SWC Interview Questions: 12 New Mexico Artists to Know Now 2022
1. Since submitting for consideration, what has been the most significant catalyst for growth in your practice? Has anything changed in your process, materials, or immediate interests? (If we were doing a studio visit tomorrow, what would you show me first?)
My solo exhibition, Out of the Blue, at Exhibit 208 in March has been the most significant catalyst for growth. Being able to see all the paintings from the past year and a half together in a single space is like finally being able to hear, see the concert performed. Since I work intuitively and without a preconceived plan, it amazes me how everything came together as a meaningful, cohesive whole. Not understanding how this could be, invites me to dig deeper into how meaning arises. Also this show was the first to really focus on color, and it demonstrated to me, that on a technical level, this is definitely a direction I want to refine.
Everyone viewed the show with a different framework of perception, and so the exhibition became a great opportunity to cross paths with those whose thinking was very different from my own. New ways of approaching the work were brought up to consider. Viewers often found it intriguing how each piece could be so unique and yet undeniably part of a single body of work. The conclusion was nothing could be pinned down and this sense of shifting possibilities generates avenues for growth— a kind of divergent evolution rather than the usual convergence around a single objective has become the path for moving forward.
Probably the most important change in my process and interest now is to document each session of painting and track both the interior thought processes and exterior painting changes that occur at each session. Painting has often been referred to as a form of mentality. In its subjectivity a painting can reflect nuanced states of being, making manifest intuitive thought processes that have yet to be put into words, the invisible visible. I have become most curious about identifying the original motivation and then the point at which that motivation is tossed to the wind or forgotten and something unexpected and exciting emerges.
2. Where in 2022 can we send readers to see/engage with your art? Who are you looking forward to collaborating with?
Instagram allows readers to engage with a kind of behind the scene view of what’s going on in my studio weekly and my website offers a more complete history of the work as a whole. Actual paintings can be seen at Exhibit 208 in Albuquerque.
3. How do you identify within the lineage of “New Mexico artists” or “New Mexico painters”? How do you see yourself as a NM artist particularly (or do you)?
I see myself as both a NM artist and an American artist. NM can be viewed as the birth place of Modernist abstraction in this country in the early twentieth century, and it is what initially drew me to move out here. I also found resonance with many of the ideas and concerns of the short lived Transcendental Painting Group formed in 1938 here in NM. In particular, unlike the Surrealists, curiously the TPG saw the subconscious not as a source of archetypal images, but as a portal to a numinous realm of order and meaning. Raymond Jonson wrote: “Purity of vision indicates a sense of heightened order, resulting from the impact of an emotional or mental comprehension, or both, visualized from the inner self...”. There is something about New Mexico that seems conducive to a complete freedom of mind and feeling, which in turn, allows for a receptivity of being that transcends the familiar and habitual realm of conditioned existence. There is a natural order underlying everything to be tapped. Not only do I identify with many of the formal attributes of paintings done by the TPG, but primarily their belief that the most important role of art was to provide access to a realm of knowing beyond ordinary consciousness.
Questions submitted by: Lyndsay Knecht
Out of the Blue
Artist Statement 3/2022
The exhibition Out of the Blue comprises works completed from 2021-2022 and continues to explore concepts related to the shaped canvas as an image/object—from small dimensional paintings to large flat, shaped canvases. Approaches from Abstract Expressionism, Constructivism, Minimalism, Cubism and New Mexico’s Transcendental Painting Group are integrated with a variety of materials (paint, wood, fabric, paper, and/or miscellaneous mixed media), to conjure a uniquely varied presence for each painting. Geometric structures combine with painterly techniques and/or felt surfaces to balance hardedge with gesture and touch.
Two groups of small paintings, Labyrinthine Constructs and Building Space, feature a motif of an actual raised bar to explore ambiguities present in the perception of space. With Labyrinthine Constructs, the only way out, i.e. the resolution of the painting, comes about when the raised vertical bar “dissolves” into the picture plane which symbolically, or metaphorically, could be a stand in for the dissolution of the small self in the ground of being. With Building Space the vertical raised bar functions in opposition to the picture plane, emphasizing and building the space between actual and illusion, while the composition itself, with its chevron patterning, alludes to buildings — city highrises.
