Monday, December 8, 2014

In Pursuit of A Great Liberation Through Seeing

Over the summer I reworked my dining room table, adding an experimental acrylic painting to the surface. I liked how it turned out, and especially enjoyed the surprises that would arise in the painting process. Each of the geometric shapes had a blend of colors, unplanned, that contrasted with one another in a way that emphasizes the brush strokes.
Home Coming (closeup)
acrylic on wood
So I decided to try the same technique on non-functional pieces.
October 2014a
acrylic and shellac on wood
26" x 17" x 2"
On these I couldn't help myself from adding a shellac french polish process to the work. I've thought a lot about this and, on one level, feel that if I could resist, the work would take much less time and I wouldn't mind offering them for less, perhaps even helping to sell a few.
October 2014a (closeup)
But I really like the effect shellac adds. Not only does it add depth, it also changes the painting from something that is apart from the sculpture to something that becomes an indistinguishable part of it while adding mystery as to how it was applied.
October 2014b
acrylic and shellac on wood
30" x 26" x 2"
And the process of rubbing shellac on the surface over many many hours is so ridiculous, so obsessive, that it sets the piece apart from other paintings, adding a recognizable sense of caring. I know this doesn't come through well in images, but in person I hope viewers can really feel an intense emotional dimension to the work, even if they can't know how many obsessive hours I spend finishing a piece.
 October 2014b (closeup)
However, on another level, I feel that the shellac work devalues the art, that the polish might trigger an association with craft and furniture which is, by its nature, devalued. And honestly, I want people to make that association but I want it to be made in a way that doesn't devalue it, which may be an impossible challenge.
October 2014c
acrylic and shellac on wood
22" x 37" x 2"
Regardless of what people think, or how much they value my process, I have decided I to do it this way; I can only hope that at some point the appreciation will follow from my own appreciation and obsessiveness.
October 2014c (closeup)
I've also thought a lot more about my choice in using wood as a medium for sculpture. In theory, something similar could be done in stone, or ceramic, or metal, or numerous other media, but I love how wood, more than any other medium, adds an indisputable uniqueness. That the work cannot be replicated on any level -- from the base, to the shape, to the paintings on top, to the finish -- is especially important to me. I like how it is completely impossible to copy any of these pieces.
November 2014a
acrylic and shellac on wood
9.5" x 46" x 3"
I also love how wood, being organic, adds warmth. I know if I painted the same thing on a bronze they would feel very cold.
 November 2014a (closeup)
Additionally, I have to say that I absolutely love each of the little "painting-ets." I feel they have a beautiful spontaneity, each completely unique and surprising, which adds a level of fun and joy.
 November 2014b
acrylic and shellac on wood
13" x 38" x 3"
But personally, i also feel the "painting-ets" add an aspect of spirituality to the work. I see each of them as body-less "beings" with their own personalities and histories, floating though space and time, joining or splitting off from other "beings" as circumstances dictate.
 November 2014b (closeup)
The truth is, I listen to an audio recording of The Tibetan Book of the Dead (as read by Richard Gere -- and he does an excellent job of pronouncing all those funky words, I assume) too much. I have it on my iPod along with a very eclectic mix of music, set on shuffle, so that various chapters pop up at unpredictable times in the most incongruous segues (though Modest Mouse followed by a chapter on the wrathful deities seems about right). 
 November 2014c
acrylic and shellac on wood
35" x 8" x 4"
But I like it because it is important to know what to do when you no longer have a body, and to know that it is the same, in many ways, as when you do have one. I figure it must come through my work, though perhaps I'm just projecting onto it.
November 2014c (closeup)
Anyway, that is what I see, and think about, when I look at this work.
November 2014d
acrylic and shellac on wood
33" x 8" x 4"
As The Tibetan Book of the Dead is subtitled The Great Liberation Through Hearing, if I were to be truly successful in this work, they could be titled The Great Liberation Through Seeing.
 November 2014d (closeup)
And though I do consider myself completely delusional in many aspects of my life, I have no expectation that I would ever accomplish it. But that doesn't mean I won't try either.