Varnedoe Lectures

April 14, 2015

By its nature, painting presents the interesting paradox of an object that is flat and inanimate, but whose essence is space and movement. I am reminded of what the late Kirk Varnedoe in the Spring of 2003 at the Sixth and last Mellon lecture he delivered at the National Gallery. “It is our dependence on the material and experiential dimension of art to yield meaning that sets it apart from other symbolic systems that we use, most notably language.”

The Varnedoe lectures had a profound impact on my thinking and approach to abstract painting with respect to my preconceptions of paintings limitations and possibilities. I willfully chose to work alone and quietly for years without the pressures of having finished work to exhibit. This exploration grew into hundreds of journal entries, drawings, and works on paper that created the ground work for the paintings to come. It was not until 2012 that the paintings began to take form. In the process, I felt my painting tap into the larger and unknowable truths that surround us, and thus the group of paintings Traveling Light was created.

 As I worked during this period of exploration, it became clear that I was not drawn to a predetermined theory about painting. I discovered that the rumination of my own thoughts and unconscious associations could determine the painting’s structure. I became completely devoted to the physical act of painting and its insistence and unpredictability where the painting would guide the next step without expecting an outcome. 

I am not interested in the fragmentation of memory, but rather time – the fluidity of time, the present moment of experiences and the materials of paint where the painting is not strictly an optical field, but rather an object with physical dimension. The real stuff of painting is here – connecting and becoming sensitive to the natural rhythms around us and the energies of the body to creative thought and process, all within the formal structure of a painting.

In reading Oleg Grabar’s The Mediation of Ornament, he writes “when Chinese writers talk about writing, their imagery does not dwell on proportions or purity of line, but on life forces, on the storage of energy. It is as though the making and the viewing serve to release the living and active forces of nature.”

I want the viewer to get close, to come up to the surface and take it in, and back up and look again. I also want the viewers sense of physical space and even their sense of mortality to be affected, so that the viewer is no longer a spectator but has become part of the painting process, which I would consider an authentic act of seeing and experiencing.