How do we know what is real, where is it from, and what is it are questions to play with from painting to painting. Each begins from a “don’t know” point of view and it is through an intuitive process of painting that a nonverbal understanding is reached, to be put in words upon reflection. Titles of the larger works (Through the Looking Glass, Facets, Tomorrow Remembers Yesterday, Sunrise/Sunset, Catwalk, Unscripted, Pretzel Logic and The Transcendentalist) indicate ways of perception and/or ways of being and point to perceptual realizations connected with abstract shape representations. The title of the show, Out of the Blue, brings to mind a focus on color and the arising of works unexpectedly and without preconceptions. (And on a personal level “out of the blue” characterizes the zeitgeist of the past two years.) All in all, allusions intertwine with illusions to give an air of mystery to otherwise formally elegant work.
Artist Statement 3/2020
Over the years, a vocabulary of form resulting from a synthesis of styles from twentieth-century modernism and use of materials common to that tradition — paint on canvas, wood, metal, collage, has come to uniquely characterize the work. The one facet or theme that remains constant is that each piece exists as a singular presence, an image object with a distinct “personality” or mood. Each is arrived at nonobjectively using an intuitive process to realize it’s own inherent natural order.
Canvas stretched over a constructed shape as a derivative of the rectangle is the point of departure into the realm of sculpture for the small pieces. In larger works, the canvas, while likewise shaped, has a surface that remains basically two-dimensional. Constructed elements are added and subtracted in dialogue with the paint. Frequently the process of painting—dripping, pouring, peeling, sanding, blending, defines and holds a virtual space, while the concrete shape and other added elements to the original rectangle emphasize actual space. The play of boundaries between polarities such as painting/sculpture, virtual/actual, flat/dimensional, representation/abstraction, ornamental/minimal, spontaneous/controlled, become integrated in a singular gestalt unique to each piece.
The method is that of no method with inspiration coming from anything and everything. The subject and meaning arrives out of the process of painting and seeing. While painting, the movement of the subconscious to conscious becomes a manifestation of imaginative, mental states of being that are solidified in a resulting image object. When the work becomes self-evident, it’s natural order revealed, it is basically resolved, finished and named.
With this show, Pointless Pleasure, opposing elements are playfully brought together, reframed and/or recontextualized, to create uniquely contrasting decorative shaped paintings and constructions made for the enjoyment of looking — seeing. The floating frame idea, which appears in a number of pieces, is a play on Japanese floating world wood block prints and the illusory nature of pleasure, entertainment, the world. The show’s title was inspired from the concluding sentence of a short story, “The Loop” by J. Robert Lennon: “All that remained was the pleasure, disembodied and limitless, the loop itself nothing more than a decoration, like the pointless stars etched onto the bowl of the sky.”
Double Take (or taking a second look)Artist Statement 3/2018
This body of work grew out of the painting Detour. The entangled lines in the center of the painting looked like an abstract sculpture to me, so I thought why not turn them into a sculpture and see where that goes? As I was looking at several other paintings that were in progress simultaneously, I thought they all too could be sculptures. A central figure of interest, each with a different personality/identity which could be translated into an object, suddenly stood out to me and became the starting point of this show. The focus became materiality as an intellectual process of translation.
Previous bodies of work tended to blur the boundaries between painting and sculpture, so this time I thought it would be interesting keep the paintings with a basically flat surface and construct small scale wall sculptures as their counterpart, and as a kind of riff on the larger paintings. The format of three stacked half cubes, with the middle “cube” an empty space, allowed for this enclosed space to display a miniature version of the central image from the heart of the painting, as well as allude to a standing figure. Each “sculpture “ reflects a different personality/identity and uses a variety of materials: wood, hardboard, wrapped wire, canvas, “found” objects, aluminum plate, paper mache, and acrylic paint.
