Territory: Terrain. Ground. Land. Place… Striking out into new territory implies leaving the old one. Exciting, intimidating, courageous. Over the past six months I’ve made a conscious shift from the sculptural mixed-media work and text-informed drawing I had been doing for some years to landscape painting. In my distant past I painted (didn’t we all?) — everything from figure + still life to landscape. Later on, around 2006-7, I was exploring the idea of landscape through abstraction and energetic expression– not painting places, but playing with shape, color, line, etc. and turning it into landscape. Now I’m re-exploring landscape informed by intuitive mark-making, layering of color, gestural brushwork, and spontaneity, and referencing place. It’s a revival of my love of nature, beauty, land, vista. And a departure, a welcome one, from the emotionally-driven, personal narrative work of my (fairly recent) past, which focused on relationship, using metaphor and/or symbolism, specific imagery, objects and text. Which is not to say that at some point I won’t go back (or forward, as the case may be) to doing sculptural work again. I love the hands-on manipulation of 3-D stuff, especially burning paper and sewing it with bronze wire as well as playing with all sorts of materials for collage and assemblage. (Bring on the glue!)
Landscape, to me, is more than painting pretty pictures. It speaks of place, wayfinding, “carving a path”… In the words of author Dominique Browning: (“Slow Love Life”)– “We don’t find paths, do we? We carve them, into what seem like impenetrable terrains, never certain where exactly we are going even when we are certain we are fooling ourselves.” At this point, I’m not certain of where I’m going, or whether or not I’m fooling myself. But I’m in the studio, being brave, consistently challenging myself even as I ask “why does the world need another landscape painting?”
Although, I can answer that too: it’s about the energy of the work, the intention, the quality of place, mark-making, and letting go of the desire to shock, stand out, or say something “profound.” It is, for me now, the experience of creating the painted surface, infused with passion and beauty. The word “biophelia” comes to mind : “an innate love for the natural world, supposed to be felt universally by humankind” (Also: Bjork’s project .)
So– I’m striking out, one stroke at a time: curious about where the path is leading, where I’ll be going this year to find even newer territory, and leaving you with a question: Are you making radical shifts this year, in your life/work/medium/concept? Is your territory new or comfortably old? I welcome your comments– after all, the real reason I’m striking out here is to expand my tribe, my vision, and my work, and hopefully yours as well.