|Artist Statement 2009
Why do I make the art I make? What am I doing? What inspires me to do it? I don’t really ask myself those questions on a verbal level. I have been at work for so many years that I have answered these questions to my own satisfaction and I continue to answer them through the work that I produce. The problem is, the answer is completely embedded in the work itself, in the process, in the system, in the results. I had a teacher early on who told me that if a work of art needed to be explained with words then it wasn’t made correctly. A work of art has to stand on its own as the answer to any questions put to it. The answers are embedded in the physical fabric of its construction and if the answers are not found there then the wrong questions are being asked of it.
If this is my premise, then I am hard pressed to offer a verbal explanation because my answers have already been expressed visually. Visual art is its own language. The understanding of it is also visual. Verbal discussion about a work of art is, to a great degree, outside of the scope of the work itself. So the only thing it seems fitting to offer is a verbal examination of one of my works of art. However, there are a number of different strands running through my body of work and many of them are mutually exclusive. On the other hand, there tend to be a number of elements held in common by the vast majority of my works.
I am reminded of a classic story about a grasshopper and a centipede. The grasshopper sees the centipede and is taken aback. "How is it possible," he asks, "that you can walk with all those legs?! How on earth do you do it?!" The centipede stops and says, "I don't know." The grasshopper insists on knowing. He says, "Come now! Don't keep it a secret! Tell me! I must know how you do it. If you really don't know, then think about it! I want you to tell me how you control all those legs." The centipede starts thinking about it, and after a few minutes he realizes he can no longer walk. He is totally confused, and now he can't get his legs to work at all.
Certainly, for an artist fully engaged in his working process, which is every bit as complex as how a centipede walks, there is the problem that much of what he does – the secret of it, its raison d'être – has been forgotten and buried to the extent that a deep self analysis leads more to confusion than to clarity. This is especially true for those artists who, like myself, follow an intuitive path. An artist is constantly making subtle decisions based upon the endless number of decisions made over years of practice. To isolate out those from the past that are especially key to the present is a difficult and probably impossible task.
Still, there is a need to communicate something through the use of language in a way that seems meaningful to the reader who is viewing an artist’s work.
I would say that virtually all of my recent work is based in collage techniques. Collage, by its nature is a constructive process. Considering the idea of construction, a work of art must be constructed by some given body of rules that form a system of construction. My work is driven by the systems that I invent for myself. When devising these systems I am looking for those that will allow for open ended and virtually endless possibilities for the creation of unique works of art. For many years I followed the tradition in collage making of using found materials but at a certain point I realized that virtually all of the found material I use is merely commercially printed matter. So at a certain point I decided to design my own printed matter in order to be able to sustain working on certain kinds of images, in particular those images which use typography. This accounts for the uniformity of materials within various suites of works within my oeuvre over the past few years.
What I like about found materials is the preexisting histories that they evidence in their surfaces. I seek out papers that show a great deal of wear and tear, have stains, markings, repairs, etc. However, it is easy to be seduced by such papers and when this happens one becomes reluctant to use them. I therefore impose upon them the need to function as a part of a greater compositional purpose thus reducing their individual importance or preciousness. I try to be equanimous when it comes to the decision process of how an element will best serve the greater purpose of the work at hand. I see this as a kind of spiritual discipline: to appreciate and cherish each bit of paper while at the same time subordinating that attachment to the needs of the final work itself. There is a certain sacrifice in it.
With those materials that I have fabricated I very often simulate the feeling of age and patina through various means such as staining and abrasion. I then simulate these same qualities on my paintings.
An element that is constant in my work is that there is an image but then there is an underlying grid-like structure that is different than the image. This grid structure is almost always an irregular organic interlocking structure. It could be said that this speaks to the idea of two simultaneously coexisting realities; the apparent and the concrete.
In the present time we are witnessing ever greater vistas of the world we live in. Looking into the past and across the present we experience a seeming cacophony of distinct voices and histories and purposes. As we study the physical universe we see a vastness that even a few years ago was unimaginable. We live in the midst of a bafflingly infinite expanse. I think this is at the root of my work: the idea that our puny human beliefs and ideas and perspectives are constantly being shattered by a reality before which we can do nothing but swoon once we are confronted by it and become aware of it. We come to recognize our utter insignificance in the grand scheme of things and yet we are a part of it – we are the Infinite itself gazing upon its own nature. I think this is why I make works that are composed of tattered shards and bits of text on paper. This could be said to represent the idea of belief systems being reduced to silence in favor of the underlying harmonies of creation. This may at first seem like chaos or randomness which the human mind tends to abhor but still, one senses an order even if an order that we do not as yet understand and cannot really speak about.
This accounts also for the use of the humble materials I work with and my desire to take what has been torn asunder, abused and neglected and, through the glorification that is art, speak what is unutterable about that which is ineffable.