The about me, or about my artwork cannot be set in stone. It is not permanent. It has to evolve as I do. I challenge my beliefs because what do we ever really know for sure? What follows is the reasonings for what I have tried to do artistically at given points in my life. Some still true. Some now false. Some never were, or never will be...
I have always tried to be a visual journalist. I don’t think that I understood why until recently, but as I have grown older I have been able to identify what my art purpose really must be. Like every single person- my years, months, days, minutes and seconds are made up of small experiences. Choices are made. People come and go.
What really keeps the record of your life?
All those experiences disappear into the large murkiness of time.
What remains of who “YOU” were? What you witnessed? What you felt? Loved? Hated? Dreamed of? Ran towards and ran from?
We live a linear life, a straight line of beginning-middle-end. But we spend so much time in the past within our heads, that I question if our lives are actually ever linear. They are more loops that we age within and experience, and some of us even re-experience over and over. I see so many of these loops that have disappearing life experiences. What happens in each moment fades into obscurity, eventually we all do.
We become ghosts.
I’m trying to preserve some of that life journalistically, some narratives, and some personal internal dialogues of the time that I live within. I attempt to be a keeper of small and large moments that will disappear after they are over. They might be a memory, or completely lost. They may become stories that will be told, or invisible markers to an invisible life. Think of all the human stories that happen all day, every day. They become forgotten. Lives are whittled down to common shared names, with birth and death dates carved in stone. I feel responsible to capture a small part of that, but often feel like I miss the mark. But isn’t that too part of the experience?
Sometimes, or let’s be honest- most of the time, I find myself fighting through the process. “This sucks” ...“What am I doing?” Shouted over and over while I stumble blindly around the art. I have no ability to see visuals in my head (aphantasia), so I keep working until I like what I see. In many ways this is a great disability to a visual artist, I see nothing in my head. It’s like being in a dark room with some other more fascinating people. I can hear them, but see nothing. I just keep going until I bump into someone. I’m trying to say something that never comes out right because I am choking in the dark. My brain speaks one language, but out pops another.
And then I start again. Creating art has never been easy, but I keep doing it. I love the language, even if no one is listening.
Well, the typical artist "about" is a statement of purpose, I'm always seeking more of my purpose. Not that I don't know who I am, I do. I am a professional artist/illustrator, bordering on being an eccentric recluse with an ever growing doll sculpture in his backyard that makes my neighbors uncomfortably nervous. I am not ashamed to say that I have stylistic-ADHD in my artwork. I follow the art path- not the money, career, or the opinion. Art is my compulsion, it has led me into appreciating life and the bigger picture. But the purpose of what I do, is a bit simplistic.
I create, and I (try to) communicate.
I am the first and only in my nuclear family to go to college, I am a fiercely proud owner of an AS from Monroe Community College (Art & Psychology) in 1989, BFA from the Rochester Institute of Technology (Illustration & Sociology) in 1991, and an MFA (Painting) in 1993 from the Rochester Institute of Technology. Despite the myth about an education in the arts being easy or lacking substance- I worked tirelessly. Morning to night. I lived and breathed a lot of types of art, and a lot of reasons that art was made.
From painting to performance art, drawing to design- I love art. It opened my mind to new places. I never saw the school as being my teacher, It is what the student makes it to be, not the school.
I have been involved in higher education in one way or another since 1993 at a variety of colleges, and in social services working in mental health and chemical dependency since 1996. I am not sure what I would write today about myself as an artist that I did not write in 2004 for my former website. I still make art very spontaneously because as I found out in my post college years, I may have some form of Aphantasia- I do not see visual images in my head.
Everything starts as words.
I make notes, then thumbnail sketches, do some research, and make a larger sketch- or start on the final. I experiment a lot. I have always experimented and taken risks with materials and ideas. That is how I find my way. I know what my materials will do- most of the time. I know what's going to happen as I work, because I have failed so powerfully so many times. I said above that I studied a lot in school. I still do, but I'm not limited to art. The education is not so pin pointed to art, now it's wide open. Philosophy is a big driving force in what I do in my life, and just after graduate school I came across a book called "Art & Fear" (Bayles & Orland). Simple writing, big impact. There is a lot of fear involved in making and showing art, you put the inside you out there to be looked at, to be dissected- to be judged. That is a difficult task for someone who grew up in an alcoholic household, which I did. The big hurdle was the sense of self, not the sense of materials. Through a lot of trial and error, I was already free with materials and risk, I could handle facing the fear of failure on images with skill, or lack of how-to. I learned, that I learn best by having my hands do the work, not my head, or any portion of the what-I-should-do's. This book allowed me to also free up the concept in my mind of why I do what I do. I do not rest on my laurels. I found a need for more than income, more than praise.
