Wednesday, June 10, 2015

In Light

2015

Here is my artist's statement for summer 2015.

In Light

Where does the body end and light begin?

The first time I ever went to a life drawing class, I sidled in, feeling a little trepidatious and shy, and found a seat, all the while vaguely aware that there stood what I took to be a pillar of light in the center of the room.  I sat, unpacked my paper and pencils and paints, and looked up--at a body.  The pillar of light was a fellow human animal, a young woman, standing naked in a bath of floodlight.  I drew.  As I drew and she shifted into three-minute poses, it felt as if I were seeing, with each shift, a new face of God.  She danced with the light, reflected the light, and ultimately, for me, became the light.

I am intoxicated by this dance that we human animals have with light.  Our real bodies dance with light--or more.  In life drawing classes and in moments of intimacy, I could swear that I have seen bodies give off light.  They can shine like suns.  I paint to chase this dance, record it, and understand it.

2015

The figure is the original perfect subject for studying light.  Skin is infinitely interesting as a subject, melding colors and textures in spectacularly variable ways.  And the forms of the figure--curves, planes, lines, angles, arcs--mold light and shadow into dazzling "scapes."  Thus there is a pure painter's interest in the body.  But of course people become figure painters for complex reasons.  Our relationships with bodies are so fraught.  Mine certainly is with my own body, I know that, and it's a relationship that desperately needs healing.  In painting figures, I find this healing, particularly in painting images of the divine feminine (the eternal, the image of the soul) realized in concrete and realistic (in temporal) ways--standing in the light.

2014

Thus I paint with three guiding principles in mind:

1.  To paint accurately.  If we are to know and understand beauty in an eternal Platonic sense, I believe that the way forward is not through idealization (a la Plato).  I want to paint what I see and in so doing come to love what I see.  My original interest in painting was to improve my vision, to really see something that's before me and to know that I have seen it.  This interest remains.  Thus in painting I use tools of realism: photographs, grid-drawings, careful color studies.

2015

2.  To paint naturalistically.  By "naturalistically" I mean "in the way closest to nature."  Thus I exclusively paint the figure as revealed by natural light and in modes and styles that are "natural"--that capture subjects in moments of comfortable and happy presence.  I am not interested in studying the body in extremis, in forced poses or with a forced Lucien-Freudish carnality, but rather in moments reflecting the incalculable grace of the ordinary, sacred body-in-the-world.  It's my bias that if we were able to see with correct eyesight we would see ourselves and our fellow human animals as no less miraculous and beautiful than we see animals or trees or mountains.  I favor the nude figure and the classically draped figure especially.  Clothing temporizes the body, brings it down into a specific time, place, and ideological disposition toward its time and place, whereas the naked human body lives in and takes us to places beyond the mundane.  I hold to this position fiercely, in spite of the intelligent critiques of the gaze that have been mounted especially by feminist commentators (most of whom I admire and support profoundly).  

2014

3.  To use water media exclusively.  Being transparent, transmitting light, watercolor is the medium that's most interested in light.  Deriving directly from a running fluid, watercolor transmits the fluidity of light in a way that, for me, no other media manage.  (And, quite simply, I love the arts and processes of water media.  Watching the paints merge and settle intoxicates me.)



Thus I avow that my painting is profoundly traditional.  Much closer allied with the overtly classicist atelier movement than with any avant-garde preoccupations, I seek simply to perfect my vision and perfect my ability to recreate that vision through this art form I am in love with.  Capturing light is, for me, a way of being in light.  Fiat lux.

2012