In Tension

I. The situation.

As I approach the first quarter of this project, I have uncovered new insight around my practice and about myself, accordingly; I thought I would share.

I was approached by a curious neighbor who had seen me around the neighborhood taking photographs. She asked me why I was taking pictures of her house, and I responded confusedly, “why would I be taking pictures of your house?”

She informed me that she is a retired police officer and that she figured I was casing the neighborhood. I have lived four doors down from her for over five years, and I actually appreciated that she approached me, I mean: what if I were a burglar? Still, the thought of it to me was so ridiculous, that the moment she said it, I erupted: “No,” I laughed. “I am not taking pictures of your house.”

Her perspective got me to thinking about others’ perceptions, the stories they tell themselves, and the general anxiety so many people feel about the stuff they have or could possibly lose, so I decided to make a project page to put my neighbors’ anxieties at ease. Hello.

II. The intention.

The project page is a start. Right now it is just a gallery with a light grey background. I’d like to add some links to these entries, or some other descriptive information, but at this moment I’m still discovering them. I intend to update the gallery every couple weeks, but I’m not sure how the page or site will adjust. I suppose there isn’t a way for me to know that yet.

One thing this project has really shown me is the compounded enterprise of a daily practice. Satisfying a ritual, regardless of the output, is what binds the goal and me: The ritual is the goal. By naming this intention, I lose the need for perfection, I simply must do the thing, and then it is done. Tomorrow, again.

III. The tension.

About a year ago, I had decided that I no longer wished postpone myself. As I grow older, I realize that all my efforts to please others is simply vanity as there is no such thing as to please others: Others are impossible. I can only respond to my environment, and I have noticed that it’s often best to respond less, withdraw any feelings about any of it, mind my own business and focus on my own improvements.

Like most Americans, my days are filled with a myriad of tiny tensions, unironically and most often, caused by my own doing. Solving tiny problems in the paintings is the thread that informs the very act of living. How much of this problem can I truly control? How much do I want to control, and why should I want to control it? How much do I care if others value my work, or really me? Am I living for them, or am I finally free?

My intention is to invest in the tension of the daily practice that creates this person as I see her. I am this person. I am a person who shows up. I do the work and I always do the work. It doesn’t matter if anyone else notices. My work does not need accolades or fanfare; it only needs to be done with manifest delivery, and only I can do it because it is mine.

IV. The paintings.

I have started drawing a quarter-inch boundary around the edges of the paper: lines which I consistently abuse and break, but the boundary is still drawn. The water, too, is a type of boundary: paint will flow easily where the paper is wet; it resists on dry substrate, but how wet and how dry? These inquiries underscore the ritual.

I have been setting up these little paintings with a limited palette for which I formulated for winter, but have changed a little along the way, and will continue to modify as the seasons request it.

I added creamy and warm Naples Yellow to my palette, which offers a sense of nostalgia and opacity perfect for solar events like rising and falling. I brought in Cyan to help transition the sky from zenith to horizon; Light Sepia glazes offer a Victorian melancholy I can’t quite resist.

In some ways, the paintings are like sculptures: I pull out the highs with cloth and drop in the lows with pigment; in other ways, they are like photographs: they have a developing time outside of my schedule, then I have to work with what they show me.

Therefore, the paintings are an exchange of ideas, neither wholly mine nor theirs, but somehow a mutual agreement – and sometimes not even: pigment suspended in water will do as it wishes, not necessarily as I desire, and in using this media, I have consented to this natural contract.

This relational thinking with the paintings asked me to explore the idea of paintings within paintings: a sort of dialogue between what was happening that day, and what I wanted to be happening. It relates specifically to the stories we tell ourselves which bend reality to our will. What came of this was an idea to “split screen” an image to challenge what is real against what is perceived (and which is believed?).

There are a lot of days where outside is uninviting, and my general nature is to deny it and crave a fiction instead. This is the real work: what to do when things don’t go my way? How to handle things just as they are, not as I wish them to be? What if everything is actually going my way, but I just can’t see it outside of some story I have created about it?

Storytelling is a quintessentially human exploit; in these experiments, I was thinking about the tales we tell: all our invented realities to which we build identities, livelihoods, and relationships. And when our stories are challenged, how quickly we vaporize: a spontaneous evaporation to self as one is, authentically.


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