Arctic Residues - Sightings

Arctic Residues - Sightings is a proposal to exhibit a body of work created through a recent sabbatical that included two artist residencies in Iceland this winter (February and March 2016) as well as time processing that experience in my U.S. studio. I am interested in exhibiting the arc of this work by including work developed just before Iceland (paintings and installation, if space allows), the work completed in Iceland (paintings on Mylar that explore the forces of nature as physical and existential pressures), and the work that has continued since Iceland (a combination of these methods and influences). I believe the Downing Museum, with its connection to the influence of place, would be the ideal space to show this work.

The objective for the sabbatical period was to conduct studio research in the form of paintings, drawings, and installations with an emphasis on examining new sources for the environments within my work while also exploring shifts in figure/ground relationships within the formal structuring of the work. An extension of my previous studio efforts, this comes from the use of serial painting as a way to wade through philosophical and formal questions, explored through the additive and subtractive act of painting and a resulting, recurring figure held in expressly ambiguous spaces. 

The core of the Iceland work was conducted through two artist residencies, the SIM International Residency Program in Reykjavík and the more remote Hvítahús Artist Residency near Hellisandur. The work occurred through a direct response to the extremes and the subtleties particular to the Icelandic 'scape' and the processing of that fresh input toward the larger issues and ideas that emerged. I found that my practice – which sieves what I see and think through a physical back and forth, a struggle of marks in continual negotiation, fought hard, until each world is found and solidified into its own language across the surface – made sense for Iceland, a place of dynamics, of extremes, with a land and seascape that is intense and unapologetically present.

As a long distance runner, this influence was compounded as my body was subjected to ice and snow, cold, hail, and the ever-present winds, particularly extreme during the second month on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. As such, my work was informed not only by the visual and cultural input of Iceland but also by what affected me to my physical core – I felt it – and worked to translate it through painting. This has led to the figures, previously dominant in my work, becoming reduced in size, caught as a glimpse, at times as a sighting, embedded in and pressured by the forces of their environments.

Since returning, I have continued to process influences gleaned from the Iceland experience, where questions of vulnerability and endurance were seen with new intensity. I have continued to explore alternative surfaces, which span monotypes on paper and oil paintings on Mylar, canvas, panel, and plexiglass. Each continues to be developed through fragments and accumulations, building as layers of information that form their own logic and connections

The idea, whether in Iceland or back in my U.S. studio, is to find each painting and its imagery through the rhythms of formal questioning, as well as through the resistance any artist feels when moving toward intention. It is a searching, a responding, to make sense of meanings that begin to be revealed in each single piece and across the many happening at the same time.

This work was supported by several WKU entities (including the Office of International Programs and PCAL) and I am interested in exhibiting it in this region so that those groups may have a chance to see the results of that support. My intention for this exhibition is to create an installation that shows the arc of the influence of place within an artistic practice (as is present in the surrounding Joe Downing works) and which specifically responds to the Downing Museum gallery space. I also regularly give lectures and gallery talks and would be very interested in doing so here, if that is something of interest to the Museum.


Artist Statement:

I work from a place of questioning, of searching for resonances. Realizations are found through the additive and subtractive act of painting and the freedom of image invention that painting allows. 

As a process-driven artist, I am invested in painting as a physical act of thinking. Process informs everything – it is the work. I use painting and installation to explore ideas of struggle, the residues of trauma, and the forces of nature against the body. Each piece is found through a directed struggle, formed and broken, and formed again, by mark-making as a living action.

Through a repeated, mediated figure and the relationship between that figure and her environment, connotations are able to build as layered sets of actions, challenged through each successive reiteration and formed into open narratives through the back and forth, the push and shove, of painting. It is an acknowledgement of the codified language of painting, the knowing, paired with the use of that language to go beyond its known self, the not-knowing. Each piece is the residue of the act of working toward a semblance of meaning. Whether on a canvas, Mylar sheet, or a monotype plate, it is about finding those small epiphanies that re-tell, in a new way, what we have always really known.

The underlying mechanism is an acknowledgement, a meditation, on the beauty and horror of the limitations of language. The overarching goal is to use visceral cues and a shifting surface as evidence of the larger human struggle – not in an ideal world but in this world.

Recent works have also included responses to cultural sources, such as the Polish film Ida and the Boston Marathon bombing, as well as influences gleaned from two months spent working in Iceland this winter, where questions of vulnerability and endurance were seen with new intensity.