Ball of Confusion is a series of oil pigment stick paintings on panel that is constructed of many layers of transparent and opaque paint as a circle contained within the square panel. When we see a circle inside a square it has many meanings as a metaphor. Traditionally the circle represents infinity and unity while the square is a symbol of the material or physical world which has many things that come in series of four such as earth, air, fire, and water. Attempting to square a circle in math can mean to attempt a seemingly impossible task such as world peace as a metaphor. Spiritually to square a circle can mean to see in all directions and to be completely free metaphorically. An ocean world is a type of terrestrial planet that includes water as mist, subsurface ocean, or fluid on its surface. Our planet Earth is an ocean world with the ability to originate and host many forms of life. Eternity and time are metaphors of both a physical and spiritual world explored in Ball of Confusion.
The title of this work comes from the 1970 hit song by The Temptations “Ball of Confusion (That’s What the World Is Today)”. The lyrics reference failed attempts for change regarding several characteristics of human nature: emotion, rebellion, chaos, hard times, work for what you want, and self-image.
This series is also inspired by “Solaris” a 1961 science fiction novel by Stanislaw Lem. The novel is about a group of scientists in space attempting to understand an alien presence in the form of an ocean covering an unknown planet. They bombard the alien ocean with unauthorized x-rays which produces an unexpected result of androids replacing people known to the crew and yields no knowledge of the alien. “Solaris” was adapted by Steven Soderbergh in 2002 for a film by the same name starring George Clooney as the lead scientist. In his movie version the planet ocean reads human minds to create the androids. All efforts to understand planet Solaris are ultimately futile and the crew increasingly struggles with questions of motivation, beliefs, memories, and opportunity for second chances. The androids are metaphors of human characteristics as both physical and spiritual visitations that are traumatic to the crew.
Almost anything can be dissolved in water. We as humans are comprised largely of water ourselves. I am interested in the water table and how it is a physical entity but could also be a fantasy of a table made of water. People used to write on paper sitting at tables. Paper mills are one of the industries that expel wastewater that gets into the groundwater table which also known as the water table. Other industrial waste due to agriculture or fuel also ends up in groundwater. All of the bodies of water named on paintings in my series “Water Table” have been massively contaminated at some point in history.
In the 1976 movie “The Man Who fell to Earth” an alien is sent to earth to bring back water to his planet since all their water has dried up. He is successful in business on earth and builds a spaceship to carry water back to his planet but becomes addicted to alcohol and cannot finish his mission. I’ve always loved the twist in the movie’s narrative that he is punished for failing his mission by drinking himself to death on earth while his alien family dies in space since they have nothing to drink.
Earth’s largest source of drinkable water is freshwater contained in vast reservoirs of groundwater beneath the planet surface. If the water table becomes unsafe for consumption everything on earth dies. The narrative twist of my series Water Table is that while factories, agriculture and fuel are all part of modern life, it is important to remember clean water is vital for survival.
The work in this series is transitional and brings a new way of engaging with landscape. It poses questions of external and internal landscape with the title “Bandwidth” since bandwidth can be both a measure of data transfer for communication as well as a figurative term to indicate overload of personal capacity for an individual.
Where do mistakes fit in an art practice? I was forced to answer that question when the work in my series “Bandwidth” was not dry and had to be moved and stored due to Covid-19 pandemic. Flexible mylar and oil pigment stick paint allowed me to roll up this work from my artist retreat and deliver to my studio, where it finally dried over several months of sheltering in place. When unrolled the paint was on both sides so I needed to figure out what this new manifestation of my concept had become. Do I embrace the flaw?
The flaw was fine as my process is to accept mistakes as inevitable. What did I do with my ruined paintings? I decided to slice the paintings into narrow panels and devise a way to hang from the wall. The installation pieces are activated by how much bandwidth you desire since personal capacity is very individual.
The title of this series “On Pause” is what happens to a person when experience is interrupted to mark a moment. When you are not on pause its hard to see what matters. Perspective is important when making decisions. The word “perspective” has two meanings, one is a drawing skill about how to see objects in space. The second is a particular attitude toward regarding something such as limits for safety. There is a spiritual aspect to pausing for a moment of reflection or reverie.
I finished this series at an artist retreat just before the end of March 2020 when New York shut down due to the Covid-19 pandemic. When I looked at the work again after several months of sheltering in place, the red horizon became a metaphor for a very changed global society. In these panels I see the horizon as a line of global health care workers striving to heal the world together as the first line of defense. I also see a figurative “point of no return” to the world as we knew it prior to March 2020.
My continuing obsession with horizon and all massive bodies of water continues in these paintings on paper made with cyanotype chemistry and tea. The water always matters when images are processed so I am drawn to only creating this series of cyanotype at a particular place and time. Unobstructed sunlight is also critical to my process. True Horizon is a term which refers to the fact that when you are at sea, the horizon you see is truly the edge of the earth because you are on water. Your understanding of the horizon is dependent on how high above sea level you are. Greater height allows you to see further when actually viewing physical horizon.
Endless space, time and vison are my concept of true horizon and today all are a precious resource. Bands of mostly blue color are revealed by partial processing while water washes gently over the paper. Time and space are apparent by what is rinsed away or remains exposed above water. The horizon becomes above or below whether verso or recto is viewed. Both are there on one sheet of paper dipped in chemistry and tea before exposure and processing to saturate the object. Ships bring tea and sink in the ocean. Sunlight warms us all. When you are on land the true horizon appears but is dependent on your location above sea level and local typography.
I have been interested in how the mind can call back imagery of the past for as long as I can remember. Our family vacations are spent mostly on the edge of a large body of water, the ocean or lake. I have spent time watching the horizon line all of my life. 40 Days and 40 Nights is the culmination of images in my mind collected over time manifested as objects depicting a reverie of memory.
These paintings of highly abstracted horizon are shaped by how vision translates to object. Many viewers express they have been to the place they identify the paintings referencing. Light and texture of atmosphere are constant themes in my work. I use thin layers of encaustic medium and paint to evoke depth; surface texture reflects light much as my subjects do. Carving into the layers of paint creates another abstract aspect for movement. This large body of small works is about imagery of the space between what we see and what we know.
It took me a long time to learn to call this work reductive. I had thought of my self as a minimalist primarily but have since come to learn that reductionism tends to refer to taking a large topic and breaking it down into the simplest form or bare essentials. The concept of vast space above and below is what this series is about. In addition the peace that comes from contemplation of a vast space is universal to all who view the work. All the paintings in this series refer to solace from spiritual trials often experienced in life. Peace comes from working through strife or completing a passage. Making this series is meditative to me by repetition of hand in the physical act of painting. When I view these paintings there is a sense of another universe, a community of voices standing together.
This work is about the inner and outer landscape of mind – perceptions and sensations evoked by edges of conscious thought and vision. Images of highly abstracted color as seen through either vertical or horizontal spaces within larger fields of paint evoke the way a person might experience the outside world through a turret window or the visor of a helmet from ancient times. How a person sees the world while being attacked or while defending themselves in such a narrow slice of vision to me seems very abstract. Reducing landscape mass to the brilliant coloration of the insect world is another abstraction as the pestilence outside increases in scale. Paintings in this series are multi layered, made using pigmented beeswax and inspired by the novels of Shirley Jackson and the HBO series Game of Thrones.
“Am I walking toward something I should be running away from?”— Shirley Jackson, The Haunting of Hill House