Laura Rathe asked Gil Bruvel, Tara Conley, and myself to speak for a few minutes during a luncheon she hosted last week in conjunction with a group exhibition at her Houston gallery entitled Gratitude. The whole exhibition was premised on Laura's love and deep appreciation for her artists and collectors, and in essence for her life. The show itself was outstanding, as each artist was asked to create a single, outstanding piece for the show. The luncheon made the exhibition even more special, as we were surrounded by these incredible artworks, in a truly beautiful architectural space, but the most beautiful part was being in the company of this group of people.
Gil Bruvel, aside from being one of my all time favorite human beings, is an incredibly skilled painter and sculptor--click here if you think I am exaggerating. He spoke on the twelve step process of casting stainless steel sculpture. WOW. Yep, never doing that. I'll just buy a piece of Gil's some day instead. Tara Conley spoke about the way in which she collects phrases that she overhears over the years, records them in her journal, and the contextual shift that occurs once she transforms these audible sounds into something visual in the form of legible sculptural phrases. She also spoke on gratitude and the piece she made for the show-abubble gum machine made of steel, which I wish I had thought to photograph! You can view some of her work here. I love it.
I wanted to give these guests a little gift, and I wondered what small thing I could give to them that they could keep with them. And I thought about the question I am asked ALL the time--"How long does it take you to make a painting?"
I always struggle with this question. The question is really another way of asking "When does a painting begin, and when does it end?"
Does it begin at the moment of inspiration? When I am so overwhelmed by the beauty of a perfect flower or butterfly, when I am utterly seduced by the feeling of my body submerged in warm turquoise waters, or when I am standing in awe of a black and white world of white snow covered poplars and their black shadows surrounding me in the Rockies?
Or does it go back even further to the day I came into this world? After all, every smell, taste, sight, sound, and touch has created my entire sensual vocabulary. And every feeling and human experience I have ever had has led up to the group of hours that take place between those first and last brush strokes.
Or does the piece begin with the action part of the process? With the moment the brush hits the canvas--the moment I start to "build a problem," disturbing the otherwise perfect rectangular space? Does the painting begin at the start of the dialogue between myself and this canvas?
All of these are true. And yet, to me none of them matter. I think the more valuable question is, "What does it take to make a painting?"
The action part of my process (the dirty part, the fun part) is a highly intuitive one. I am not thinking on a conscious level, and I feel more like I am in a state of deep mediation than in a state of action. I feel like I am not making conscious choices, and that the painting comes through me somehow. One could contradict that in so many ways, but this is how I feel. And one cannot argue with that.
The other part of the question, "How long does it take to make a painting?" requires identifying the end of the process. Is a piece complete at the moment of the last brushstroke? Or is it the moment a finished piece is released into the world?
For the most part I believe it is the latter, and then it's not really yours anymore [enter Jeff Tweedy]. Our work as artists is not much more than selfish, expressive action without putting it out there, gifting it to the universe, and sharing it with other human beings, with our world. In our case this usually means via a gallery or museum, and I have been incredibly blessed with the most stellar team of art dealers imaginable. My dealers act out their part of the process with the same passion, integrity, and love that I have for the creation of my paintings. And I am thankful. I am deeply thankful.
Tara asked me to share this, so I have.
It has been an incredible year, an incredible, but also really humbling journey to be here on this day in 2013. Wishing you happiness and love in the coming year…Peace.