Everything

is Abstract

 

Work stimulates more work and, in turn, work leads to questions that lead to more questions. I follow these questions to a tangible visual object, the residue of thought.  I am a photographer, sculptor, and painter, with painting being my present interest. 

 

Over the years, working as an artist, I have found that painters and photographers are different simply for one fact. A painter begins a new work on an empty canvas while a photographer’s "canvas" (the viewfinder) is always full. Painters are free to include anything they wish in their canvases. Photographers, by necessity of the mechanics of their tool, must eliminate or include what is before them, cropping to only the essentials of the idea. They must always contend with the real. However, as faithful to the reality a photograph may appear to be, a photograph can never be the actual object. The painter, Rene Magritte, taught us that a painting is also not the object it depicts.  In his painting, "The Treachery of Images", he faithfully reproduces a simple pipe under which he writes, “This is not a pipe.”

Because a photograph can never be that which the camera records, it consequently is always an abstraction. I long ago learned that everything we see, hear, feel, taste, and smell is abstract. Therefore, reality itself must always remain abstract.

 

I considered myself a painter in undergraduate school producing shaped canvases my senior year. The camera, however, held much interest and I pursued this choice in graduate school while also minoring in sculpture. When I graduated, I mostly set aside any other media interests for my camera work and was hired as the head of the photography program at Louisiana Tech University's School of Art.  I did practice other object-making from time to time. The kernels of my present work were always surfacing. When I retired from academia I wanted another challenge, just as photography had challenged me early in my career as an artist. I returned to my ideas from undergraduate school.  What I wanted from painting was something new. For centuries painters have used the rectangle as the accepted way to present their work. Much like actual windows, replications of the real were painted on these convenient portable shapes. This presentation mode remains the predictable norm for a painting even today. My recent work dismisses this premise and although at times I use the rectangle, it is incorporated into an overall non-window approach. I want my work to be in the present and remain objectified. My intention is to make the experience of seeing my work emotionally moving and cause one to question the limits of what a painting can be.

I began this journey using ideas of visual psychology called “extension” and “closure.”  Parts were cut out of hardboard panels, painted in gloss color, and placed on a wall in close proximity visually suggesting a whole. The paintings  evolved into more painterly abstraction suggesting an atmosphere by building up layers of paint to reveal underlying color.  I think of these paintings as objects of silent reflection, mystical, and metaphysical. 

 

Anomalies to my primary direction are often tried when new ideas reveal themselves. Rather than dismiss these ideas as inconsistent with my overall direction, I investigate the possibilities they offer for new pathways to making art. Not all are successful, of course, but failure to me is simply a learning process.  I believe the curse of all artists is the fear of failure.

 

Ideas come in small increments. It is through working that ideas evolve. Each piece I make informs the next and I never know where they will lead. That is the joy of being an artist. The unknown is a dangerous yet thrilling venture. Ideas are expanded, reworked, reworked again, and finally condensed to what you, the viewer, experience… followed by questions.