Rock Stars, Orphans and Rescue Missions: Preparing the Solo Show
As I write this, I’m sitting on a stool in the middle of my studio. My solo show is less than five weeks away. I have over fifteen canvases of all sizes strewn about, the finished ones hanging on the walls, the rest facing the walls. I’ve divided the paintings into three categories: Rock Stars, Rescue Missions and Orphans. There’s nothing like a deadline to align all the atoms of the universe so I can see with crystal clarity.
Next, the Rescue Missions. They were Rock Stars. What happened? That hand doesn’t look quite right, the palette needs fixing, the detail not enough or too much. But there are Rescue Missions and then there are Rescue Missions. I have one Rescue Mission that I’ve been painting on and off of for five years. It was once the basis for an entire show. Someday, it still will be, but now I work on her in between. Leonardo Da Vinci carted the Mona Lisa around with him for twenty years, touching it up until his death (and to think it started as a commission!). Like Jean Le Feo’s ongoing and never finished painting “The Rose,” or Jacob Wrestling the angel, I don’t know when she will be ready for the public, but I’m not giving up.
There’s a common misconception that artists are focused on process and it’s all about “the journey.” Certainly the journey’s great (and challenging and circuitous and rewarding, etc.), but I want beginnings and endings. I want results. Nabokov wrote that there can be no art without facts and no science with out fancy. There’s nothing more satisfying than fact of a finished painting and the dream that it will somehow embody an ultimate aesthetic self.
But truthfully, thinking that any painting might represent the whole vision or spirit of anything is as impossible as attempting to hug a tornado. Rather, each painting or idea represents a single moment and angle of that tornado in motion— it’s early crosswinds, it’s fury, the occasional flying cow or car— it’s just just one piece in a life time of work.