By the winter of 2002, it had been over 8 years since I had painted. I quit painting and took up photography and video, just when my painting had been chosen for the Corcoran's 43rd Painting Biennial and my future as a painter seemed most promising. The intervening years: completing a second MFA in digital art, teaching multi-media art, and working collaboratively on video installation with Gillian Brown were richly rewarding, but not easy. By 2002, teaching digital art in Florda, I felt stuck and disatisfied -- stalled in my career, disconnected from my work and lonely. It was time for a change. I left my job at Stetson University and came home to Washington DC -- to my husband and to painting.
My initial attempts at painting were comically inept. I felt like a musician picking up an instrument after years without practice; all sour notes and screeches. I used old paintings as starting points and promptly ruined one after another. The process took on a life of its own, though, and I found myself gripped by an urge to work stronger than I had ever experienced. It was only gradually that the connections began to re-form between earlier painting concerns, more recent ideas in video, experiences of the recent past and with the current process of reestablishing a marriage, community and home. The process of reestablishing a home was at least as bumpy and challenging as the painting and provided a rich source of material.
One of the moves that clicked for me was the drawing of a house over top of an chaotic piece in process. The simple outline introduced both a formal and conceptual structure and a possible vocabulary for talking about my perennial interest in reality building. A messy process for which I had ready material.
It also pleased me that this work on paper had some of the airy freedom of my earlier works on paper (Kinesthetics 1985-1991). For me, bare paper is incomparable in freshness and spatial openess. Any mark on bare paper floats free.
The language of painting operates as a metaphor, or even a mediator, in the activity of composing of a life. As mentioned before, I feel that the most fundamental principle of painting is that of relationship. No element on the canvas lives in isolation, but only as part of a complex web of relationships. Delacroix's famous statement,"Give me mud, let me surround it as I think fit, and it shall be the radiant flesh of Venus," could be said of any process of composition, even composing a life. We build our home out of available materials. We don't always have the people or circumstances we want. We are often without the appropriate wisdom or maturity. But regardless of our resources, we strive to make our home as comforting as possible. A relaxed apprehension of the parts to the whole can enable the fabrication of a contingent world often more satisfying than what we might craft under ideal circumstances. I called these first two paintings Favelas because they were messy disasters, stitched into a fragile viability with available materials -- and yet gratifying. I was determinded to make the "best" of things.
I employed a bit of digital trickery in Favela II. I wove digital imagery into the surface of the panting by taking a digital photograph of the painting and then adding digitally constructed elements in the computer. The area circled in turquoise does not actually have the markings of oil stick and charcoal that it appears to have. The original was photographed, manipulated in the computer and then glued back on. The polka dots and their shadows were added in the computer. My experience teaching digital art opened up these sorts of possibilities. A large format archival printer allowed me to augment my income printing artist editions and it also made these sorts of experiments possibie.