Working from the Inside Out. My art practice stems from the idea that the work of others comes first. When I had no words, I turned to the words of others. An interaction with a piece of art is a circular dialogue. You smack into an object and have to respond to it; art is an action-request. Look at it, reject it, adore it, absorb it. Art making is a practice of narrative and empathy. If you’re willing to look, you can see a reality where you are the author, the editor, the actor. Art is about putting your eyes in your hands.
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Syllabus from Portraiture, Kind of, Summer 2017
Painting glues all parts of you together. THINKING AND ACTION BECOME FORM. The process of making requires action, a constant mediating between desire to see something and then have that thing be seen. Painting makes you the center. You are the point of origin. You start a process of generating and assessing, and at the end, you are left with an object that has magnitude; painting lets the end of things have significance. When you finish a painting, you will stand apart from all the things you wanted and thought as you made it. You will be separate from yourself.
Action requires a specific state of dreaming. You are putting yourself and your opinions and your personal taste into a grid. Literally, you will be putting those parts of yourself on a square. Abstractly, you will be manifesting yourself in position to the world. To paint, we must work through our world and our liquid, incomprehensible insights. When you paint, here you are again. Alive. Alone. Ask yourself what you want from this, and what you expect yourself to do here. Forget it by next week and ask again when you hopefully come back to me. When we paint, You will put attention on yourself and your touch in order to do this thing (painting) that we are doing here together, today and every subsequent Saturday, unless of course we all decide to change the day.
This is a class where we make. We are here to act, and learn about the wet, confusing machine of our bodies. We depend so heavily on them to paint. There is no divide between mind and body here. The significance of all people and objects comes from you, and also from the time and place. When we paint on a square, we put meaning in a frame. What we think about things and what they mean are always dependent on their time, place, and scene. If the importance of painting is in humanity, the mechanics of the tool of our body, then the loose subject of this class is also people and bodies and faces. This is supposedly a portraiture class. We’re here to act on the overwhelming subject of people, which, I suppose really means anything. Art is our method of enduring the world. We are artists because we want to be, and we keep living, and so we keep being artists. You are an artist. You’re here for that, I hope. By making art, you get to expose your energy, and your desperate constant wanting. So, obviously, we paint people. People, our subject of infinite tenderness. People, the constant history that we are sealed in.
(In this class, we do not make photographs. Your body is not a camera. I can help you make the people we paint more “realistic” but at the end of the day, we are painting impressions of people.)
Here’s the first hard prescription that I have for you:
Steal everything. Language is something that you learn at birth to steal your thoughts out into the world; steal other people’s words, their images, and the way that they interlock with history. The majority of this what I’ve written here is my interpretation of my old teacher’s syllabus. Her words were better than mine, in my small opinion, so I made them a part of this. Thank you, Dana DeGuilio. In high school, in the past, I was asked to re-write sentences in science class. New words, synonyms, “put it into your own words”. The sentances had to pass through a bot, ensure that the formula was different even if the sentiment was the same. Regardless: you know what parts are important to you. Underline, circle them, translate if you want, but speak to yourself.
Painting puts all movement into the present, since all decisions you will make in creating an object will make that object into itself; painting is a person. We all hold our own backgrounds and histories that are never gone from us. We build ourselves up every day and the world builds onto us. The same is true for painting. Choice is reduced into great importance. Green or Red hair? Wet, runny paint, or thick paint that holds your brushstrokes? Dress yourself. If you like someone else’s choices, steal them.
My Relationship, to you:
I am here for you. I am a first time teacher and I am a fallible painter. I am here as a resource for you to use. My knowledge and my words are yours and they are at your mercy and your whims. Our class, like people, and like paintings, will build itself. I am able to care about you without knowing your histories, your parents, or your dreams, and I am able to care about your art without knowing where it will go or what it will be or what you even think about it. Your art will impact your world, and by letting other people see it, it will act upon the world. Us agreeing (on anything) has precisely nothing to do with it. I am, as your non-elected leader, here to love you deeply. The world does not expect or require you to make these paintings. I am here to, at the very, very, very least, respect and support your desire to make objects and help you figure out why you want to make paintings, and how to make those paintings something of value for you.
This class is for all ages, “skill” levels, and hopes. If I am saying something that you don’t understand, ask so that I can better explain something. Ask about everything. I only ask of you that if there’s a roadblock to you understanding, that you keep pushing through it. The meaning of things will often become more clear in context. If you don’t understand a word, circle it and come back to it. That’s the benefit of this being on a page. Things that are written down and painted will outlast me up here, talking at you. Interrupt my speech, edit my words. The purpose of the “class”, of having a non-elected teacher here for you is to order our collective chaos. If your teacher is making you feel lost and chaotic, tell her. For example: I should have put this disclaimer closer to the front, but it seemed to fit better under the header of “My Relationship, to you”. That was my judgement call.
Some practical information:
This class will meet weekly until the end of october. Right now, it is scheduled for every Saturday at 2. If you are showing up, I expect you to participate. We are here to work and make and be fussy and particular and active, active, active. You should demand respect from your classmates and respect the hell out of them in return. I don’t know what your desires are, from this class, but I sincerely hope I will learn them through the work that you will do here.
While this class will be a lot of work, SCREW EXCELLENCE. Send perfection back to hell. Painting is a liquid, sloppy, call-and-response, and we are here to learn. You have time to work slowly, and you have the support to work quickly. Nancy (our matriarch in chief of the art center) has worked diligently to try and get you all free materials. If we run out of materials, we will find some. If we can’t paint, we will draw, and if we can’t draw, we’ll collage, and if we can’t collage, we’ll assemble piles of objects in pleasing shapes. If you can afford to buy a notebook, I would strongly encourage you to. I will be printing and distributing any reading that I expect you to do, and if you have trouble reading what I pick, send me a text and we’ll read it together.
Truly yours, as long as we’re here together and you look to me,
Or just, you know, come by the art center and shout my name. I’ll be here pretty much always.