LOSING MY PERMANENCE

Do I dare admit it? That I have just delivered for exhibition the best paintings I have ever made, yet they still fall short of the type of perfection that the "best" normally indicates? That I am confounded about the path forward and perplexed about what to retain and what to eject?

I have been privileged to receive the mentorship of Jason Hackenwerth during this grant period and dialogue with him has been critical to my latest unfolding.

inflatable sculpture by Jason Hackenwerth, from the MEGAMITES series

inflatable sculpture by Jason Hackenwerth, from the MEGAMITES series

At our first meeting, I mentioned that I wanted to bury the serpentine forms deeper into the paintings I was making without completely losing them. I wanted them to operate in the background like some hidden cosmic force. He mentioned Structuralism and I recoiled a bit because I suddenly realized that despite my best efforts to move away from Dualism, Opposition, Contrasting Notions and Determinism, I have retained the core idea of the existence of something in the background determining the course of events, a cosmic director, that implies that we are fated to certain ends.

No, this would not do. What should I cut out? What part of my art should I eject? And the only answer is that it must be the Cosmic Director visual metaphor – the serpentine forms that I have been working with for 5 years.

Or…

I could shift my perspective and keep the forms and imbue them with new purpose and meaning. Kintsugi repairing a broken notion. Perhaps they could instead act as an initial condition that helps to generate the unfolding of THE PAINTING ON HAND, rather than a universal metaphor running through the entire Exit Music series. The important difference between the idea of a Cosmic Genitor and an initial condition is that the condition changes, disappears, is not infinite or omniscient or sentient. It arises itself through the interaction of origins preceding it. Initial conditions are not permanent.

Kintsugi is the ancient Japanese tradition of fixing broken ceramics with lacquer, dusted with precious metal powder, and falls in line with the general notion of wabi sabi, the embrace of transience and imperfection. During and after my recovery from addiction, I embraced imperfection not for any spiritual reason, but as a method to evade stress vis-à-vis the disproportionate demands of my own expectations, which was a huge trigger for me.

The practice of Kintsugi is unequivocally relatable. How many times have I been broken and put back together? Who helped fix my cracks and what did we fill them with?

For the past 5 years I’ve been increasingly obsessed with knowing the nature of Space-Time and this pursuit has really been a veiled method to embrace the other half of wabi sabi, my own transient impermanence. I have been admittedly faulty in doing so, since the forms always turn out to be metaphors for some hidden, universal, and by implication, permanent, force.

The serpentine forms in my newest paintings have shed their skin, transformed from metaphors for pan-universal “forces” into localized initial conditions. And as we know from our very recent experience with Hurricane Irma, local conditions can redirect and reshape the most powerful of forces. As the saying goes, “When a butterfly flaps its wings…”