Wilderness Experience 1

I am in the middle of preparing for two group shows, both opening in just a little over a week. I have been trying to finish both a new woodcut and a large painting for one of the shows, which I am doing with my 2nd year MFA friends at the LaVerne Krauss gallery. Below is the painting in its final stages – a few things left to add and touch up but it’s almost there. Also, the photo is from my phone and is a bit dark – better images coming when she’s finito!

Wilderness Experience

While I’ve been making this piece, I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want my art ‘to do’. I have come to realize that, for me, a good piece of art must do two things: it must engage its immediate space and a greater context. That is quite broad, yes, but I like that it can break down differently for different circumstances while remaining important/applicable. For instance, one way I think about ‘immediate space’ and ‘greater context’ is gallery (or art space) and cultural space. What I mean then, is art is unsuccessful if it does not posture itself toward both these simultaneously. Art should have something to offer to art – and at the same time – art should have something to offer to culture. Obviously this is a tall order for an artist, but I can’t shake how important it is to pursue. Maybe if we all pursue it those distinctions would no longer be necessary. For me, that is the ultimate goal.

Hopefully my ‘pursuit’ has begun to show up in this piece to someone other than myself. My basic question going into this painting (and what looks like it will become a series) is what do we take into the woods with us and how do we experience a wild landscape? I wanted to tackle the piece in a way that postured itself openly to both the ongoing conversation of art and the larger cultural landscape. I decided painting would be a perfect medium to begin this investigation because it is a medium that has always been wrapped up in sight. Sight is very interesting to me because it, more than any other sense, has a longstanding, conceptual link to truth. This is very evident in the history of painting. Changes in the way artists approach painting have always been in response to cultural shifts and the zeitgeist of that time. Accordingly, the aesthetics and logic of a particular movement in painting reveals much about the way those painters pursued truth and meaning. Thus in response to painting’s preoccupation of truth-in-sight, I wanted to create a painting which investigated how multifaceted and complex the human capacity is for truth and how being engulfed in wild nature seems to heighten these senses. That led me to the aesthetic of this piece, one wholly multilayered and whose parts are symbiotic but competitive.

This leads in to the impact I hope it makes on that second space, the cultural space. The goal of this work is to create a link between art and nature, showing similarity in our experiences of each. Furthermore, it is an attempt to entertain a theory I have about the myth and folklore behind the legendary wilderness-man, Bigfoot. Maybe that sounds like a jump, and perhaps it is, but I think the more you consider the piece the more sense it makes. I believe the reason these forest giants are so well documented in the Northwest (historically and presently) is due to the awe-inspiring wildness of this region. This wildness calls out to our own, and stirs our unconscious longing. I think it is true that on a deep, mythological level we as humans sense we are divorced from nature and that we have a deep longing to reattain this union. Yet this produces both fear and enchantment when we consider how we may look, or may have looked, if and when we were truly within nature. Bigfoot then represents a mythic projection of this longing back onto the nature that inspired it. Bigfoot is real, but we need to consider that his presence may be in the forests and glades of our interior.

More to come when I install for the show(s).

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