It’s hard work to let go of warp-speed, digital-age angst.
I think physicality, sublime beauty, and emotional intimacy are vital to navigating the challenges of our time. The digital age has brought us connectivity and a vast expanse of information, but it has also created a groundless, chaotic, infinite psychological space devoid of nature’s organic grace and logic of scale.
I’m responding to the bodiless, chaotic, urgent infinity of the digital age by reaching for physical mediums and organic form. I’m drawing on what Rosenblum dubbed the Northern Romantic Tradition, artists like Turner and O’Keeffe drawn to the sublime in nature and making art-for-life’s-sake. I’m looking to nature for a sense of order and scale, to make sense of my human limits, and in doing so, reach out for something more.
When you push up against nature, it pushes back in a really logical, physical way. There is a certain resonance to that. Connection with boundaries, structure, and meaning is fundamentally important to human psychology as noted in Erickson’s developmental psychology, Bowen’s emphasis on family structure, and the developing theory of attachment. As we spend more and more time in a groundless digital space, we lose that resonance with the physical universe. This disconnect produces anxiety and feelings of worthlessness on both an individual and cultural level—making the sublime more relevant than ever.
The writing I do in my paintings is a record of the time and effort it takes to extract yourself from the insidious stress of today’s media deluge and subtle disconnection. I think a lot about: exponential unemployment as a result of advances in technology and how that affects our culture, where self-worth is tied to the market value of labor; the impact of chronic overstimulation on making visual art; global warming and public access to nature spaces; the cultural devaluing of attributes considered feminine or ‘Other’ and how that affects what is considered ‘Fine Art’; and how intersecting layers of privilege affect all these things. It’s not about escaping these concerns, but instead clearing out mental static so you can approach what matters with greater clarity. Writing to myself and also directly to the future viewer, I take this cerebral processing and make it tangible, personal.
I paint over most of my writing. I leave enough visible for the viewer to follow along with me—stepping up close to the canvas, bending down, standing on tiptoe—just as I have, letting go of anxieties with each movement of the body. This reaching for order and resonance is for myself, but also for you the viewer. By leaving a trail of semi-visible words, I’m inviting you into your own process of letting go.
I work in a large range of media and scale. While I’m dealing with the same concerns, I approach them very differently in different media. This allows me to gang-up on subject matter that’s tricky and intangible, but also gives me fresh angles on something often dismissed as stale. I reach most often for clay and oil paint. Not only do these materials have a long history of reaching for the sublime, but I also love their sensuous physicality and how their time-based nature imposes itself on my process.
I would like to infuse my own work with Zheng Chongbin’s grace across media and scale. His work really resonates with me, even though he’s trying to distance the human hand from the paper just as much as I’m trying to let my fingerprints show. Camille Utterback is another installation artist I’m going to examine closely over the next year; she’s connecting with the viewer’s body and bridging the digital with the visceral and emotional.
My next challenge is to build more cohesion across media to achieve a tighter interdisciplinary practice. I want to develop the intellectual backdrop of my ceramic process so it connects more deeply with my painting, and I want to bring more intuitive gesture into my painting. Right now, my ceramic work articulates in a visceral, intuitive way that my painting does not, but I have an easier time talking about my painting process.
I want to create and grow in a community of interesting, thoughtful, and kind people who are ambitious enough to bring their perspectives to the spotlight. My goal is to make work I believe in, show that work to a wide audience, and for that work to live a life of its own after it leaves my studio. In the long run, I want this practice to be economically self-sustaining.
Over the past five years, I’m proud to have developed a studio practice that works with my life, and a life that works to support my studio practice. While I’ve brought challenge and growth into my studio by reaching for outside influence, I now yearn for a longer workshop, a deeper inquiry and even more conversation. I’m ready to push myself as a graduate student. I can’t wait to steep in a strong brew of exploration with fellow artists committed to long term growth.