My goal in approaching each new painting is to create something both pretty and uncomfortable. The colors and compositions—largely focused on nature—are traditional bubble gum fare that is pleasing to the eye. But then there are too many eyeballs. Is the painting watching the viewer? Why?
I mean for the experience to be at least slightly unsettling. If you don’t look too closely, you might think—“well that might be pretty to hang above my couch.” But then you do look closely and decide, maybe not (depending on your social circle). My own children are unnerved by the eyes, so I don’t hang too many of my pieces in my home.
And then there is the issue of the snakes. They are one of my favorite subjects and—like the eyes—I paint them over and over again. My grandmother had a distinct and dramatic phobia of snakes. And most people I think just don’t like them. And the Christian Bible, of course, has its own opinions. To me, snakes represent change (snakes shed their skins over and over again—they grow, they writhe and struggle to be free of their old selves, scrapping away at past coverings and layers). They also represent healing and positive sexuality.
I try to make my plants just a little too fleshy and alien. Perhaps the plants end up being the most unsettling because we often see them as background—they are supposed to not be too noticeable.
I’m not exactly sure what impulse underlies this need in my artwork to sooth and then needle, to please and then punish. I will discard or paint over any composition that comes out as “too pretty.” I sometimes think the impulse relates to my own discomfort with art as commerce, with objects imbued with spirit and meaning becoming, in essence, currency. Maybe it conveys some of my rage at being a woman, being a mother in our current historic circumstances. Both myself and my work refuse to be pretty—that feels too much like acquiescence to a status quo that grates/pounds/crushes me with such casual indifference to my simple existence.
My deepest influences are found equally within the surrealists and Outsider Art pieces such as street preacher James Hampton’s The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations’ Millennium General Assembly. I approach painting with a conscious rawness. With reference to Outsider Art, my artistic insights meet the paint and paper with technical and emotional directness.
I will show my work, Oiseaux en Brut, June 2-July 2 at Alliance Francaise in Minneapolis.
Share this post with your friends.