Leslie and I had our final in-person mentor meeting on Friday, May 23–and we really wrapped up a productive semester. Leslie’s help was pivotal. She asked incredibly important, relevant, often philosophical questions, allowing me to arrive naturally at fruitful answers, without ever feeling disarmed or pressured. I was able to be myself, with expert guidance, and I’m hugely appreciative of her incredible wisdom and open-minded approach.
Since we had spent so many hours analyzing the digital stills this semester, we talked less about them as individual units this time and more as an overall, blended language.
We referred back to the set of stills as we talked about other developments, however.
Especially this one:
The big painting is about 3/4 of the way complete and Leslie was excited about it. My primary question was whether this was an avenue worth investigating, to which Leslie answered a resounding YES!
The painting started as a mutation of a side exercise Leslie had suggested during our very first meeting. Like the digital Cascade, it took on a life of its own and rapidly moved from exercise to breakthrough.
We talked about ways in which the painting spoke to digitality, without simply performing as a static copy of a digital printout. We also discussed line, color palette, the ambiguous, elastic-space environment and other formal and conceptual considerations. Leslie did an intense micro/macro reading of the painting surface, analyzing everything from moment-to-moment passages and color shifts to the language of mark-making and individual transitions–then we dug into its method of communicating the ambiguity of physical and social space so important to both the transitional television stills and my bigger body of work.
Overall, she was intrigued by its ability to stand up to reading both near and far, and by its fresh interpretation of the digital as counterpoint.
We could see a series of these shown in relation to video projection and digital stills–various expressions of the Cascade with different dialects, thus offering different avenues of analysis without being repetitious.
We also dug deeply into what seems the most important aspect of the painting: how it radically changed the way I work in paint.
I’m normally a fast painter, owing to my quick, responsive engagement with the content. I strategize the whole and attack. I know what needs to be done and I work to complete it as a continuous drive.
For example, we spoke about this older still life I had in the studio:
For rendering the study above, I conceptualized the whole and dug in. It was a matter of fleshing out a complete idea where most of the planning and discovery takes place off-canvas.
What’s different with this new painting is my approach to resolving the image. Of course the style and purpose of these two works are different, but that’s not the point I’m making. In fact, Leslie pointed out that my treatment of the seemingly flat areas in the fruit study (especially the lower right, just beneath the right pomegranate) resemble the moment-to-moment shifts in the large painting (and the digital work). So, *I* am still very much doing what I have always done–just cracking it open and freshening it up.
For this new painting, I am combining three different Cascade stills, themselves already multi-layer combinations of other stills, drawings and prints.
Rather than combine them in Photoshop, print it out and copy in paint–I am mixing them in real time on paper. Deejaying, in a way. Sampling bits from each and whirling them together. I have an overall intention, but as I work into the painting surface, I am responding to each individual moment, to each brush stroke, to each passage in a new way.
I am no longer diving in to simply fulfill an expressive objective.
Instead, this painting is a process. It’s a process of reactive discovery–an archaeological dig of moments that reveal themselves, shift, change, and reveal new encounters. It is behaving like a digital or printmaking process, allowing me to adapt and respond, analyze and uncover.
It’s taking me much longer than painted works in the past, because it’s telling its own story as the story unravels.
Leslie was thrilled. I seem to have made an important breakthrough which allowed me to apply my digital and printmaking way of thinking to the immediacy of paint.
It takes me out of my plan-ahead strategist brain and puts me in a new, adapt-as-you-go-within-a-bigger-plan method, a la The Art of War. So I paradoxically have a plan blueprint, but my movements change from hour to hour.
Taking away the rigidity of the finite plan in execution allowed the painting to open up, to speak to digitality, to speak to the concept–and Leslie and I both felt it’s an important avenue of investigation.
We also talked about some of the first output Horizons (above). They came out way too dark, but Leslie encouraged me to let go of my dissatisfaction with the printing process and to look at them for what they are, for their scale, their internal nature and their “happy accident” color palette.
We analyzed them for a while, with Leslie suggesting what might happen if they were selectively excavated. Would a smaller snippet still speak to the whole? This is kind of like the micro zooms idea.
The long, desert-evoking horizontality is important in these and I’ll be printing a couple more to take with me to gauge interest. Leslie also suggested she liked multiple horizons stacked, just as Conor had mentioned last week.
We covered a lot of ground, went back over many of our earlier discussion points from other meetings and Leslie rounded it all out by taking a personal interest in my preparation level for the residency. We tackled any concerns had for the upcoming trip and we discussed the nuts and bolts of getting the most out of even the most problematic critiques.
She genuinely cares about how confident I feel and how capable, equipped and ready I feel for the Fall semester and offered to meet again if I need it during the final week of May. I will be sending her updates on the videos I’m reworking, as well as the painting, but I think she prepared me well. Thanks, Leslie!