In the Studio #72

One of the things I really enjoy about painting these planets, especially at this provisional stage in the process, is seeing the works emerge from these really murky color-filled spaces and then see them get transformed into vivid depictions of celestial orbs. There’s such ceremony for me fabricating the stretcher bars and panel, mixing paints, spraying enamel, laying down collage layers. The whole romance of the process makes me feel so fulfilled by the end of the artwork that I consider it like going through a joyous child birth. I often hold my breath when painting the final layers of paint on these planets because the anticipation is so intense.

Here some images I’m considering for future works. I think the Earth pick will be the one I use for the finale planet in my series

Coming into the studio this week was of course overshadowed by my thoughts about the protests in the streets and the lingering mortal toll of the pandemic. As ever, I feel like no day is promised to me or anyone and so sweet moments of bliss feel that much more tasty and satisfying. I feel a kind of righteous indulgence in relaxing, not working too hard at work, and in building works of art in a deliberative manner. The other two series I’m plodding on, a duo of bouquet paintings and the continuation of my Gnostic Confessions works, have been moving along nicely. Neither are at a point where they insist on themselves in a way that takes all the oxygen out of the room for other works. It’s actually a nice balance of activity right now and it’s setting up a helpful pattern for me. Usually I work obsessively on one piece at a time. Those who know me well know that it’s hard for me to focus on more than one thing at once. I thank my studio colleagues Darrel George and Doug Boehm for this new muti-tasking trait I’ve picked up. They both always seem to be working on half a dozen pieces, and they’re great artists so I try to take after them when I can.

Lately I’ve had the challenge of ranking new works to produce. While I have a pretty solid summer program going I keep getting bombarded with ideas. It can be crazy-making because there is never time to do them all. I got a new sketchbook a couple weeks ago that I need to inaugurate with some of this spillage. Especially since I’m sure a dry spell is on the horizon, especially becasue I’m back at work full -time and work is very taxing lately.

Here’s where I am with a few of my projects right now.

One last note, my small pallet-knife broke working on my Pluto painting forcing me to make alterations to the piece. My housemate, the wonderful artist Michelle Neifert,  long ago challenged me to  use larger or different pallet-knives and this piece is forcing the issue. Its very uncomfortable and annoying, and I will likely go to the small pallet knife soon, but I do enjoy some of the inventiveness that comes with using different tools. I don’t really want to hope for disruptions to my iron-clad routine, but if they come like this I guess I can manage, and use the experience to teach me to flex a bit more.

I’ve listened to the Run the Jewels, 4 (RTJ4) from the group of the same name, a million times since the record dropped a couple weeks ago. There’s so much to say about how amazing it is, so timely I feel, that I think its the sound track of the summer, especially with the protest movement exploding in the streets. The best cuts from the CD in my opinion are “Holy Calamafuck” and “JU$T”. Here are YouTube videos of the these songs.

I still feel like I’m reeling from the news. I found myself crying yesterday listening to the George Floyd funeral on the radio, especially when mourners spoke about how Floyd cried out for his dead mother right before he was murdered. Its extremely traumatizing to think that this can be any black man I know, including myself, that might be memorialized like this. It creates a horrible sense of fatalism about life in this country especially when economic realities are added to the racial striff that black and brown people feel. As an artist I can’t help but to notice that the successful artists I admire and the opportunities I strive for are invariably collected by whites becasue of the ways institutions perpetuate themselves as currently constituted. I have direct experience with this fact in my persuits to teach at the college level. Its so aggravating to me that I know so many black and brown talented folks, including frankly myself, who work so hard to follow the American dream, only to get that dream snuffed out by cruel neck-breaking civil servants or an equally heartless supremacist system. There was a YouTube video by the filmmaker Kimberly Jones that I will close with that summed up my feeling so well that I will close with it.

Be well everyone and stay safe!


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