The Oak and the Cypress
…And stand together yet not too near together:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.”
Excerpt from “On Marriage” by Kahlil Gibran
This body of work is about being married, or in a long-term relationship.
The first step toward this theme was a technical one: I challenged myself to begin using pattern in more conscious ways in my paintings. This technical consideration soon turned metaphorical as I began to consider the patterns (specifically behavioral ones) in my daily life. Around this time, maybe because of this train of thought, I suddenly realized that my eight-year relationship with my wife can now be considered “long-term”. We’re not honeymooners any more, and sometimes we’re both surprised to realize that. On top of this, we traveled to Italy last summer, the first time we’d been there since we went together as a brand-new couple. This trip provided a natural comparison and opportunity to look at our relationship at its beginning and at its current bloom.
It also caused me to revisit some of my earlier artwork, since I was inspired by Italy at that time. The warm Italian palette, crusty textures, sense of the passage of time, and found objects such as Italian wall posters frequently featured in my compositions, and I’ve returned to some of these themes to explore marriage.
The exploration of the figure is a departure from my usual abstraction, and a move into explicitly personal territory and themes.
These paintings were created one each day during June 2016. June is commonly known as Pride Month among the queer community, and I wanted to celebrate by honoring a different queer person or moment each day of the month.
Almost halfway through the project, the murders occurred at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, and this project took on a different tone. Where some early pieces featured small figures cast within a “scene”, or humorous images, after the tragedy I began to focus on making the figure as large as possible, and took care to imbue each with a healthy dose of gravitas. Each day, I added another small image to the growing collection on the wall. It began to feel like our queer ancestors were watching over us in some fashion. It was comforting in a strange, talismanic way. Here are some of the best of the month.
The Lavender Menace Series
This body of work is an exploration of identity and its intersection, or collision, with contemporary events. I am moved by news items about structural and personal violence, which I cull from the internet, social media, and traditional news broadcasts.
Painting abstractly about these incidents allows me to remove them from their specific contexts, providing a contemplative space for both maker and viewer. In contrast to the specificity of the news reports, it is a space where colors and edges inform and suggest, where layers both hide and reveal what lies underneath, where collage items assume new identities in relation to their new contextual home.
Though the news items are themselves weighty, even graphic, the paintings inspired by them are accessible and inviting, featuring harmonious colors, lively compositions, organic shapes, and evidence of the artist’s hand in bursts of drawing. This attention to beauty invites the viewer to engage with a topic which may otherwise be too gritty to face. By actively locating beauty in what may be considered unusual places, I advocate for a concern for social justice. The paintings offer a gesture for connection, and ultimately a hopeful worldview.
The Italy Paintings
These paintings were inspired by three summers spent teaching in Italy. (For those in the know, I should specify that one summer was spent in Italy, and two were in Sicily–big difference!). Some are based on photographs I took of objects such as walls, or tools and machinery left to rust in their outdoor environment, caught in the Mediterranean light, and aged by the sun and time. I use these photos as a point of departure for exploring a visual record of my experiences.
Most of the paintings also include collage items that I found in Italy, such as pieces of ever-present Italian wall posters, discarded paper, and even volcanic rock from the top of Mt. Etna.