Monday, October 26, 2015

What I've Been up to: Part 1

Morning at the Cathedral - Tucson, AZ
Acrylic on Canvas - 2013
While in Tucson, I enjoyed the weird juxtapositions of architecture and infrastructure there. An old diner across from a glass bank building, a carnival-colored parking garage next to the glorious cathedral, old warehouses and breathtaking mountains. So I started a series of paintings investigating these types of architectural phenomena. I purposely left out people and cars in order to focus on the buildings, bits of infrastructure and flora. This all culminated in my solo show, “Fresh Eyes on the Old Town” at Contreras Gallery in Tucson. What struck me was that it was received well, not for the reasons I intended, but because people are pre-nostalgic for the town which has not fully disappeared yet.

Laundry Day - Greenpoint, Brooklyn
Oil on Canvas - 2015
Now that I’m back in New York, I’m again fascinated by the buildings I see and weird combinations
of buildings, fences, fire escapes, trees and so forth. So, I’ve started painting scenes that I think are unusual still lives of neighborhood elements. This series has, like the Tucson paintings, found its own life once it reaches viewers. I’ve again touched up on the nostalgia of a quickly changing area; this time North Brooklyn. As row houses are demolished in favor of glass towers, people like to see the images of buildings which have defined the area for generations. The audience seems to like the permanence that a painting gives a subject. In a way photos are more permanent than ever since they are digital information instead of physical negatives and paper, but they get lost in the incomprehensible number of images produced daily by everyone, regardless of whether the camera is a DSLR or an iPhone.
Driggs & Manhattan - Greenpoint, Brooklyn
Oil on Canvas - 2015

Regardless of whether the ultimate purpose of these paintings are to explore the urban environment in a particular area, or to document a vanishing neighborhood, I’m excited to be embarking on this project.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Not Too Late to the Game

Cortlandt Alley, Tribeca
Graphite on Bristol
(This is where I often play
 Words with Friends)
After spending about six years away from New York between my time in the Army and my time in Tucson, Arizona, I returned to my adopted hometown this past January. Along with getting settled in a place to live and finding a day job to sustain me financially for the time being, I’m wrestling with new artistic ideas and putting together a body of work that is relevant in New York City. I have to get up to speed with and wrap my head around the various art worlds here.  Finally, I must get my art operation up and running again (including this blog).

And so I’ve been chipping away at an accelerating rate, in fits and starts. But, when it all becomes overwhelming, I can distract myself with a frustration worthy of distracting me from the concerns of someone breaking into a merciless artistic culture at the center of the universe; Words with Friends. You know the game. You’ve played it, have seen other people play it or have been invited to play it on Facebook. I admit that I’m late to the game, literally. And because everyone that I play against has been playing much longer than I, I find myself on the losing end of these games almost 100% of the time.

At first I took this personally. I questioned my level of literacy. I questioned the basic assumption that I am an intelligent and generally competent person. My girlfriend, who introduced me to the game and regularly trounces me, comforted me with the fact that a lot of the game depends on a knowledge of Scrabble specific two letter words. I also play against a pal of mine from Tucson with whom I used to play chess and saw the potential for strategy in the game. Before long, I was competitive if not winning. All my frustration from taking up this pastime later than most others melted away as I caught up to the pack by actively engaging in the game, observing those who are successful, and being open to learning.

And yes, there is a lesson I’ve learned here. Rather than be intimidated by being away from the City for so long and being a man approaching middle age, self-taught in a sea of young MFA grads, I move forward and rebuild my artistic life here. Appropriately, after getting me hooked on Words with Friends my girlfriend also brought to my attention the proverb “The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago, the second best time is now.”