The works in Lost and Found can be thought of as maps. They include references to traditional mapmaking, such as the drawn and printed lines of topographical maps, text and symbols, in addition to latitudinal and longitudinal coordinates. They start with a camera phone photograph and are released first through social media, representing a first phase of communication through readily available, relatively low-tech methods. The locations themselves are unremarkable, other than possessing a time and place that felt worth remembering. Further documentation of time, place and image is collected in the form of coordinates, date, time and photo filter text. This process at times feels like hunting; at other times, an act of surveillance.
The images undergo a painstaking process of addition and elimination. References are layered, in full or in part. What was black and white becomes color, what was transparent becomes opaque, what was added becomes subtracted and scraped away. Qualities of light and surface are completely altered. Nothing is sacred; nothing is precious. They are controlled and released, structured and intuitive. In this way they have become a powerful metaphor.
The works in Lost and Found are maps. But they are not only maps of a place. They have become maps of memories and experiences. They include specific information of time and place, but very little of it is complete or reliable in the way a cartographer would require. They include multiple modes of examination and multiple modes of representation, but fall short of defining or fully representing with any clarity. It is here they find meaning. They are sharing without specifying. They are revealing and concealing. They have depth and significance, but can also be beautiful and fleeting. They are Lost and Found.
Discovery has long been a critical part of my creative process. New materials, new techniques and new subjects have been the fuel that has sustained my work for many years. The moment of epiphany that comes from taking a risk and stumbling on something new and unexpected never gets old.
This new body of work did not start out with radical change in mind. A renewed interest in subjective color provided the departure point out of my “Warning Signs” series in 2011. Thus began my exploration of animal subjects as metaphorical characters caught in a staged drama, alerted to unseen dangers outside of the visual field. Through an evolution of painting and many avenues of thought, these “(Un)Natural Habitats” paintings have become something greatly departed from what was before.
Everything about these new works carries a quality of artifice. The ‘natural’ subjects of animal, bird and insect are no longer bound by reality, having transitioned clearly into subjectively colored monochromatic versions of themselves. The photographic backgrounds are distorted and covered to the point of no longer clearly referencing their landscape source. The entire relationship of the creatures to the environments is modeled after natural history museum dioramas, which are pale simulations of historical and environmental experiences. There is even the presence of selected surrogate subjects, from origami roses to Japanese lanterns pretending to be the moon, which are playful, but not quite right
The “Document” pieces expand on this avenue of discovery and historical record by simulating old journal pages from a Darwinesque exploration of impossible creatures. Strangely colored like their brethren in the panels, these animals and birds are rendered as traditional subjects while also representing strange new species of fantasy and invention. As with the other paintings, the artifice of these works is left evident, including the map coordinates and Latin designations of color and scientific classification.
By holding on to some reference to the ‘real world’ while simultaneously entering into a new and undiscovered realm, these “(Un)Natural Habitats” have become something very different from where they began. I can’t wait to see where they take me next…
I am an idealist. I long for things that are positive, uplifting and idyllic. Someone once told me that there should be no reason to hold back with the conceptual possibilities that my paintings promised. It was ‘my world’ and I could do anything I wanted in them. Wise words. They have liberated me and allowed me to created spaces of beauty that are just as much a part of the past as they are the present.