Normally, viewers of art, specifically paintings, see the final product. The painter, on the other hand, is privy to the subject matter’s appearance in a specific location providing unique lighting. That reality is never seen by the viewer, so the painting is never scrutinized against the subject itself. Considering some artist’s liberal use of “artistic license”, the final painting could look drastically different from the subject.
In this body of work, the painting is centered in an assemblage construction. The paintings are done on a 2-3” thick panel where found objects are permanently secured to the top of the painting surface in a shrine-inspired display that I construct, and the painting pallet is likewise secured to the bottom. The painting is then executed from disciplined observation of the objects, using the attached palette to mix colors providing proof of work. This is largely a reaction to American daily life that is subjected to the news media describing fact as bendable rather than concrete, even when the facts are out in the open. So, for me, I am treating “artistic license” as bending the truth.
More recently, the assemblages reflect my three years living in Japan. As such, respect, humility, and honesty have become the focus of the work. Being of non-Japanese descent, my body of work is from an outsider’s point of view, which poses unique questions such as western appropriation vs. intent to honor a culture. For me, misinterpreting these objects through false embellishments would do them dishonor so truth is paramount.
The Shinto religion prevalent in Japan revolves around the worship of Kami, or spirits that live within objects or natural forces. Almost eighty percent of Japanese believe in some form of Kami, and that they have a specific life-giving, harmonizing power, called musubi that becomes stronger the older or more revered/loved the object is. The other aspect of Kami that makes them important is their truthful will or sincerity, called makoto. When Kami are respected and honored, they are good and benevolent, when disrespected – not so much. While I do not practice Shinto, I know/feel in my heart that some objects have more significance to me. As an artist, the best way I can pay honor to the Kami/object is to paint it. Once the assemblage is sold and hung in its new exhibition space, I encourage patrons to allow me to repaint the work in its new resting place, to match the lighting environment or to make the Kami more comfortable in its new home.