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Baptism

I started this piece with nervous openness, ready to keep the piece malleable throughout the three months I had to work on it, but not sure what direction it had in mind. This is an aim for the entire series of self portraits at this scale, a welcoming of the jazz influenced "free play" and improvisation that can pull things from one's subconscious like an undertow. My process for the previous series had become a bit rigid and I felt the safety of that process starting to suffocate the art.

I knew only that I had become somewhat hypnotized by this pattern* I have been uncovering or discovering on the surface of my skin and found it a natural starting point. In the pattern are four overlapping spirals that descend from the crown of one's head. In order to emphasize those spirals I put one big spiral of paint around my actual head and started there. I watched the drips of paint and took some photos to reference for the shine and shadows. As I started drawing I thought it would be exciting to leave some of this pattern visible. I had done this before, most recently in The All Most. The most difficult thing to see about this surface pattern is the connection between the different terrains of the face- nose into eye into forehead. In The All Most I had revealed disconnected circles of surface, except for the two overlapping circles over the nose and eye. That was my most ambitious undertaking at that time, but in Baptism I was deciding to do six cross sections that spanned the entire width of the head. The foreshortening at the sides of the face create a compression of detail that make it very difficult to accurately observe. In a photograph or digital image the amount of information is the same across the surface of an image, but in real life (and in a mirror's reflection of real life) the amount of detail increases exponentially where foreshortening exists. There is more surface depicted in smaller space. I love this compression of detail and give extra time and emphasis to accurately drawing these passages. They are areas of transition with an outline at the threshold, and my work is often about moments of life's transitions so I bring extra attention to these areas of the drawing. I was convinced that the pattern revealed by a liquid spiral was going to be dynamic enough to hold the piece together. It was an everest of a visual undertaking. After months of seeing and rendering these patterns, I realized the drawing was still flat and listless. So I regrouped and saw that the geometry supported two different spirals, that they would line up convincingly, and it started asking for that: a double helix. Suddenly my head became the negative space around which a double helix wraps and DNA becomes the obvious metaphor. The purple and yellow came from watching our baby video monitor and looking at Koruna fall asleep (or not) during the setting sun. For some reason in the low light the little monitor was reduced to picking up only purple and yellow and I (properly influenced by the extraordinary beauty of my baby girl) loved this feature. So purple and yellow- opposites on the color wheel and a nod to the ever present duality of creation.

With a few weeks to go, the drawing was still lacking depth and vibration and I was getting nervous that all the work was heading toward ruin. The purple and yellow looked to be straight out of a crayon box so I added some purple to the yellow and yellow to the purple to take it back toward a central gray and things started getting a bit more dynamic. It wasn't until the last week that I realized I couldn't ignore the fact that it was looking like honey. I needed an admission so it wouldn't dominate the back burner and people wouldn't say, "why has he got that honey on his head?" then walk on by. The bee came to me (literally) on a spring day and I caught him and sacrificed him to the immortality of art (sorry little guy). Look close and you will see that the bees attracted to the yellow honey have a slight purple tint and vice versa. Where the bees alight upon the pattern they emit their special codified pattern of honey comb and it lines up with the pattern of my face. This little echo points to a distant ancestry that all cellular creatures on this planet share. Our interconnection with the bees is also hinted at by the fur around their bodies mimicking the fuzz surrounding the outline of my head.

*A note about that pattern: I find myself most engaged in drawing when my eyes assert their authority over my mind. My mind is constantly trying to take the reigns and the most difficult aspect of my practice is the discipline to trust the physical body (eyes) acting and reacting to the physical world (that which they observe). The mind insists upon its "correctness" and tries to steer the hand to make the marks it fancies, but each time it is responsible for a mark, the mark strikes me as inferior and dishonest. So I take a moment and reconnect with the eyes, with what I am seeing, and start again. It was this practice, repeated over and over again while looking at my reflection that began to reveal the patterns I have been seeing in the separation of the pores on my face. So, to say that I look for a pattern to get started is a bit inaccurate. In fact, I am very wary of that pattern and each time I see it coming out in my drawings I think I am seeing the influence of the mind and the infiltration of ubiquitous computer generated images that must have saturated my subconscious. So I check with my eyes again, and lo and behold, I see them- they are there.

Pierrot

Pierrot is most commonly known as "that mime," the white faced sad clown. The character evolved from an Italian acting troupe that gained fame in Paris in the 17th century. Wikipedia offers this: "In short, Pierrot became an alter-ego of the artist, specifically of the famously alienated artist of the 19th and early 20th centuries. His physical insularity; his poignant muteness, the legacy of the great mime Deburau; his white face and costume, suggesting not only innocence but the pallor of the dead; his eternal rejection by Columbine, coupled with his never-to-be vanquished unworldly naiveté-all conspired to lift him out of the circumscribed world of the Commedia dell'Arte and into the larger realm of myth."

In this new series of work I am trying to follow as much as I lead and the result is like getting messages from a Ouija Board. The myth of Pierrot leaked out of the cultural subconscious and began reaching toward this piece as it progressed. Most of the elements in this drawing were in place before "Pierrot" found it and ran it to the finish line. It started out as an investigation into the identity I attach to my face: how much of my "self" really resides in the architecture of my facial features? I decided to remove the connection that eye contact implies and focus on the surface of the skin, and in doing so, I found myself instantly teetering close to a death mask. This vacancy became the most potent element and the piece turned into the mask you see. Without the personality of the eyes the piece felt closer to an expression of humanity than singularity. It is divided down the middle to emphasize this most obvious but easily overlooked element of being human - bilateral symmetry. The neck is inspired by Japanese baskets that make hexagons in their weave, a shape I found when working on Baptism to be present in most cellular bodies.

Pierrot came into the picture as I was mentally spinning about the idea of working in a dark studio, creating a mask of humanity to represent me as a "self portrait." I often go loopy over, "who am I" and "who is asking, anyway?" and who get's to say "ah-ha" when it's all figured out, so I was glad to find companionship when Pierrot arrived. Pierrot was a character who had to act dumb to woo the woman of his fancy. An actor playing an actor. He makes a nice little mockery of this dizzying separation of subconsciousness, ego and id. Suddenly from death mask, i jumped all the way back to clown.

Pierrot is the companion piece to Forgotten Offerings. Pierrot is vacant and shows the interior space as a void whereas Forgotten Offerings is full of light. The poses obviously mirror one another. They are independent, but polar. The gold leaf in both brings focus to the border- an incredibly potent part of the composition as it is the dividing line between the "real world" and this imagined space of illusion and constructed meaning.