Friday, December 5, 2014

PrattMWP Alumni Exhibtion

So I've been really pretty awful at maintaining my blog. My last post was on the One Hundred Paintings Project somewhere around painting 50, I think. I'm now into the 80s on that front. I took a break to pursue other work. I'll probably post some long sweeping post at some point to get it all up-to-date, but I digress...

In the last month I became pretty busy painting and drawing (as well as battling this season's latest viruses among, other things). I got accepted to show my work at the PrattMWP SOA gallery but as I sold a lot of my recent work a few months ago, I didn't have much to fill a 30+ foot wall with, so I decided to work a little bigger and try out some different mediums. By the by, I might remark, that experimenting a month before a show is not something I recommend. The first oil painting came like a breeze, the rest however, were painstaking and discouraging. The important thing I learned though is, while I generally like that I am prolific, trying to squeeze multiple projects into a month time-frame doesn't allow me time to reflect or step away from what I'm working on. I feel like a part of me enjoys the thrill of the stress. I'm told I'm very cool under pressure, but I think it's just that I've been panicking my whole life and no one can tell the difference anymore. Ha.

I was also required to give a short lecture, which is not exactly my forté, and can I just say that years of schooling did not prepare me for this moment? Luckily it was pretty laid back. The last time I remember giving a lecture was 2nd grade. I wrote an essay in favor of mandating uniforms in schoolsI know, weird, right? I also won a poetry contest once when I was young, I had to read aforementioned poem in front of an entire assembly of students and parents. I've also participated in an array of acting, musical performances, and teaching sessions... but I'm a backwards and broken person. A walking contradiction with no where to go. C'est la vie.

Anyway, I thought I would delve into the meaning behind the pieces, especially for my friends and family who are abroad or live far away, since they couldn't be there to see the lecture. There were three other artists involved, all with great work, pertaining to nature, organic forms, and/or environmentalism. My pieces specifically revolved around environmental issues.

The first painting I did was called Circles. I admire the cyclical motion of nature and how things occur on a biological clock. The aim of this painting was, as a viewer you were not supposed to be able to tell whether the owl was putting leaves on the tree or removing them. I wanted to show the consistency of nature and symbiotic relationship between nature and it's inhabitants. How one gives to another (for better or worse). It's a constant ebb and flow. In terms of environmentalism, it begs the question of whether or not we are changing or creating a new cycle by taking more than we are giving, which has been evident through the change in how our seasons and climate operate. I wanted to illuminate the consequences of choosing to dominate and control nature. I tend to use a sort of melding of symbolism, allegory and surrealism in my work. Red leaves have been a prominent object in this season's body of art. I've been using them to represent threat and danger, as well as transformation and change (due to the red leaves which are in abundance during autumn—a season which tends to represent change).


Oil on Canvas

The second painting is called The Fates. The Fates appear throughout many different cultures and mythologies. I first heard of them in Greek mythology. They were said to have more power than the Gods and as such they were the authority on how a mortal and possibly immortals, lived and how long they lived. There were three, one to spin the yarn of life, one to measure the length of life, and one to cut the yarn. So, in this painting The Fates are depicted as three gold jays. In the bird world, jays are known for their cunning and fearlessness. (Trust me, I've seen many a jay bully all other birds away from the bird feeder.) The painting is primarily gold to portray their immortality, and invincibility. They are drowning, or at the very least, bathing in this pool of oil, which is meant to say that even those who govern all can't escape the dependency on oil, or can't be relinquished from it's hold on the world. The people who have the power are in a sort of tunnel vision, so-to-speak. It is so much a part of, and connected to everything we use to survive, and this seemingly vital substance affects all living things. The bird generally symbolizes freedom and flight, here they are incapacitated and imprisoned. This also makes a real-world connection to birds and other wildlife, which have suffered at the hands of oil spills. I again, used the pop of red to indicate threat and danger.