While I'm painting, I photograph the work and paint and collage on the photo image, so a back and forth dialogue exists between the actual painting and its virtual counterpart. It gives another way to take a second look at the painting from a different perspective. The small paper pieces are reflective of this process at various stages of the painting— some were started in the early stages of the painting, while others were used to work out small adjustments as the painting was nearing completion. Reduced in size, they function as a conceptual record of the painting and are almost an antithesis of the overt physicality of the wall sculptures.
The paintings themselves exist on the line between image and object, illusive and actual. They arise out of the process of painting and the concrete use of color, line, texture, form, and shape. The subject emerges out of chaos, becomes ordered, and it is finding the natural logic to the painting, rather than imposing a logic to the painting, that I find interesting and is what allows for each painting to have a unique personality/identity. It is not a serial approach to painting but rather the method of no method. It is starting anew again and again.
Finally, the show itself is hung and pieces repetitively titled so that hopefully viewers, too, will experience a few double takes as they move around the gallery from painting to sculpture, large to small, and back again.
Artist Statement (musings) 3/2016
"In life," (one could also say as in painting), " you start off not knowing the answer -- it's when the thing interacts that its particles are revealed, even resolved."
In Light of What We Know, by Zia Haider Rahman, p246
For some reason I love the challenge and find it endlessly fascinating of trying to pull something "meaningful", without using words or overtly representational images, out of a white rectangle. The first question I ask is, do I want to leave it a rectangle or why whould I want to change it? There are associations I do like and want to keep: It relates to the room the painting is in, it can be a window one looks into which allows one to explore all the illusive qualities of paint, there is a long tradition of painting in rectangles, and one knows it is a painting to hang on the wall.
But I want something that pushes the limits of painting a little -- something unique and singular but still has its roots in tradition, so that whatever I put in the blank rectangle references aspect(s) of the history of painting, but all mixed up, -- cubism, constructivism, surrealism, abstract expressionism, minimalism, the 1930-40's transcendental painting group here in New Mexico -- twentieth century modernism, where paint on canvas has been the primary medium. The craft of oil painting I respect and love, so all the work is done with oil paint, only the grounds vary.
Because the first shape confronted is a rectangle, I build from there. Like the transcendental painting group, geometry becomes the underlying framework, however, not as a mathematically precise system, but in an organic sense: I extend, grow, the stretcher bar in places where it simultaneously enhances the illusive properties of the retangle yet remains a concrete object with a singular presence. I often like to think of working with multiple rectangles/screens at different angles from each other to create a shallow layered (cubist) space. Alternating polarities/contrasts becomes a way of bringing it all together -- geometric/organic, loose and painterly/tight and flat, concrete/illusive. Shapes are added and subracted to flesh out what is going on. Each painting has a natural logic to it, which is fascinating to discover -- it is a presence with a will of its own.
I use an intuitive, stream of consciousness approach (surrealism) that allows for a dialogue to occur with the painting/construction. Preliminary drawings, generated from previous paintings, determine the intial shape of the painting. But from there, the shape determines everything else. The painting is finished when a "still point" is reached -- a harmonious tension when nothing can be added or subtracted. Every element contributes toward establishing a unity that is expansive in nature, embracing both in/out, positive/negative, and in this sense one could say it is spiritual in nature.
It is often said that the artist must come to the canvas with an idea to express. I come to the canvas as an empty vessel with no "idea" to express and no method, but with an attitude of complete curiosity. I come to the painting with a question -- what can you reveal? And perhaps, this is the same question the viewer asks. It is about direct perception (minimalism), not ideas, and it is only through direct perception that self and world come alive. Ideas may be discovered afterwards. One could say the idea of painting is to discover the natural logic of the painting (abstract expressionism), and resulting manifestation of an autonomous presence, felt and beheld with the totality of one's being.
Regarding this body of work, Betwixt and Between: Its focus has been pushing the scale of the "sculpted" elements, blurring divisions between painting, sculpture, printmaking, and increasing a breadth of possibilites rather than a narrowing of vision. I have been especially intrigued with a variegated, tactile surface and sense of touch as a form of primal communication. Light, shadow, and relationship to the wall have been important. Each painting functions as an autonomous presence (as much as that is possible), neither here nor there, between the illusive and concrete, between the question and answer, in a liminal space -- enimatic and mysterious. Titles point to an "ah,ha" moment of discovery and realization I have had regarding them. However, although the paintings may have an abstract narrative behind them, the paintings/constructions should not need an explanation.
