Notes on Precision, Part 1

For the past few years my hand has relaxed, the paint and it’s subject become more suggested, less insistent and precise.  This relaxation has been deliberate and perhaps inevitable.

Many people who are aware of my work now only know it as it has appeared for the past 15-20 years or so.  There is a period preceding this work which most know nothing about.  This period predates websites and social media and because of that is less familiar.  It was marked by stained, unprimed canvases, radical shifts in paint application ranging from staining, to heavy, thick cracked and sagging painting and globs of gesso and precisely taped off and clean edged shapes.  Often, all within one canvas.  It was a period of learning the possibilities of what the materials could do but also an insistence on allowing the surface of the canvas be just that - a surface, made of cloth which held the impressions of paint in its many manifestations.  It was a not a ‘window”.  In some ways you could say I treated it more like a chalkboard - written on, erased, revised, written again, etc.

This era was a time of great upheaval in my community in San Francisco; AIDS was terrifyingly out of control, we had just entered the Gulf War and many were afraid of what terror that could unleash.  San Francisco had recently endured a very serious earthquake and the casualties of it were everywhere in displaced people and cracked unusable buildings and roadways.  Perhaps my work reflected this sense of upheaval, uncertainty and things broken.  

As time went on, my work also moved on and I found new places to live and work across the United States.  These new environments found expression in my imagery and new narratives found a voice in the work.  For a number of years the paintings continued to be opened ended but also started to contain more specific and concrete images.  Also, there were more literal landscapes and interior spaces depicted.  I found myself quite seduced by the possibility of creating believable illusions of objects in space.  I was never encouraged or really even trained in this way of art making so it was an exciting period of self-teaching and trial and error.  

As time went on, the images within the paintings became more and more concrete, tied to the seen and understood world and the painting surfaces grew less agitated and more subservient to the narrative and illusions I was so enamored with.  Simultaneously, my paintings were starting to sell more regularly.  (Perhaps a connection there?  Possibly.  More on that another time).  While my career was improving my personal life was becoming more challenging and uncertain and as I look back, I think something very interesting started to take root.  Rather than the work reflecting the turmoil around me as it did earlier in San Francisco, it instead became a place of certainty and precision - and alternative to my personal turmoil.  

Perhaps it was a salve, a calming tonic with which I could find some certainty and balance. In the studio creating very clear, clean and orderly paintings I could find some order.  Nothing terribly wrong in this. For many people, art making is the activity which helps them make sense of and feel stable in the world.  My previous meandering process turned into more of a straight line and the paintings reflected this new sense of clarity and order.  But, these self-made illusions don’t last for long.  Or at least for me they don’t.