Artist’s Statement, 2016
It’s a challenge to speak clearly when immersed in one’s own work— “in the thick of it”, as it were—but this is nothing new. Artists through the ages have tried to make words happen from pictures, and doubtless many felt a similar helplessness. It will come as little surprise to most people who’ve met me that writing about my work and process is beyond my scope. I struggle sometimes to see the comprehensive theme of a body of work that sometimes feels so diverse as to have been done by not one, but a half-dozen distractible artists adopting then dismissing color palettes and media at will. In my days as a public school teacher, administrators would frequently be puzzled, if not outrightly frustrated, with what became known as my “global” way of thinking, in contrast with the objective, measurable, “linear” thought process that is amply rewarded in traditional schooling. What was passed off as casual observation made me presciently rethink the concept of line.
A decade ago, I moved to New Mexico. I am still startled at my surroundings— nothing can prepare one for the vastness of this sky, the clarity of the light, the raw power of nature in its extremes. Who can dismiss a vista so overwhelming that it cannot be comprehended in one fixed gaze? You need wings to navigate a sky this big. Arcing in incomprehensible blue, roiling above us in the monsoon season, teasing us with the promise of rain—yes, I need wings. It is only the ability to delineate, segment, and encapsulate vistas that lets me tether my skies to the ground. It’s a treacherous beauty out there; the desert can desiccate with its sun, blind with its wind, drown with its unforgiving flash floods. On the clearest days I can see the mountains in Chihuahua, Mexico, and the irony of imaginary boundaries is not lost on me; I get a funny twinge thinking about words like la linea and la frontera. Seemingly arbitrary lines in the sand— now sometimes thirty feet high and extending ten feet underground—determine much of our lives here on the Southern border. The porosity of such a line is changeable with fiscal incentives, fear, and political ambition, and is sketched by a hand more powerful than my own.
I am a painter. By my hand, lines appear or disappear as I see fit; I obliterate them on a whim or demarcate an inset, nesting one image within another. Sometimes the line is merely implied, much like the cultural boundaries are here. One may not see it, merely perceive it; it defines the periphery of our conscious action, one shape abutting another. Other times, the line screams its own existence, violently asserting itself as a barricade, like the bollard fences or the precipitous walls. Like the complexities in a painting, these things take on a different meaning in close proximity. One becomes privy to details that inform judgment of the whole composition. Critic, inform thyself.
And so it goes on the border— the precarious dance of life and death, drought and flood, human rights and legal rights, crime and punishment, skies and sand. Art imitates life over and over again, making lines and painting skies and wings with which to fly. A line may not always lead to an endpoint, but double back on itself; a composition may never feel complete until one changes perspective, moving closer or stepping back to perceive it globally, as it were. Maybe it’s never done, even after you sign it. I haven’t received that transmission yet, so I won’t pretend to know the answers.