Artist Statement 3/2014
Over the years, a vocabulary of form resulting from a synthesis of styles from twentieth century modernism, and media -- oil on canvas, collage, wood, metal, has come to uniquely characterize the work. The one facet or theme that remains constant is that each piece exists as a singular presence in format, shape, size. Each is arrived at non-objectively and involves movement from the concrete to illusory. Oil paint on canvas, stretched over a rectangle or square becomes the departure point, often into the realm of sculpture for the small pieces, whereas in the larger pieces, the canvas is shaped and the surface remains basically two-dimensional while the "residue" of painting a picture -- dripping, pouring, peeling, scraping, sanding paint, defines and holds an imagined space. In the latest work, diagonal lines become diagonal bars that accentuate illusory floating planes of light and texture. The "subject" arrives out of the process of painting, reflecting the view of form gives rise to content, and the movement of the subconscious to conscious often becomes a way of manifesting current physical/mental states of being. The visual concern is to create an encapsulated, yet allusive, sensual object that punctuates actual space with an expansive energy in the here and now.
Materials and Technique
Oil paint is applied to gessoed canvas, and/or hardboard, gatorboard, wood, aluminum lithography plates. Xerox transfer, paper collage, and/or "found" hardware is sometimes incorporated. Galkyd resin is used as the painting medium and replaces the traditional linseed/damar mixture. A wide variety of techniques are used in applying/removing the paint, with any number of tools imagined. After the initial shape of the piece is determined, preconceptions are discarded and a dialogue with the work determines what comes next. Every action taken is an attempt to see more clearly what is going on until disparate elements form a harmonious whole. When the work becomes self-evident, it is basically resolved, finished, and named.
Artist Statement 5/2011
This body of work comprises selectedpaintings and constructions from 2003- 2010. The pieces range in scale from large oil paintings to framed miniature constructions and encompass a wide variety of processes, including poured paint, metal and wood assemblage, and collage. Previous shows focused on the relationship of fluid paint and geometric architectural elements, the space between thoughts before words are formed, and the blurring of boundaries between painting and sculpture. All adding up to the question: "What is it?"
My intention is to place the viewer in a ground of uncertainty, and the work in a place where it can't be comfortably labeled as either this or that, or from here or there, now or then. Hopefully, with that uncertainty, the constructed paintings acquire a more universal and timeless quality open to the present, and to that aspect of newness that never vanishes.
Artist Statement: Painterly Architectonics, 4/2009
For a number of years, I've been intrigued by Goethe's (1749-1832) aesthetic that the artist's function is to make visible the hidden laws of nature by creating a parallel order. The beautiful is a sensory phenomenon in the form of an idea, not an idea in the form of a sensory phenomenon. So one does not seek to give form to an idea, but one seeks the idea that corresponds to the form. It's about finding.
This body of work explores the workings of the intuitive mind in conjunction with the shaped canvas and the fluidity of paint in the way it's applied either with a squeeze bottle or poured. The process of working becomes a reconciliation of structured geometrical, architectural shapes with a spontaneous, less structured painting event and its residual lines and shapes. The relationship between the two: the structured/unstructured sets up a dialogue where one finds a resolution to opposition, and one finds meaning through the process itself: building and painting - painterly architectonics.
Painterly Architectonics was first used at the beginning of the last century by the Russian Constructivists in reference to the connection between painting and architecture. Their paintings became examples of a pure spatial articulation defined by materials. Elements would solicit a perspectival reading while simultaneously defying it.
Popova, in 1918, wrote:"…A transformed form is an abstract one and is completely subject to architectonic necessity and… to the general constructive objectives. The artist gains complete freedom in absolute nonobjectivity, orienting and constructing the line, plane, volumetric elements and color weight."