The Fates
Oil on Canvas

A lot of these sort of whimsical characters I come up with, interact with nature or the landscape in order to transform it or create a narrative. In the case of this painting, which is titled Frankenstein Was the Doctor, the character is sitting atop a tree that has been regenerated after being cut down. My thought process with this one was that when we take from the environment we rarely replenish the amount that we take which leads to an overall reduction of resources and inevitable destruction of habitat. With each regeneration the tree gets smaller and smaller. The character sitting on the tree is attempting to revive the trees by harnessing the power of electricity, which is an allusion to Frankenstein by Mary ShelleyAnd I ought to remark that Frankenstein was the name of the doctor and not the monster, as everyone thinks. Furthermore, the bolt of lightning symbolizes both illumination and innovation as well as destruction.

Frankenstein Was the Doctor
Oil on Canvas

This next painting is a reprise of a watercolor I created as part of the One Hundred Paintings Project (36, The Edge). Originally I designed this character to be part of a triptych where he symbolized change, prolificacy, and rebirth. The content of the painting changed slightly when I brought this painting to oil. The black ghostly figures featured here were white in the original painting, where a black-cloaked deer overlooked an edge in a contemplative fashion. The series concluded with the deer transforming to white surrounded by butterflies, In this painting I changed the white ghosts to black to be reminiscent of the BP oil spill. I kept the look of the ghostly figure to represent that the oil was poisonous and dangerous. In this context the black-cloaked deer is overlooking disaster and death.

There's a Hole in the Bottom of the Sea
Oil on Canvas

The ghostly wolves in this next painting are indicative of the effects of deforestation and over-hunting. The full moon represents the cycle of nature, again, due to the idea of a circle but also because of it’s phases. The full moon is the apex of the cycle, in the context of the painting it’s meant to represent the tipping point of our influence on the environment, where we haven’t quite reached the point of no return. This idea is supplemented by the division of dense forest and a desolate wasteland as a result of deforestation. The full moon also eludes to the relationship shared between it and wolves throughout popular culture. The title of the painting refers to of course, the endangerment of the Timber, or Grey Wolf, but also to the cliché exclamation “Timber!” that was often used to denote a large tree which had been cut down was falling in your general direction.

Timber! Wolf
Oil on Canvas

I will lump the last 4 pictures together because they all relate. About a week before the show I decided to do some charcoal/pastel drawings. A medium, by the way, I never draw in. I did three small vignettes, and one larger drawing. Named Allegory I, Allegory II, Allegory III, and Allegory IV, respectively.  These are more somber and less colorful than my other work. I used primarily black charcoal on toned paper with just a pop of bright color, to emphasize drama. The drawings are pretty straight-forward. They depict animals who have suffered at the hands of deforestation, pollution and destruction of habitat. I again, used repeated themes of red, sharp leaves, fog/smoke, cut down or broken trees as symbols. I chose a white rabbit in the last picture to represent purity, vulnerability and innocence. The scene is set in winter to feel isolating, cold and empty. The rabbit is trapped by these threatening red leaves and thick branches and surrounded by a hazy, blackness.

Allegory I
Oil on Canvas

Allegory II
Oil on Canvas

Allegory III
Oil on Canvas

Allegory IV
Oil on Canvas

That's a lot to digest, and as always, I'm happy to hear that people interpret my work differently. This recent body of work was dark, but not meant to be depressing and without hope. I guess I like highlighting the idea that we are at a crossroads, or a threshold and therefore it's meant to inspire and encourage, if not everyone else, then at least myself. Things will change whether or not we do something. Things are constantly evolving and changing with or without our input. Change is in all aspects of life. Nothing rests forever. I suppose I'm at a pivotal time in my life, like most mid-twenty-somethings. It's comforting to be able to step outside yourself and see transformations happening in the bigger picture, though, even if the changes themselves are uncomfortable. It makes me feel connected. Discovering a connection is imperative to inspiring positive change and empathy, I think. 

Oh, and here's an obligatory gallery shot.