In the Studio #79

There’s an adage that I’ve heard that goes something like, ‘if you want to get something done give the job to a busy person’. This is such a true statement with me lately. This last month I finished two drawings for a hospital commission, put together an application for a fellowship that seems tailor made for me – finger crossed on that one – made the panels for three new cedar-shingle pieces, oh and moved apartments to boot. It’s been a crazy month, and I’m thankful, in this season of thanksgiving and holiday cheer, for good friends and colleagues who – particularly in the case of the move – made it all possible.

The two drawings I did for my hospital commission were a requirement of the commission award. The awarding committee wanted to see two example of the final painting I planned to create. That painting won’t be due until next April and will surely go through several revisions by then. The idea I settled on is a combination of two farm scenes and revolves around the idea of a class field trip to a farm.

When I was a kid growing up in Dallas I remember class trips to the farm and to the butcher. It was a sometimes very smelly but eye opening experience, I think it’s important know where your food comes from and sending kids to theses places quickly changes any young ideas one might have that food magically appears at the grocery store. I was reminded of these trips when I visited Prout Family Farm this last summer. The farm, owned by the friend of my housemate Michelle, is a lovely world unto itself. The place gave me a nice reminder of how food is produced and of the beauty of rural settings. The spoke about that weekend here once before stating then that I thought there might be a painting lurking there for me. I thought I might do a drawing series based on shots of the vegetable gardens I saw there but instead it was the corn fields that mesmerized me when it came time to choose and combine images for these commission scenes. Here’s what I came up with from those snapshots. These are sharpie pen drawings of several scenes:

Working on these new cedar-shingle pieces has been a slow going process, mostly because I’m afraid of the works. I get this way when I decide that a work has to be earth-shattering. I build the piece up so much that I procrastinate for weeks. For these works, which I’m thinking of calling “A Song For Lost Black Boys”, it took me two weeks before I even felt the panels looked right. For the longest time I felt they were to rough, then the pendulum swung the other direction and now they feel slightly too put together. It’s a hard trick making a work appear “raw”, when it’s really as manufactured as a piece of stretched primed canvas you get from your local Michaels.

I finally did do some actual painting on these pieces last week when I managed somehow to get a couple hours in the studio after work and between moving junkets. My efforts were tepid but promising, giving me some hope that the pieces will live up to the hype I created in my head. As to that mental game, the issue really revolves around authenticity. I’m making these works as a response to events related to the social justice movement of the past year and really last decade. This work in particular is about my complicated feelings about the Trayvon Martin murder from 8 years ago. I worry that I’m not eloquent creatively enough to deliver the message I want, or that my motivations are not pure. I would like the works to sale, but does that mean I’m capitalizing on a tragedy. And for what audience am I making these works. That’s not to mention which creative motifs I might employ. Its a lot to think on for pieces which for now only exist as ghostly insistent images in my imagination.

Usually what happens when I get to this point in a work is I find the time to buckle down hard and put blinders on to the world and just work. I can remember feeling similarly with Kenny’s Carpetbaggers Lament and with Adela’s Bouquet, both series that went through long gestation periods. Here’s where I managed to get this latest cedar-shingles series to as of last week.

I’ve been in moving mode for the last few weeks trying to get both my studio and my new house that I’m renting in some semblance of order. It’s put me in the mode for calming smooth hip hop beats. That landed me on my usual go to Sango and his “In The Comfort Of” release. The first two tracks (“His Name” and “Life Without God is Nothing”) on that CD are usually what I end up listening to when I want to relax when I’m leaving work.

This week however my obsession has been the new DeLa “Atmosphere Airlines Vol. 3 ” release. The whole record is awesome but the third track “Pourquoi Pas”. Has been on a loop in my mind since earlier this week. Here are YouTube videos of the three songs

With the moves that are taking place my creative pace has slowed way down. I have none the less managed to get another commission for a couple landscapes due in February, which will make the next few month very busy. I look forward to blogging about developments with this new commission along with the hospital commission and the latest cedar-shingle work in future posts. Until then do be well and stay safe.

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