decided to let the paint be, and to let it guide the image that would emerge on the parallelogram of stretched canvas. I began to respond more to the paint and less to a preconceived idea of what would appear. Thus began what I consider to be a more mature relationship with the medium: painter and paint in dialogue, in dance, or in a series of chess moves. And, ironically, perhaps, the body remains very present in these compositions, in such plastic associations as flesh tones and what some have deemed the appearances of organs and veins, but in more abstracted ways, also, showing us, possibly, what we cannot physically see of a being otherwise.

Studio wall, 2014

Studio wall, 2014