Wednesday, November 9, 2011


"Compost", oil on panel, framed
When I'm in my studio I sometimes wonder how I do what I do.  I'll begin a painting full of anticipation, hungry for the satisfaction that comes when colors, lines and spontaneous gestures come together and say "aaaahhhh."  More often than not, though, I know I have to bring the painting to a deeper level, so I paint over what has pleased before and keep reaching for something richer.  In this way I am discarding what is no longer needed but building something better from what is underneath.

One of my recently completed paintings taught me how important it is to keep pushing my work until it blossoms.  This particular panel was an unusual size for me, 14" x 17," and in that way alone became a challenge for composition.  For weeks I kept adding new color, digging back into the surface and even washing parts of it away with mineral spirits.  I began to despair of it ever growing into a viable entity.  One day I knew it had finally turned a corner and had become dark and vital in some mysterious way.  Every time I looked at it I felt a nudge of gratitude.

Not long after completing that painting I decided it was time for me to work on a project I had long postponed.  Last year when I was undergoing radiation I received permission from my oncologist to take photographs from my perspective on the treatment table.  The technologists assisted me by placing the equipment where it normally is for treatment, then handing me my camera.  I took several photos but the most evocative ones for me were when the overhead lights were off just prior to being radiated.  When I took out my folder of photos with plans to make work based on that experience, I was stunned to see that my recently completed painting felt like it represented that dark radiation experience.

I titled this work "Compost."  In so many ways I mixed together discarded bits and pieces of color and marks until they became the black gold that helped something new grow strong.  Being treated for cancer was compost for this new work even though it wasn't consciously decided.

I call my genre of work "introspective abstraction" because I've long recognized that my paintings compile and distill my experiences, emotions and the deep thinking I am prone to.  I can't often explain "What is it?" when someone asks, I can only describe how it feels.  "Compost" feels like an affirmation for continuing on this path I have chosen, to paint with my whole heart.