It became evident that a subject is unnecessary in painting. One can experience great joy just seeing colors and lines and satisfying an instinct for harmony and the communication of beauty (the mystery of life.)
The works in this show use blocks of color to structure space and give a definite sensation and energy coming form the painting: orange (confident), green (nurturing), gold (transformational), blue (inspirational), black (mysterious, protective). Further, the paintings suggest a cosmic floating sense of space with their loosely patterned grids and atmospheric gradations. Lines and planes are used to open up space. In the framed miniatures, this aerial sense of space is translated into a feeling of intimate immensity. Visual elements suggest and are juxtaposed to function rather like a Haiku poem, bringing disparate sensations together in a single gestalt and moment of understanding to which the title points.
Artist Statement 2007:The Space Between Letters
The title of this show is The Space Between Letters. Our culture relies so much on conceptual thought, text messages, and the soundbyte, it is important to remember to open ourselves to what we see before we name, describe, compare, define, categorize, and analyze -- to focus on that, as it is, prior to words. In this show, some of the paintings incorporate letters, the negative space of letters, or the gestures of writing, all representing language as pattern and rhythm before meaning has been assigned. Although the text is in English, it has been reassembled to be suggestive of other languages from different times and places.
The Painting Process:
Framed Miniatures 2005-2007
This series explores permutations of an oblong rectangle or square in conjunction with various tactile and painterly surfaces. The pieces function as studies for larger paintings as well as standing alone as finished works. The subtractive/additive construction process of using wood strips to define absent rectangles gives the miniatures an architectural or built feeling of space suggesting parts of interiors, floor plans, walls, gardens, windows. In some of the pieces, ornamental design elements and embellished surfaces allude to the traditional use of decoration for spiritually transcendent purposes. Open spaces of intensely worked paint, as well as the focus involved in each piece, play off the idea of an intimate immensity and magnification of the imagination.
Artist Statement 2005
The paintings develop out of a spatial relationship that I am intrigued to see on canvas. I like to have a number of works in progess so that a dialog exists between them. Elements are added and subtracted as suggested through the process of painting. Sensuous surfaces, subtle, unexpected uses of color, and a variety of techniques evolve. Sometimes three-dimensional elements are added to create a tension with illusory painted spaces. Breaking the rectangle format helps to give each piece a unique and particular presence.
Statement Concerning the Work, 2001
I frequently start with a sketch involving some kind of spatial/shape sensation that intrigues me and would be fun to paint. After the initial impetus gets translated to the canvas, there is a long editing process. I find that painting is a matter of listening and keeping the mind receptive and fully in the present moment. Each piece has a voice of its own suggesting things I hadn't anticipated. It is the unexpected and incongruous elements that excite and fascinate me in the work. A painting is successful for me when it attains harmony simultaneously with that element of surprise. The finished piece makes clear to me the intrigue I had at the beginning.One could say the title summarizes the piece, and the irregular shapes or "frames" give the viewer a foothold in the painting. A situation is set up where the content may actually begin or is in the framing device, even though these extensions are added and/or subtracted at any point along the way. I also use as many techniques, additives, and ways of applying oil paint as possible so as to create a surface that entices the viewer and accentuates the process of looking.
Statement Concerning the Work, May 1999
This body of work comprises a community of recurring shapes and patterns altered and re-invented from image to image to make each painting totally unique. Circles, and their various permutations, act as the organizational underpinning for the paintings. Horizontal/vertical bands/stripes echoing the edge of the canvas set up a dialog between the circle and rectangle. Out of this basic relationship of circle to rectangle a universe of decorative eccentricities and quirky unexpected relationships arises. Figurative allusions and associations reverberate beneath seemingly non-objective forms to add a poetic dimension to the work. Spatial tensions between actual and illusion,(punctuated by the use of aluminum plate pop-outs, plaster gauze semi-spheres, ping-pong balls, bent wire, sculpted polyform compound, and/or looped electrical wire glued and wired to the surface), bring another level of resonance. Then add to this a variety of painting techniques --sanding, glazing, splattering, incising, blending, stamping and the paintings become an intensely tactile and sensuous visual experience.
