I paint because I am a nomad: a restless soul will have no home.
My impulse to migrate came from my foremothers; among them were immigrants and those born onto the bleak Saskatchewan prairie.
They held onto a culture that was theirs but the co-mingling of many isolated cultures left me with little to claim. Yet, as if trailing the locomotives that carried the wheat across the plains, great artists did come to my town. My grandfather saw the great Caruso and I had studio visits, first with Clement Greenberg, then Robert Frank and June Leaf. Lastly, Judy Chicago held her “Dinner Party” and, like Joni Mitchell and Agnes Martin before me, I moved on.
My impulse to paint the human form came from my early training in abstraction. It was fairly “new” and my art school library was mostly filled with yellowed slides of antiquities and paintings by the Masters. In searching for my ethos, I was soon traveling the world, roaming through museum halls and past the iconic remnants of other civilizations. While standing before originals, things looked familiar, but far too bright, and I longed for the warmth of a color palette both of the prairie and of faded slides, seeped in ochre and sienna.
Upon returning home and determined to find my truth, I began painting in black and white (knowing that color can be deceptive). On large canvases, I placed figures as outsiders, unsettled into different cultural locations, and I depicted the sexual politics of power and context.
When I paint figures, it is not because of what they represent, not even in regard to what they look like, but by how dis-located they are from the structures that house them.
Next I traveled to New York where I was an artist-in-residence at PS1, the Institute for Art and Urban Resources. It was at the same time that fellow resident artist Andres Serrano developed his “Piss Christ” series and the Italian “Arte Povera” exhibition came to town. In viewing “The Knot” from Boetti to Pistoletto, I knew this too was not my home.
Still a wanderer, I continued to capture the “snapshots” of grand cultural interiors and then inject them with my figures, nomads passing by. In some paintings, I will pull their faces close to the frame where they act as sentinels – there to witness. I claim them by overlaying my notes, doodles and graffiti. It’s something that wanderers universally do in order to mark their existence and anchor their experience while traveling.
Through architectural and figurative interplay, issues of belonging vs. outsider, classical vs. contemporary, cultural vs. pedestrian exist on the same plane. As I open my world to the viewer, for these moments we share an interruption and integration of the common and the sublime, where time and space stop and shift.
With the recent completion of a long-duration artist-in-residency in South Florida, I’m surrounded by the newness of a different aesthetic/esthetic, and work to re-locate my “culture” once again.
Like a long train ride, life is a moving image and mine is a restless soul.