The flora series is an ongoing group of paintings utilizing the flowers and plants from my home garden. Some are painted outside in my yard while others are in containers which I can bring into my studio and augment with store bought flowers. I’ve recently been adding various shaped mirrors to the set ups, which both multiply the forms and fracture the space. As I work on the paintings, the surface begins to grow along side the plants and flowers in front of me. What attracts me to paint a subject initially is usually a formal concern: either a color or combination of colors, a pattern or a unique shape. A flickering light effect might cause observed moments to slip in and out of clarity. Sometimes while painting, an observed, delineated form will dissolve into an abstract brush stroke. The painting becomes an improvised dance between my brush and the canvas as the continually changing light forces me to react quickly and intuitively to the motif in front of me. Within a painting session that has a beginning and an end, some passages are clarified while others are covered up and disappear. The painting continuously oscillates between generalizations and clarified forms. Returning to the motif continues like this until it is exhausted, until I can no longer find a relationship of elements which hold my interest. It is then that the painting is finished.
Gibbes Museum of Art: Charleston, SC
Visiting Artist residency statement (May 2021)
“As the twig is bent…”
The move in date for my Gibbes visiting artist residency started with a fortuitous gift from the florist setting up for an event in the back lobby. Upon seeing that the paintings I was bringing into the studio involved flowers and floral motifs, I was offered to come by the next day and collect any left over flora that I wanted to use as source material for more work. These gifts were to provide me with my subject matter over the next 3 weeks.
I began by using the flowers in simple still life arrangements, responding to their color and shape as prompts to explore form. The transient nature of flowers and plants has always fascinated me; their cycles of birth, growth and death compressed into a small window of time. Gradually they changed into paintings about the layering of time and spatial ambiguity.
As the flowers began to wilt and decay over the following weeks, the paintings became records of their movements. I was forced to constantly alter and change the paintings in accordance with how they appeared to me each day in the studio. In order to “freeze” the flower’s shape through time and create static visual reference points to paint from, I started to trace the shadows they cast, in silhouette, of the floral shapes on pieces of colored paper. I then began to cut those shapes out and started to incorporate them into the still life set ups in front of me, painting them from observation once again, with the forms ever multiplying and abstracting. Gradually this process morphed into cutting and gluing them onto the paper paintings I was working on, collaging them layer upon layer.
I began tacking these cut out shapes to the window in my corner studio, investigating and layering the idea of looking through a pane of glass to a space beyond. The spaces in the paintings began to collapse and merge into one another, so that there was a visual ambiguity between what was on the “inside” and what was on the “outside” of my studio. Things seen through the window, either dissolved or were clarified during each working session, sometimes shifting slightly, which forced me to alter the painting once again. As the whole visual reference point began to destabilize, with flowers slowly drooping and wilting, these “afterimage” flowers in cut paper remained static yet also spacially malleable.
“As the twig is bent, so grows the tree”, an 18th century proverbial saying, reminded me of how these current paintings grew out of a suite of drawings I was doing almost 20 years earlier in graduate school. In that work, I was incorporating some of the same processes like collage, altering and repeating cut paper motifs, and ambiguously shifting spaces. This added yet another layer of reference to the notion of time passing and artistic growth. Those early influences and procedures began to shape the new paintings and became the strata which make up my work now. Those drawings, the current paper cut outs, and now decaying flowers were all composting in front of me, generating a new and multilayered series of paintings.
*photo by MCG Photography