Not everything I make is art. Some of it is practice and experimentation. Even that, however, is informed with a tremendous amount of thought. What else am I going to do while I while away the time in my studio? I can’t help but consider how things are connected and what my art will provoke in the mind and emotions of the viewer. And of course, it is a small step then to thinking, “How can I control that provocation?”
I used to write a lot about my art. I realized over time that most people didn’t care to read my thoughts on this topic. Maybe they resented me telling them what to think about my creations. Maybe they just didn’t want to dive that deeply into what they feared was a void.
In some ways I think I imbue meaning into my art because I get easily bored. For example, I recently made a very large painting of two girls standing in front of the historical hotel where I live. My viewers would have been pleased if I had just made a decent likeness. They were, after all, two attractive girls and the hotel is a piece of local history. But I would have expired if I had merely created a realistic likeness of the scene. So, I tweaked the colors and superimposed the ten year old photo of the ladies over the photo I took that day of the hotel at an extreme angle so the building was even more monolithic. Then even as I transferred these thoughts to canvas, my mind was filled with what ifs! What if I put dots on this one since I hadn’t done that in a while? What if I cut the dots from vintage matchbook covers (which have always totally fascinated me due the art and history that they share in their diminutive way)? Matches equals hot. The girls are hot! Vintage equals old. The hotel is very old! And just look at the way the matrix of the dots breaks up the surface of the painting. BUT, I have done this before… What can I do to make it more interesting to myself, and in doing that, to my viewer?
What if I buy twelve hundred Disney Princess three-dimensional stickers like the ones I saw at the dollar store last week, peel the Disney Princesses off the back, and cover my matchbook dots with those convex, clear, plastic pieces? My two girls are princess material in a modern world! And just think imagine how the plastic pieces will break up the surface in a wholly new 3D way while protecting the old paper ephemera! The surface of the canvas even looks like bubble wrap!
The painting hangs in the pizzeria here in the hotel. But they hung it up high so no one would touch it or try to pull the 3D dots off of it. The problem with that defensive decision is that no one is able to determine that the dots came from vintage matchbook covers! And while the composition is pleasing and making the piece of art pleased me tremendously, it feels like a failure…
A few years ago I started a series (I almost ALWAYS work in a series, work it to death, work it to life, work it and work it and work it until it leads to the next series.) in which I cut up classic novels and used the text, line by line, to create iconic characters. I call the series, “I Just Don’t Read Like I Used To.” It has become a commentary on the many ways Pop Culture has impacted our relationships with books, art and cinema.
Note: The text from the Marilyn Monroe painting is from James Joyce's Ulysses, because there is a famous photo of the blonde bombshell taken of her reading this book, sort of to prove that she was more than a blonde bombshell.