This body of work comes from my attraction to the unique landscape of the swamp. As a continuously unpredictable environment, the swamp’s changing atmospheres and the forms that dwell within it, became perfect subjects to explore my own language of abstraction and metamorphosis. These works began at an artist’s residency in Mississippi in 2014. Out on the water, I watched as the sky and lake flickered through innumerable colors and levels of brightness, starting before sunrise. Each phase of this transformation was compelling in relation to the forms of the swamp, becoming a sequence of backlit mirror images. Both foreign and familiar, the grasses and cypress stumps became a lexicon of hieroglyphs. In my initial attraction, and subsequent direct intimate experience with the land, the groundwork for the creation of these environments emerged.
Drawing from a wide variety of influences and experiences, past residencies, research, art history, and time spent abroad have been essential. Roger Brown's use of pattern and symbolism in his landscapes, Ann Craven's ritualistic production of serial images of the landscape, and Charles Burchfield's representation of the spiritual in his landscapes also play important roles. Drawing and re-drawing the grasses and stumps of the swamp, with their variety of characteristics, has become an almost automatic process. Moving beyond direct experience into memory and invention, and using heightened mirror imaging, symmetry, and geometric framing, the relationships in the swamp become exaggerated and suggestive, at times tipping into realms of psychedelia, signs and symbols of coats of arms, or ritual drawings for protection.
In the Selvage series, I take my attraction to the swamp one step further. Contrasting to the organic forms of the swamp, the Selvage works are ordered, geometric forms that also serve a ritualistic and spiritual function. When I finish a swamp painting, I then make a Selvage with the excess paint from my palette, using swamp works as a reference. For that reason, they share the same palettes and act as abstract counter-points to the representational conversation began with the initial works. They become colorist investigations into pattern rooted in traditions of quilt-making and textile, and as a way to detach and “clean the slate” before the next painting.
The project’s parameters include using the same pattern as an under-drawing, and making half of each painting lighter, and the other half darker so that an overarching pattern emerges depending on the arrangement of the individual panels. The layout is based on a design used in quilt-making called “barn-raising.” This work is made on 12” x 12” or 12” x 24” panels that are meant to be hung together in a variety of interchangeable arrangements, and can also stand alone. The whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts.
My approach to landscape starts with an immediate, direct connection to a particular place, experienced first-hand. I imagine this to be an alignment between the point at which my spirit and the spirit of a given place fall into harmony. I focus on identifying and memorizing the visual components of my experience that best describe the connection that I felt, going over them again and again in my mind for anywhere from a couple hours to several days before recording my recollection as a drawing. From there, I develop these compositions as studies, and then as larger paintings, organizing the landscape into fundamental components. This process reveals themes that I then explore over several works. Lately, I've been especially interested in grouping several paintings together, and rotating the orientation of some of them so that up is down, left is right, and the landscape becomes a different kind of pattern altogether.