My earliest paintings like most high school and beginning painting students were intended to be descriptive realism. I chose to paint women dressed in army fatigues as a symbol of power. It was a way to assert a womenʼs power in masculine terms. As the curriculum pushed me to interact with the history of painting, I had to abandon illusionistic space and acknowledge the flat surface of the canvas. The power figures remained as residue of my earlier work, but the space was based on Picasso. The process became like abstract expressionism; rather than being planned in advance it was improvisational. I was looking at Picasso, Guston, Ofili, and both early and late Pollockʼs improvisational approaches to the figure, color and space. The exploration of
flat space improvisation and an interest in color established my style in the department. It has stayed consistent in my work, but the nature of the art object changed.
Some of this work was included in ArtPrize in Grand Rapids. Before this acceptance of my work off campus in a major competitive exhibition I thought of myself as an art education major. On my return, I thought of myself as an artist who teaches. The ground shifted again when I got to advanced painting. We watched “Five Obstructions”, a movie directed by two filmmakers, Lars Von Trier and Jorgen Leth. Von Trier challenges Leth to remake his 1967 movie, but not to use his usual tactics. Surprisingly, with every obstruction, the movie gets better. My classmates took VonTrierʼs place and wrecked my usual processes. They limited me to a paint roller and one brush no larger than a half inch, one color plus gray and the surface could not be canvas. It killed me. I worked on a very intricate design on a piece of drywall for two weeks. After a conversation with my professor I decided to cover the drywall with one simple color, orange.
My classmates were furious. They were angry that I covered my original painting. I loved how furious they were. It marked another turning point. The painting negated all my previous work in the same way that Malevich looked for the zero point of painting. At this point I became stuck.
In Mark Bradfordʼs collages chopped up posters, signs and urban debris create colorful improvisational images with out using paint. The use of scraps from construction projects as material negates the elevated notion of painting. Jessica Stockholder and Katie Bell provided other examples of artists using found materials as painting. Despite the fact that the material comes off the wall, goes up the ceiling, or goes around a corner of the space. It still functions like painting because the viewer steps back to look at it rather than walking around it like a sculpture. So, as I continued to work I looked to these artists for inspiration and direction.
I choose to use house paint, extension cords and tape for line; drywall, siding and blue tarp for shapes, and many similar materials; taken together these materials stand in for my previously painterly style and simultaneously deny it. Critic Cate McQuaid states, “We expect a painting to hang flat on a wall, to have a discrete rectangular surface, usually framed. We expect a picture.” Instead, the work comes off of the wall and explores the space between the materials and the wall itself, very similar to the work of Katie Bell.
When I begin I never know what the final work will look like. Each piece is different. On some I begin with small studies and then begin to recreate them at a larger scale. Others I create drawings to start the process. These works take shape by experimenting with the material and its placement. I collage the pieces together in a way that asserts painting as an object.
In Powerful Art and Power, Jessica Stockholder wrote, “I value the role that art plays creating friction, agitating, questioning and challenging the systems we live with.” Some respond, ”thatʼs a mess.” I like the chaos. I control it. Coming full circle, my work still deals with a woman's power.