How much control do we have over our environment? What are the limits of our influence, and to what extent might we claim mastery over our world? Does humanity reign over nature or is nature the keeper of humankind? These are the questions I explore in my work through a technique wherein I use gravity, rather than brushwork, to create images. Here I must largely surrender to the force of gravity while my manual control is strictly limited to color choice, surface angle position, and the starting point for every drop of paint, which together streak down the surface to form varied, uncontrollable lengths of colored line. Delimitation of forms can only be accomplished through these 3 actions, so objects can only be defined through precise placement of the drops while the variations in color must be made by superimposing different streaks of pigment in a buildup of layers. The result is a kind of Divisionism, a mesh of separate colored streaks floating in a shallow pool of medium that, from a distance, comprises realistic imagery but of a sort that gradually gives way to abstraction as the viewer approaches the work.
Additional information about the inspiration, origin and meaning of my mixed-media process, Delimited Drip Painting*, is available below.
Personal Basis of the Work
At its core, art is a process of humanity—a course of human behavior—that involves the practice of making suggestions, hints, or intimations of the human experience to be presented or left behind for others to encounter. From creation to appearance and finally to its participation in the commonplace, each work of art has the potential to affect the lives of individuals and may also endure to serve as part of the narrative of human history. In the course of time, whether by design or happenstance, the evidence of this process (the surviving products of art) remain to tell the most genuine and intimate story of our existence.
For this reason, I believe the role of the artist is to earnestly reshape, transform, reinvent or otherwise introduce an honest variant of the process such that the entire scope may increase to every extent humanly possible. Through this explorative activity—which is one of a personal affair with the self—the individual artists may uncover the deepest parts of themselves (their fears, joys, wonders, secrets, etc.), while also revealing, through the sum of their collective efforts, the universal truths of humankind.
Presently, in the course of my own contribution to this process, I have found a way to combine the latest painting media with unconventional tools and techniques to create a new form of colored surface that features representational and symbolic imagery along with abstract mark-making.
My objective is to create not so much the likeness of the subject but a connection to it, one capable of evoking a genuine emotional response from the viewer. To do this I had to find that place within me, the deep sense of self, which defines and drives my desire to create images in the first place. This “deep self” is not my purpose but the origin of my purpose; and I believe that origin to be a set of significant emotional memories, largely subconscious, which would have taken place in my early childhood, likely during those awkward school days when I spent much of my time with eyes down, sketching and doodling, rather than socializing with peers.
As an adult I have come to understand that drawing, making lines into images, was largely an emotional device that aided me during those most vulnerable years of development. It offered me a way to maintain a sense of control, to keep hold of my feelings, and to regulate amid all the commotion that surrounded me. In this way, the regular practice of drawing did more than just improve my ability to draw; it helped me learn and grow by providing the self-assuredness necessary for making my own way. With dominion over the page, I could reach a state of mind that offered me the freedom and confidence to be myself.
As social creatures, we understand that it’s never enough to live a life isolated and disconnected from others. For that reason, I have spent much of my adult life expanding, reaching out, taking chances, pushing myself to engage with others on both a personal and professional level. Today I am rewarded for my efforts. I have found a way to synthesize my private nature, my deep self, with my external artistic pursuits and objectives. In a true sense, I have discovered a personal space that combines the control I experienced in my youthful drawing practice with the freedom to surrender to the inevitable external influences of everyday life.
The Discovery and Effect of Delimited Drip Painting
The process of making images in various media with a range of tools and techniques, from traditional to high-tech, has incited me to explore the world of possibilities in mixed media. As a result of these explorations, I have been fortunate to discover and develop a unique painting technique that allows me to take full advantage of the mutability and pigment saturation of fluid acrylics. I call the technique Delimited Drip Painting for the reason that it requires both a deference to the forces of gravity and a dexterity sufficient to define the various forms notwithstanding the unsuppressed effects of a continuously flowing medium. This, for me, produces the ultimate experience of freedom and control in the act of painting. In one sense, gravity is my adversary because it continually forces the paint downward, out of the desired areas of definition, distorting forms, breaking boundaries, or otherwise combining colors unexpectedly. Conversely, it is also my trusted assistant, my painting partner, because as a force acting upon a mutable medium, it continues to paint (with surprising predictability) one part of the image while I paint another. With careful planning, and continuous attention, I experience a kind of rapport or "dance" with gravity, a bond or interconnection, which carries with it a variety of genuine feelings, from frustration to humility to joyful intoxication.
The physical result is honest to the medium and captivating to the eye. Threads of color are interwoven and entwined, somewhat like the weft and warp of fabric or otherwise reminiscent of the lacework made by a spider, to produce imagery from a plexus of drips and marks. At a distance the picture appears representational and evocative of works from the early Modernist period, but upon approach, the representation gives way to the deep surface of streaks and lines, leaving one to explore the intricate mesh of colors that appear to take on a life of their own, floating and casting shadows on the underpainting below.
Connecting to the Process
The human condition as experienced by our consciousness, that being the current circumstances and our awareness of them, is the exclusive burden of all humanity. The mere fact that we have cognizance demands that we must continually adjust our mental focus on the most relevant, preferable, or meaningful matters of the present. Many of those thoughts are productive and connected to subjects that are within our power to control or change, others are not. Each person has to decide, on a continual basis, which matters are worth our attention and which are best dismissed or deferred from our immediate concern.
I view each of my paintings as a microcosm of this mental process. By allowing gravity, a phenomenon over which I have little control, to play a prominent roll in my work, I am forced to continuously decide the degree to which my influence should play in the control of paint flow. Should I allow the paint to drip through the entire image? Should I alter the viscosity of the paint to increase or reduce its rate of flow? Should I attempt to slow or stop the drips at a particular spot by adjusting the angle of the painting surface? Should I reverse the flow, flip the painting surface to alter the direction of the drips? Which of these decisions are most likely to produce the most desirable results? The answer, of course, changes with every drop of paint.
In my most recent series of work, I use this technique to create images in mixed media (e.g., acrylic pigments, varnish, medium, wood, fabric, canvas) that are symbolic of contemporary life. I explore a range of subjects, most often those that might encourage dialog surrounding matters of empathy, compassion, unity, environmentalism and social justice. All explorations come from a deeply personal space, an internal struggle, a private reflection, resolution or celebration.
The Fabric of Life Series
In my current series of paintings, The Fabric of Life, my goal is to create images that convey meaning—an idea, impression or perception—in a visual language that embodies the intersection of freedom and control. This, I have found, is a moveable phenomenon, a happenstance that varies widely from one attempt to the next. So each piece, by way of its process and generation, can seem both familiar and experimental all at once.
Such an experience is not unique to me and my process. For centuries artists have been fascinated with this notion of human control as it relates to art making; we find explicit examples in texts throughout history, from ancient Zen calligraphy practices, to early 20th Century Dada manifestos, to contemporary variations in digital media. I believe there’s a good reason for this. The notion is so connected to our own humanity, so inseparable from what it means to be human, that we are innately (and mysteriously) drawn to any object that simultaneously exhibits both an accidental and deliberate origin.
To me, the ultimate clash between the accidental and the deliberate is to allow the medium to flow freely all the while attempting to create believable representation. In this way, I’m sort of working against myself, or rather I’m allowing the nature of the medium to work against me such that it may contribute without the influence of dexterity. I see this engagement not as a battle or struggle but as a necessary means to capture a form of expression that unites Representation with Lyrical Abstraction, my aim being to harmoniously juxtapose identifiable imagery with a “loose cannon” of free-flowing streaks, droplets and lines.