Until this year I thought of my drawings and paintings as two entirely different arenas of play because I could only see them as products. The former were small, unmarketable and lived in my sketchbook, and the latter were none of those. I was silly and stymied, and now my work is singular and process-focused.
In the fall, I let myself ignore notions of product and sat with the materials, and I realized that they are all — pen, acrylic and otherwise — equally tools, each simply with its own weight and substance quality. The excitement of my practice has since stemmed mostly from the investigation of the various mediums’ relative presences. In order of least substantial to most, I rank the ones I’ve been experimenting with as follows: water, pencil, watercolor paper, ballpoint pen, thread, colored pencil, flowy pen, watercolor, embroidery floss, marker, charcoal, gouache, crayon, duct tape, melted crayon, water-soluble oil pastel, muslin, canvas, acrylic paint, yarn, oil paint, photographs, laminated photographs, collages of found cloth and leather, and wood. Substantiality, but also plasticity, dirtiness, shininess and associative quality define a material, among other things I have not yet thought about. Materials can oscillate around their default by means of thinning, thickening and layering, and they can even become indistinguishable from one another, which is a game I play.
Generally, the tradition of painterly practice is to stay with one or two materials and perfect your relationship with them. I like to think that, by using so many, I’m responding to the present moment and its superfluous commodities, the absurd availability of an absurd variety of absurd tools. Sometimes it even feels like commentary. I am building relationships with each material, but all together. I am of the internet age and in need of too much stimulation.
I’ve been taken in by abstraction in college, but I cannot abandon representation because rejecting the image culture entirely feels unproductive, like a tantrum. The reason for my use of many materials, especially ones mass-produced for kids, like Crayola, is of this vein.
My works tend to feel fragmentary, like a collage of many pictures. Using different materials with different presences at different levels of detail creates an effect similar to a photograph with multiple areas of differing depths, viewing each of which requires a refocusing of the eyes. I think of this as a type of processing of our flashing-image, Photoshop society. When my artworks don’t feel fragmentary, they are the opposite — too full — and you can still only view one area at a time, and the effect is nearly the same.
I think a lot about kidishness. I am in awe of childhood every time I recognize in my behavior another way that I was formed. I’ve struggled with how much to control, or, conversely, how much to trust a viewer, and broadly how important my intentions as maker are. I often default to childlike gestures as a respite from that self-consciousness, making like before it was art. I’ve done many pictures of my own childhood and family because building must happen from the foundation up, and I am still in the beginning.