Statement Concerning the Work: Recurrent Patterns, 1997
In the body of work called Recurrent Patterns I have used the mandorla as the underlying structure for the majority of the paintings. It has been a shape that has recurred throughout my work since 1985, and I thought it would be interesting to do a body of work that somehow incorporated aspects of this shape in every painting. Being that it is a symbol for heaven and earth, I thought it would be especially curious to use repetitively as a kind of chant/prayer. I am also interested in the idea of the practice of painting itself as a form of prayer and thought the mandorla an apt shape to focus my attention.
mandorla: an almond-shaped figure, formed by two intersecting circles, which symbolizes the intersection of the two spheres of heaven and earth and of the perpetual sacrifice that regenerates creative force.*
attention (at every moment to every detail)
repetition: (as in prayer) provides a basis for the penetration of the resonance itself, and therefore also the object to which the resonance refers, into the heart.
to release expectations: so as to be in a state appropriate for receiving whatever blessings prayer (painting) might bring. The self must be void of meaning: to the extent that I can let go of preconditions, prayer (painting) becomes rich with meaning.
law of nature: even the smallest intention towards letting go can be enough to bring Grace. ("One who is without the intention of letting go is dead. One who so intends towards letting go is alive.")
accidental marks: exemplify all that is desirable, but which can never be attained deliberately.
nature of the world: cyclical, repetition of change characterizes the law of creation.
All of life is made up of repeating patterns that have been invented or inherited.
We are constantly seeking symbols to express a truth greater than ours; repeating over and over an effort that strives toward perfection, which is never attained. In this way, repetition can be seen as necessary for imitation of the divine.
Repetition is keeping the opening to the unknown in sight.
If the question is alive, repetition itself becomes change.***From J.E. Cirlot, A Dictionary of Symbols, 1962, p.203
**From Paul Jordon-Smith, "Even the Ancestors," Parabola, Volume XIII, Number 2, May, 1988, pp.98-104
Statement Concerning the Work: The Elusive Self, 1994
A couple of years ago I began taking photographs of myself behind a sheet recording only my silhouette and shadow. I wondered if the transient faceless shapes captured by the photograph combined with a free-associative way of painting would be a visual way to address existential questions concerning the nature of being.The photographs I took, which became the starting point of the painting, were concerned with the relationship of gesture to the individual: Does the gesture define the individual, or the individual the gesture? There being a limited number of gestures, does that make the gesture more unique than the individual? Would re-enacting a gesture of a figure in a painting from the 14th century evoke something from that time? Would it be possible to create a whole painting from the gesture of a single figure, as a novelist might create a story? By using a photograph of my silhouette/shadow, would I more easily be able to delve into my unconscious and gain a new awareness of the self?I was not interested in painting the figure so photo-collage made the most sense in terms of allowing me to work abstractly. The mixed-media shaped and relief canvases became a way to balance image/object, virtual/actual and to cross the bridge from this reality to another. I incorporated letters in some of the pieces as a formal device to hold the space in which the image hovers and allude to the essentially elusive quality of the self.
Gallery Talk: Disembodied Objects, 24 October 1992
Albuquerque Museum Talk, 4 February 1989
A little monkey goes like a donkey that means to say that more sighs last goes. Leave with it. A little monkey goes like a donkey."
Johnson Gallery Talk, 20 April, 1987
Now, the other painting excites me. It is a rather funny painting and has a really dumb story: Like a dog named Spot goes on a little sail boat ride through flaming bushes in a fake tropical setting, and then there's this whirlpool that goes down and around and suspends everything in space around a key hole that is something, a solid object, not a hole. So one feels a madness like looking through a hole that is dense and solid, that is like the key, not the hole. And so what am I saying? X is given the impossible task of finding the promised land, the fountain of youth, the city of gold, but will be forever searching, going around and round, because there is no hole into the secret chest. (And then it all turned blue, a deep, beautiful blue, in every variation imaginable.)"A month later in May, 1986, I came across these notes in the newspaper on beauty and sadness and jotted them down as I thought they were interesting. It follows:"