Q & A
Portraiture Exhibition Q & A
Where did you grow up and how did that shape who you are as an artist?
I grew up in the countryside outside Vancouver, Washington. It was spacious and green. The quiet isolation of the countryside meant I spent much of my time looking inward. The experience of looking inward has changed very little over the years.
Why do you make art?
When I was young, I assumed that everyone made art for the same reason, as a way to see what they could not see otherwise – to understand a hidden part of themselves. Of course, there are lots of reasons that people make art, but for me it will alway be the reward of discovery that moves me to create. I often have an experience where I am thinking about something and the thought somehow gets away from me. Perhaps I get distracted or the thought becomes too abstract to follow all the way to a conclusion. Painting allows me to capture the thought on a picture plane. The subject is trapped there - my prisoner for weeks or even months until I have my answer. That is without question why I make art.
What is your greatest challenge as an artist?
It sounds strange but I am at odds with my thinking self - that other self that makes so many of the decisions in my life. My experience as an artist is one of sneaking past my own intellect. Over the years I have developed a number of strategies that allow me to move past the thinking self, the critical self. I have always held that it is a curse to know too much. It hinders the creative process. So I would say defending my imagination from logic is my greatest challenge.
Why did you forego formal art training?
I did’t respond well to art education. I spent most of my time trying to unlearn what I was taught. Once the rules of art were outlined by the professor it was a challenge get them out of my head. Perfection is an escalating mandate that can quickly destroy what the heart creates. Looking back, there are things I didn’t learn that would be useful today, but I am not sure how much of what I treasure would have been lost along the way.
Religion makes occasional appearances in your work. What roll does it play and, how has religion influenced your explorations?
My work explores all aspects of the human experience and the human desire to believe is fascinating to me. I have faith, but when it comes to religion I have always felt like a spectator looking in through a window. I puzzle over what triggers some to believe and other to reject religion. I observe with in myself a strong desire to believe. It is so deeply rooted in me that even observing others who have faith, regardless of their religion, brings me a feeling of peace. It is the puzzle of that desire that often finds its way into my work.
Of course the topic of religion can be divisive, but whatever feelings we have about the various religions in the world, they bring people comfort, and I think comfort is a kindness that should be afforded to everyone.
You were a member of Pharmaka, the artist group. Their manifesto, written in 2002, brought to light a number of concerns and criticisms about the state of art at that time. Are the concepts discussed in the Pharmaka Manifesto still relevant today? Is there still something missing?
I think that courage is missing on almost every level. Many artists are afraid to create what is truly calling them. Galleries are afraid to show anything that might not sell. Collectors are often afraid to buy anything that might not increase in value.
The true purpose of art has been lost along the way.
I admire the artists who continue to speak their truth even when it is overlooked by the masses and I applaud the courageous collectors. True patrons of the arts who recognize the power and importance of their role in the arts.
I think the Pharmaka Manifesto is even more relevant today. We have been at a crossroads for a while and the sense of change is palpable. We don't need to be told what is good. We already have everything we need to decide for ourselves. All we need is the courage to step into who we really are.