Until March 2020, we have attempted, and failed, numerous times throughout our 20-year marriage to produce a single collaborative work. It took a global pandemic that forced us to remain on our property working in close proximity to one another to realize that, rather than resist our conflicts, we could harness this discord by employing a form of corporate discernment to pursue unity within the dialectics of idealism and practicality, art and design, marriage and responsibility. This work leans into interpersonal dissonance and suspends any expectations of specific outcomes. Our project is a reflexive look at the elusive phantom we call collaboration/cooperation. Through a series of paintings whose shifting overlays of image fragments are produced through and about a conglomeration of collaborative practices, this work conveys varying perceptions relevant to all human interpersonal relationships—connections, slippages, and misalignments. Having studied and practiced in different disciplines, Kelly, a graphic designer, and Craig, a painter, we seek to discover what comes out of the intersection of our differing perspectives by flirting with the interruption of our individual practices to find immanence, not transcendence. This work embodies the memory of its own creation rather than an idea of what it means to collaborate. These paintings operate as visual archives of our efforts to collaborate—a portrait of the work of co-creation and a repository of shared experience. Living as a creative couple who work in empirically separate disciplines, we experience an underlying tension in our knowledge and perception of one another’s practice. In mining these differences between our definitions of art and design, we can arrive at a result that transcends ourselves and opens us to creative solutions rather than compromise. These paintings negotiate a reciprocity between facture, reflection, and depth and the contingent relationship between surface and physical/illusionistic structures, allowing forces to fall out of equilibrium only to seek it once again. They are visual aporia consisting of dialectics of space, color, and dimensional tension where behavior manifests through form, representing, in both practice and structure, the entropy and organization we all experience and cannot seem to avoid nor escape, sustain, nor leash. In the process and final work, elements seem as if they are on the verge of material dissolution, a paradigm where the balance of relations is continually being reassessed, and there is a constant sense of fragility and free fall, giving the work and us a quivering presence, alive in real-time, always ready to collapse.
In February 2016 my father passed away due to complications form heart surgery. Although I had made numerous attempts in the past, I was saddened by the fact that I was never successful in painting a portrait of my father. He was always elusive to me, yet his presence is seemingly unremitting. The loss of one of my parents left me feeling unmoored. There was one less person that had expectations of me, one fewer parent whose innate concern for my conduct was now gone. I was untethered from my anchor of irreproachability. Around the time of his death I was invited to hang a solo show at the Wee Gallery in Tucson. It was then that I decided to produce a series of intimate portraits of men in my life who have exemplified an ideal to which I strive. They are patriarchs by proxy.
The Slaughter Series paintings involve an esthetics of death. These esthetics are simultaneously a pretense of engagement and a delusion of detachment. Like the intrinsic conflict between the butcher and the pig or the surgeon and the patient, my works oscillate between autonomy and involvement, absence and presence, death and life, through the integration of representation and abstraction. The way in which images are nurtured into existence from the substance of paint and the motion of the brush only to be dispatched by the very same is a parallel to the slaughter and a simile to surgery. I view the suspended, flaccid bodies of these massive creatures as analogies for the act of painting and a means of assimilating my father’s recent, sudden death due to complications from heart surgery. In both instances the relatively discrete identities of individual subjects are reduced to silent still-lives slowly broken down by the same hands that once sustained them. At moments the images in this work barely hold together as passages of paint slip away from the form—beings on the verge of disappearing, reduced to abstractions of their former self.
In a line from his play, A Woman of No Importance, Oscar Wilde described foxhunting as "The unspeakable in full pursuit of the uneatable". The implications of this statement form the central question of my current research—what are the reasons for our persistent need to chase that which we know has no apparent utility and what does this say about our capacity for empathy despite the apparent futility of such pursuits. The study of this centuries-old sport has informed my current studio practice in which I have cast foxhunting as the central character in a series of allegorical paintings portraying the ambivalent, and even at times contentious, relationship between humans and animals as well as the interdependence and alliances that these two species have attempted to forge and in which they appear find value in the pursuit alone—shaping the discourse of the chase.
As I traverse the Southwestern landscape on my weekly commutes from Las Cruces, New Mexico to Tucson, I witness an abundance of carcasses and roadkill along the sides of the highway. I am made aware of my own vulnerability while simultaneously being reminded of the iconic painted skulls of Georgia O’Keefe. I find this cocktail of decomposition and romance to be a perfect metaphor for the allure of repulsion. The use of euphemisms when speaking about tragedy, pain, and death is a way of offsetting the severity of such realities. It makes them more palatable. This current body of work uses the types of clichés frequently associated with these afflictions, as visual euphemisms to moderate the suffering of our own mortality.
This body of work operates as a rehearsal for and revisitation of (my) success at failure as I look both backwards and forwards at my life through the lens of middle age. Each painting, through both image and form, strives to realize a kind of telos which will bring about an absolute resolution between the disparate formal elements and the individual egos of the protagonists—each having their own intentions, needs and desires. While the heterogeneous appearance of these paintings speaks of an incongruous approach to rectifying personal conflicts, their ability to harmonize disparate forces expresses the possibility of achieving balance, even if complex and tentative.
These paintings explore the intrinsic perversion of human interpersonal relationships. The characters are caught in a crisis between social ideals of identity and personal insecurities brought on by their own conflicting wants and needs. Although the combination of surface quality, color and paint handling emphasize the paintings’ seriousness, it is undercut by what is represented. For what more are we to do but laugh when we find our relationships never truly realize the ideals we set up for them, yet we learn to love the form they have taken—flaws and all. If these paintings leave viewers feeling slightly disturbed it is the result of their own acknowledgement that something about the uncomfortable relationships depicted within bear an uncanny familiarity to their own. The superficial seduction of the work’s initial scopic pleasure gives way to a more inclusive, albeit unsettling, understanding of the perverse nature of these relationships through an empathic dynamic between viewer and painting.
These works attempt to objectify mental depression by envisioning it as an alienated protagonist inhabiting a grisaille world. The protagonist is seen interacting with colorful, iconic objects that signify feelings of loss and anxiety. This night-vision world is indicative of the frightening spaces that manifest themselves in the troubling fissures of cognitive ambiguity. Metaphorically, these figures embody a sense of psychological dread whose deformities render them monstrous. Their features allude to a self-consciousness which separates them from the natural order and is responsible for the feelings of isolation and seclusion so often associated with despair.