New Work 2017
This strange striped egg man with a silhouette of a…chicken (a chicken?) growing out of its head is bellowing “Hay-Ya!” It is covered in dangerous looking spikes with candy swirls in it and inside it are several 3-D cubes. It seems that my 7-year-old son is learning about perspective and integrating them into this monstrous and delightful drawing.
As I am bemused by his artwork it reminds me on my childhood self, sitting next to a cacophony of strewn comic books and drawn copies of Carl Bark’s Donald Duck and Don Martin cartoons for Mad Magazine. I, as I always did, take my stack of drawings to my Nana and Papa for their approval, because this is what I do well.
Liberation, possibility, enthusiasm. Endless transformation.
I entered 2017 creatively stagnated. News of the world was horrifying and bleak. This reality was contrasted daily with my constant playing with my children; pretending to be animals or truck drivers, building Lego and escaping into imagination. Drawing with them three circles become a face, an S on the chest and two red lines becomes Superman blasting his heat vision. In my art classes that I teach I hear myself repeating “The enemy of art if fear. The enemy of art is fear. The enemy of art is fear.
Observing how my children navigate themselves through life and how the stresses of childhood manifest themselves in an open and expressive way has been very important for my work. So much of their outlook may be based in naivety, but there is also an amazing process of letting go. Any darkness is nullified through manifesting into a more palatable act of imagination.
I stare again at the blank canvas in my studio. “It will never have this much potential again” I think. I stare at the whiteness and it may as well be Antarctica, so cold and desolate.
I take an old painting of mine. One that - sort of, kind of– works, but is good, not great. I start with the main subject of the painting (a gorilla) and obliterate it with some orange paint on a trowel. I move on, erasing here and scraping there until there is no subject. I make an unstructured mess. Liberation. New things happen. Characters appear. I turn the canvas and I see a figure appearing in the darkness, movement becomes structure. A William De Kooning stroke becomes a Studio Ghibli character.
I have been transforming almost 20 years of old paintings into new works. I erase anything that might be considered a subject until the painting has potential to become new. From this process these characters have emerged. They are informed from a lifetime of looking at cartoons and contemporary art. Blended them together and finding them and their stories that emerge. I find them to be terse strange little creatures. They resist darkness. They embrace their transitional nature. I think they might be the most successful self portraits I have ever made.