The central images in this exhibition are a continuation of an ongoing series of paintings called Waking Dreams that stem directly from my imagination. This new group of seven I call Mortal Furniture. Waking dreams are hypnagogic states that occur in that moment between sleep and waking, almost, but not quite, dreams themselves. The associative process underlying this work has much in common with the one underlying stream-of-consciousness writing. One image suggests the next, not in a linear progression, but, instead, through nuance, movement, and attention to the entire surface of the painting. The resulting images are surprising, especially to me, and fluctuate from the mysterious and frightening to the funny and engaging. Individually, they originate as uncensored explorations, but in groups they form patterns of meaning that coalesce into a dominant metaphor. I believe this metaphoric coalescence to be the essential underpinning of all imagined narratives, and certainly it has that function in my own work. Each painting within a group becomes a variant that infuses relevant (if illusive) information into the whole.
The original page in each of the twelve Mortal Furniture paintings has a divided format, light on the top, dark on the bottom. The light, smaller panel of the top third of the image suggests the enlightened response of waking cognition; it also suggests sky, the heavens, or other forms of enlightenment. The dark, bottom section represents all the subterranean, unconscious, dream-state energies that the lighter panel opposes. They are divided by a semipermeable membrane of border. Each is painted with oil on gessoed paper, 44 x 30 inches, and all were begun early in 2011 and completed in the summer of 2012, in time for the exhibition at the Rogue Gallery in Medford, Oregon.
As the paintings were nearing completion, a loose theme began to emerge. In a sense it became clear that many of the figures were supporting other figures, or were in postures that lent themselves to being sat upon. Decades ago, I created a series of drawings called “Man As A Beast of Burden.” The present images are more guided by the old adage,”We stand on the shoulders of those before us.” But, that is only a partial and inadequate view of them; the paintings are meant, as poetry is meant, to evoke feelings and responses from the viewer, who becomes an active participant– even an accomplice– in their meaning. To me each presents a small human drama from two perspectives, tangentially connected but directly affecting each other. Each painting evokes a different set of emotional complexities which shifted continuously as the drama unfolded. While in progress, they feel like a poem which cannot be adequately explicated. When completed, analysis is no longer my prerogative.
The remainder of the pieces in this exhibit are made entirely on the computer from selected parts of my own paintings and drawings. Several of them were complex old drawings, too labor intensive to repeat large scale, but evocative enough for me to want to reconfigure. These were printed out on large pages that I first varnished and then used as the substructure of new paintings. I call this work Digital Hybrids, and have been working this way, sporadically, since about 2006. As with all my imagined work, I think of them in same terms as I think of poetry.