I started to ask: is this really all there is? No, it is not all there is.
There is so much more to life than career and accolades, money and belongings. There is nothing wrong with those goals, but for me- a kid that had internal drama, and dysfunctional family weight on my back, I wanted to give more to my life than just a nice car to drive around in until I die.
There is a personal and fulfilling spiritual experience to finding a reason to be here, to creating something. Whether it is music, dance, painting, photography, sculpture- or just a chair to sit on and a box to put stuff in. I do what I do, not to be known, or appreciated- but because I have to. I have to make images to express myself, because I am often without the right words, and that's tough when you depend on words. I have to attempt to make a record of small moments of everyday life that I exist within, that may otherwise be lost in time. I focus a lot on issues of mental health and darker issues. My greatest lesson to myself was to listen to what I wanted to do. Along the way, I was told I was not college material. I should not go to school for art. I could not do anything with an art degree. I was not good enough, smart enough, artsy enough. I could not make that kind of art in school. My art is too dark, has no depth, has no style, is not commercial enough/ or too commercial. And trust me, I have left out a lot of couldn'ts & shouldn'ts. This is what I do. This is what makes me happy. And ultimately, I'm still here- still standing and still creating. So I fall back for some details on what I wrote in 2004, not because it captures what I think; but because I don't yet have anything better to add.
This was one of my earliest Artist statements that was not caught up in trying to be more.
More what? More than being an artist.
I am an Upstate NY artist that does not appear to fit cleanly into any artistic molds...who does anyway? I have long sat on the fence between an artistic & teaching career (since 1993) and a career in Social Services (since 1996). I have been a proponent of not looking the part (artist or otherwise) that my mind plays. Appearing wildly average allows me to use Viet Cong style tactics in social situations, the best change happens from the inside. I am by no means a radical, but I do believe that change is necessary, and fear of change results in nothing good at all. I know because I have been there - stuck and unwilling to change. While I may not have all the resources to change the world, I am trying to do my part in my little corner.
I am a Taoist. If I spend too much time trying to figure it out, I find that I go in a great big circle and end up where I started -MLK deemed that the Paralysis of Analysis, so I try to not perseverate. I live by one great idea: "The un-examined life is not worth living." (Socrates)
I am a part time illustrator & part time fine artist & part time social service butterfly (I'm jus' trying it all out) while managing fatherhood. Part liberal & part conservative. Proud American & dissident fed up with the crap that goes on here. Partly sane & partly insane...so lots of ground is covered is what I am trying to say.
I have a problem with stale authority that utilize "verbal vomit", and oftentimes- just any authority or administration in general. I enjoy organizations that are forward thinking (over time wasters). Every organization needs it's administrators, but I don't have time to pointlessly waste, I like to get things done- and I don't take my time for granted, there is only so much of it. I also avoid nonsense adult conversations deemed "small talk" in order to keep my soul. I still collect comic books and love movies (in particular- Horror). I'm a big kid enjoying adulthood, but not so much that I forget to have fun. The Future has yet to happen, and the past is best left where it is. Which allows me to deal with the crushing disappointment of really hoping that by the new millennium we would be traveling throughout the galaxy, because I was kind of looking forward to that. Until then I have to settle for visiting really unique touristy places-like Chernobyl and other abandoned places that were once alive.
Most, if not all of my artwork is about emotion. The turmoil inside, the unspoken monkey on our backs. For a very long time I drew obsessively each day. I saw it as journalistic, a way of capturing quiet intense moments that would otherwise be lost in time. I grew up around alcoholism. I grew up with constant change of housing, family, friends. I was not grounded, not tied to anyone or anything. My style is just that, influenced by the emotion, the moment, the color, light, texture, music, line and subject, words - and more.
My big constant is to try and just be me, no one else.
I'm a reactive artist. I don't recall the name of the condition, but I don't see images in my thoughts. In fact I don't see anything at all. I make thoughts, those wanderings through blind dark rooms into artwork- and I hope that when I turn the lights on; what's been made is worthwhile. I have a great life, and I owe that to art. I am a very serious supporter of any artistic exploration that allows for the possibility of finding your path, your "truth" as it has been called, without sounding pretentious. I believe in the power of art, that art matters. I believe in the self expression of the art when words don't come easy. I believe in the value of art as culture, what mankind can ultimately achieve when the chains are cast off.
"If you always do what you always did, you'll always get what you always got."