A version of these words was originally delivered to Concordia University Irvine students in an artist talk and then published in my newsletter. Neither of those are my own platform and I am increasingly convinced of the importance of placing things in places were you are in possession of the foundation. So I include it here.
As dining with friends came to a halt in early 2020 due to the pandemic, and my external studio space closed and my dining table became my studio and host to another kind of relational event, that of materials, learning about each other. The personification of material in the contemporary context can be drawn from Walter Benjamin’s essay which asks the maker to consider “What does this picture want to be? How do these materials relate to each other?” For two years, I consistently hosted this conversation. The timelapses of their creation (which are observable on my Instagram and YouTube) document the getting-to-know-you phases of the materials and how the relationships evolved over time. The dry paintings are a result of those “dinner parties.” They stand as remnants and reminders of the way in which relationships change us by way of question and possibility.
Allow me to introduce you to the primary conversation partners of this dinner party.
The first guest to arrive is paper. Rives BFK is traditionally a printmaking paper, relatively heavy at 280gsm, and a cotton mold-made paper, which means that the cotton rag slurry is rolled onto a continuously moving woolen felt. This allows for the paper fibers to dry in multiple directions, yielding a very strong and smooth surface, placid if you will. Without this kind of strength, the paper would shred and disintegrate given the amount of water used to create these images. Rives BFK is similar to fabric in many ways, it bends but does not break, it is not easily torn, a stalwart companion, and foundational to the success of this gathering.
The next guest at this proverbial dinner party is Winsor and Newton Payne’s Grey Professional Series Watercolor. According to the Winsor and Newton website “Payne's Gray is a dark blue grey made from a mixture of Ultramarine, Lamp Black and sometimes Crimson. It was named after the 18th c. water-colorist William Payne who created the mixture and often recommended it to his students as an alternative to plain black.” It is a semi-opaque paint with staining properties. What I love most about this paint is the range of opacity and transparency. Payne’s Grey always has a je ne sais quoi element, making it mercurial and transitory as a conversation partner. And yet its allure keeps the invitation extended, because no other paint can do what it can do.
I still remember the first time I was introduced to salt as a watercolor companion, 8 years ago. I was in Barnes & Noble leafing thru a book on urban watercolor sketching and came across a page that suggested spit or salt for adding texture to a painting. I had never considered salt (or spit) before, as I was more interested in printmaking and pattern design at the time. But I quickly became obsessed and tested every salt in the cupboard at home and then purchased a few more. Now most people that view my work have no idea that my original training was in printmaking, because this watercolor and salt relationship has taken over so thoroughly. Salt is a relationship that pulled me away from everything and everyone else, but proved to be such a good companion that I can’t imagine my life without it. What emerged as my salt bae, specifically, is Morton’s Coarse Kosher Salt because of its size and reactivity with the chosen paint.
The Princeton Neptune Line 3/4” oval wash paintbrush is a true companion. I am in love with this brush. There I said it. We can debate the theological ramifications of loving objects in a different talk, but suffice to say the Princeton Neptune 3/4” oval wash is the brush of my devotion. It is what artists call “thirsty”, meaning it holds A LOT of paint. This is particularly useful, because it is a rather small brush when covering sheets of paper 22”x30’ or 30”x44”. A larger brush picks up too much paint and leaves glumps on the paper, and the smaller brush is too dry when covering this sized surface. The 3/4” is my best friend, always there, ready and willing to pick up the conversation wherever we left off and wherever it leads, hence their presence at this dinner conversation.
Water and Time are also in attendance. Both constant companions to human existence and integral to this party. I think that they need no introduction as they are universally known and acknowledged.
All of these materials are in conversation, with each other and with me, constructing a careful measure practice. Deepening the relationships thru deliberate action. They are also a practice that points toward the Christian idea of the new heaven and the new earth, a restored existence. This dinner party of materials is only a glimpse of the eternal feast that is to come.
You may be wondering why I articulate the material relationships in such detail? Because we have a G-D that spoke the world into being, we have the ancient word abracadabra, which translates to “as I speak I create” and the paintings are a visible construction of hopes and prayers, creations without words. These paintings are a practice of painted prayers, in the manner of Brother Lawrence who suggests that every action we undertake can be done as a prayer, washing the dishes was his famous example, and painting is my lived example.
Done during the various waves of the pandemic the paintings are records of a conversation, missives sent with the knowledge that one-day things will be different, conviction of restoration. They depict reflective observations of the present, echoes of landscapes explored and to be explored. The imagery is biomimetic, referencing bones, shadows, ice, coral, flowers, tree bark, bacteria, and mud. These paintings are a direct result of a years-long studio investigation focused on the interaction between watercolor and salt, prayer and practice. It is my hope in hearing, with specificity, about these materials that portals to knowledge and understanding will stand unlocked and ready for you to explore in your own constructive life and practice.