What I do and have done (pt.1)

I think it’s probably best to start this with some background information on my artistic development, and what my work looked like up to this experience.

I made a decision just out of high school to take about a year and half off from school in order to better contemplate my interests in pursuing a fine art degree. Up to that point I was mostly painting, but had dabbled in other processes including printmaking. Those two or so years ultimately brought me to the conclusion that I had to be in art school, there just wasn’t anything else for me. It wasn’t a terribly easy decision either.

Let me just say that when you tell your parents you want to pursue a professional career in fine art, they, depending on their knowledge of art (mine having very little), think of the all too cliched financially and emotional empty young hedonist whose frivolous passion supports little more than their drinking habit. This I assure you is not the case for many artists…many of us are serious people. Passionate, yes, but determined and willing to do everything necessary to make the world a more conscious, beautiful and compassionate place. These are people you offer challenge to at every chance, because you will be pleasantly surprised when they throw out the rules of your challenge (possibly the challenge in its entirety) and make or think you up something immeasurably better then you could have conceived of.

Anyway, back to the story at hand…

I eventually found my way to the Maine College of Art in Portland, ME. The facilities were adequate, the city beautiful and the people cheery and hearty. There I studied a number of processes and mediums, but, I think, inevitably fell deeply in love with printmaking.

There is nothing I have seen, heard or smelled more wonderfully enchanting than the revelatory magic of printmaking processes. You make a plate or matrix, manipulating it and working it tirelessly. You then ink that matrix in whatever way satisfactory or necessary. You choose your paper, or your substrate. With the help of your own hands or the ubiquitous, freedom fighting, power of the printing press, you then by some alchemy make an impression or pull a print. This here is where I fell in love with printmaking. Pull the paper from you’re previously inked matrix and there you are surprised by something wholly unto itself. It’s as if you spend days or weeks laboring over a copper sculpture, upon completion you drop it off in a richly dense jungle, return decades later and are presented with something completely different. Although its original shape may still be intact, that sculpture is covered in a marvelous patina, the metal has changed, maybe warped, or skewed in ways you couldn’t have predicted, and luscious green life grows from its surface. Herein lies the wondrous discoveries of the printmaking processes. It’s the moment when you give away you hard work to the forces of nature and laws of physics; you surrender yourself to things beyond your control, and in return for your willful (although, sometimes not so willful) suspension of control you are granted a gift. That gift may not be the terribly ugly and poorly constituted jumble of a print you may have produced, but rather the epiphanic swell of emotions that follows the discovery of that impression.

I continued to fall deeper and deeper in love with printmaking throughout my time at MECA. However, having come to the press as a painter I had a proclivity for breaking the rules of print to somewhat work with those of painting. I’ve never really been concerned with making an “edition” of prints. I’ll leave that to a master printer. I, simply, am not that person. There is merit to the edition, don’t get me wrong, but I’m not as concerned with it after having had to learn it for the sake of understanding the craft and being technically proficient.

My work up till my printmaking days was primarily representational, or in some way or another in the vein of realism. I loved portraiture and the naked human form. Thus it was a surprise to many of my peers when I made the shift to working solely abstractly. I made an amazingly lucky discover that led me to working this way while experimenting under the guidelines of an assignment and also learning how to screen print. The assignment was about action. We were required to repeat a specific action over the course of thirty days everyday. In turn, we let that process inform a new body of work. I chose to go foraging for found materials in the Back Cove of Portland. The action was intentionally a healing and nurturing one. I sought to reconnect with my natural landscape by removing human detritus that, on a much larger scale, has caused significant issues for ocean ecosystems. In other words I was picking up trash. Slowly I noticed that the majority of the waste I was recovering was fishing industry waste: ropes, fishing line, bait bags, nets and lobster cages. Eventually I thinned my search to solely plastic products and the ubiquitous rope. I took the assortment of plastics I found and, instead of photographing or scanning them, used them as if they were photograms during the exposure process of an emulsion coated, light-sensitized silk screen. I was essentially capturing the silhouetted detail of the rope, and, in the case of the plastic bags and other plastics, a very unique fragmented silhouette. I then printed these silhouettes onto paper layer by layer, and color by color (fig.1 & fig.2).photo 4 (fig.1) photo 2(fig.2)

I never really left the rope behind. From my junior year onward it stayed, although conceptually fluctuating and evolving, a center piece in my work. I was fascinated by the two dimensional line that ropes can produce. Eventually, I think I was trying to draw with the rope, and could achieve an economy of marks by either unwinding it or keeping it whole. Rope itself poses a very interesting conceptual connection to my experience of the world. Its construction is achieved through a sort of self-similarity. Each piece of rope can be broken down into several other pieces of rope, and those pieces of rope into several more, and so on. Rope became a metaphor for the fractal; both the micro and macrocosms of life.

Finding such an abundance of rope and other plastic products posed some interesting questions, namely, “How did these items of detritus become so neglected and unnoticed?” The ropes and especially the plastic bags I was finding seemed to have an animated life of their own. They moved musically through our streets and churned and swirled in our tide pools. I felt a strong urge to become their spokesman, the ambassador of the forgotten and bastardized plastics. I needed to give them monumental importance and a platform to shout from. So I went bigger and bigger. I pushed the form of these masses of colorful plastic towards more life-like, bigger versions of themselves that slithered across abnormally large sheets of paper and plastic (fig. 3)…20ft from side(fig. 3)

From here on out, many things happened, some of which I cannot chronologically explain with accuracy so I will instead share some photos of my most recent work and my most recent artist statement that typically accompanies them. However, be aware that artist statements change constantly. I can only summarize periodically the ideas that are present in some of these pieces, because like the work itself, these ideas are like seasons they come and go, never disappearing forever, but resurfacing in a cyclical fashion. It’s a very intricate web of influences, thoughts and experiences that cause this. I generalize and specify important points with these artist statements. The work, is regardless, for you (the viewer) to contemplate in whatever unique circumstance you bring to the table.  I will share my most recent work and artist statement in a new post. More soon!



What I do and have done (pt.1)