Don’t Know

I’m having a thought this evening, questioning what actually is underneath these these accumulations I’ve been painting.  I keep referring to it at as a person or the figure, but I don’t know.  Perhaps that’s just the thing, I don’t know exactly.  I’m looking at some of my paintings and started thinking about mining through the stuff, through the accumulations- and wondered what would actually be inside of there, is there some kind of core thing?  I don’t know.  Or maybe it’s just not that simple.

I just came from an artist talk by Nayland Blake which I found really brilliant, and liberating.  I came back to the studio feeling excited about painting, but when I step back inside my studio it’s like I find myself entrenched in something else, something labored and detached from that liberating feeling I got from the talk.  So much time is invested in a painting it’s hard to just paint whatever you want over the thing you’ve been working on for so long.  And in addition to that, I question what it is I would want to do.  I like the paintings I’m working on, but there’s a piece missing which exists in my sketch book but doesn’t fit my ideological rules of painting, so I keep struggling to bring it there.  It’s funny how you can point to the problem, but you can’t always immediately fix it, or maybe just don’t know how to.

One of the great things Nayland mentioned in his talk was that the artist isn’t entirely responsible for creating the meaning in an object, and that the object itself creates meaning.  That content is found through asking yourself what you’ve made after you’ve made it.  By approaching a practice of art making in this way it releases the artist, and allows process to be exploratory and aimed at learning.  I think I’ve had trouble believing in this idea in the past because it seems somewhat contrary to how the structure of something like an MFA program works, where you are forced to defend something, or seemingly know what you’re doing.  And not that that doesn’t have it’s place, it seems important to have some kind of understanding of why you do what you do, but Nayland seemed to be arguing that art has power through not knowing; that through not knowing exactly what something is you have the power to question or explore.

This has been a particularly good week for artist’s talks here at the Vermont Studio Center.  I’ve been hanging out with the Steve Locke some, he has a good sense of humor and also gave a great talk last night. While showing a Caravaggio slide of Saint Thomas Putting his Finger on Christ’s Wound he said “this did not actually happen in Caravaggio’s studio” as if we as the viewers were to believe in such a literal making of the painting. But in a way we are seduced to believing that the event painted is something real and  Steve mentioned how a painting almost becomes more real than the actual thing it depicts because we remember the painting better than the event.  Also the painting continues on, where the event is left in the past.

curious, 2010 oil on beveled plywood panel painted on the rear 24 x 18 inches


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