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 other self. My whole experience is one of trying to sneak past my own intellect. The intellect thinks it’s important and doesn’t allow my imagination the peace and quiet it needs. Over the years I have developed a number of strategies that allow me to sneak past the thinking self, the critical self. I have alway 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 they taught me. Once the rules of art were outlined by the professor I could’t get them out of my head. Looking back, I think I could have learned things that would be useful today, but I am not sure how much of what I treasure would have been lost along the way.
What is your relationship with the viewer? What is it you want?
I work hard to push everyone out of my head while I am in the studio but as the painting nears completion the viewer starts to enter my awareness. At some point in the process the painting stops being mine and starts belonging to the viewer. My message to the viewer is that if you think something is happening in the painting, you are not wrong, it is happening and you should run with it.
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. Suspending ones disbelief is crucial but it is desire that is the true portal to the heart. I observe with in myself a 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. The mavericks who allow their hearts to decide.
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.