February 5th, 2016 by Theresa
gambette – Geraldine Anton & Theresa Byrnes a collaboration.
Geraldine flew from Australia to do an art-residency with me in January 2016. Helping me with my baby at night, working in my studio and collaborating with me on new work during the day – we fast became friends and decided to respond to the appoaching Valentine’s day.
What is love? What is friendship? I should know by now. But I feel more and more that love is for survivors or is granted to those we think will. The fickle moments of connection land in my life often & than flutter away. Believing more in “flutter than forever” makes me unsure if I understand love or if it can be understood. My physical vulnerability leaves me open to contact that is like a dance of will. “gambette” is me grappling to represent what I feel to be the essence of love & friendship, shared support & play & shared convulsive, unpedictale joy. Both are bound to the moment and not expected.
The exhibition, “gambette” opens tonight on my birthday! Come celebrate.
January 15th, 2016 by Theresa
My last blog was over two years ago. It was about my maternal love for a fledgling sparrow. We adopted each other, I became mama-bird, he was gaining strength but after a month he suddenly died. I wrote about how our connection informed my (then current) series SPARROW HEART. I was pregnant but did not know it. I named my son Sparrow, now he is a toddler.
MUDBIRD (a return to the beginning) is about my little Sparrow rising from the mud, being born and making his first marks – equally it is about my continuance as a producing artist through the demands & delights of motherhhood & through the threat & trauma of my own mortality.
I am a abstraction addict. I realized this when I decided to focus exclusively on painting portraits until late 2017. Setting aside abstract painting for a while feels like abstinence. My abstract painting sprung from the backgrounds of my portraits. I became more interested in painting the background & the subject faded in importance until it was gone.
As I get older life gets richly complicated. The figure re-appears – back to my portrait painting roots. I hold the gaze with struggle not escaping in the natural perfection of abstraction.
Sparrows biological father is dying.The complexity and depth of my sorrow I can not explain but when I paint a portrait of us it comes clear for a moment.
MUDBIRD a return to the beginning
UNTIL jan 16
tues thurs sat 1-6
Friday 15 JAN, 6-8pm
TBG – 616 east 9th Street NYC
BEING 2 – paintings – TB
PERFORMANCE video —Christopher Lynch
MUDBIRD – paintings/performance ephemera – TB
PERFORMANCE video – Kevin O’Hanlon
Stills by Rainer Hosch
NEW PORTRAITS – Theresa Byrnes
3D photography – Bobby Bennett & M. Henry Jones
May 13th, 2013 by Theresa
SPARROW HEART – This series of paintings is not based on epic or political themes, so nothing grandiose. This exhibition is small and frail, sweet and personal. My heart, my understanding of life and love expanded a million miles after my first encounter with a fallen baby sparrow.
In the summer of 2006 a sparrow fell from its nest and into my heart. Its tinyness in my hand, I felt the ferocity of its spirit and was immediately and profoundly changed. Nothing I had ever encountered in my life, romantic love, disability, financial struggle had ever taken my focus away from painting, but the love and kinship I felt for this tiny bird did.
After three days being mama bird, feeding it water by an eye-dropper and baby food by my fingertip, it died in my hand. His chirping stopped, his forever hungry and thirsty beak closed and his feisty little eyeballs stopped glittering.
I didn’t get out of bed for 3 days and for a month I could not look at anyone deeply in the eyes without crying.
In 2008 a friend brought me a sick and dehydrated sparrow. I fed it water by eye-dropper and baby-food by my finger tip until it was well enough to fly away. It did.
In 2009 I found a sparrow that had crashed into a window and was paralyzed. I cared for it for a day and night before he died and I buried him in my planter, tearful but grateful that it spent its last hours with me.
I was becoming increasingly aware that true love, sparrow love could not be possessed either in death or in life.
In the summer of 2012 I adopted into my care a lost and confused baby sparrow. It was barely 2 weeks old and too young to fly. He found sanctuary in my sunny green house. He got stronger and I knew one day he would fly away. I named him Fluffy Angel. Fluffy Angel hopped on my head, shoulders, back and up and down my arms. He loved peanut butter, wild millet and hiding in the cat-nip outpouring my planter box. He was the last thing I thought of before I went to sleep and I would bounce out of bed to play with him in the morning.
My collection of miniature ornaments was a playroom for him, a pewter ballerina my mom mailed me one birthday, a plastic black stallion Peter Downes from the Brooklyn museum had given me, a steel three legged elephant and its calf I had bought from a flee market, a plastic orange dinosaur I had found on 9th Street and a rock of red ochre I had brought all the way from Yirrkala, Arhnem land, Australia. He would hop on each of the toys as though it was a ride. My Yolongu mother had given me the ochre to grind and paint with but now it was Fluffy Angel’s poop rock.
His favorite toy was a simple plastic cup, the one you throw away after a party. He would nudge the cup with his beak until it rolled away and then he would hop after it and than nudge it again. I would gleefully watch him at play for hours intermittingly feeding him peanut butter or fresh baby cereal from my fingertip.
Almost a month had past and he was beginning to find his wings. He could now flutter clumsily from my shoulder to my thigh.
I woke one morning in a panic. I rolled into to my green house, no tweets, no hopping about. My life hadn’t seemed this still for ages. I couldn’t sense him. I searched madly. Hysteria building and then I found his tiny stiff body. His eyes appeared animated for a minute but on closer, hopeful inspection I saw it was ants moving over his eyes. I had to leg go. I buried him howling in grief.
Sparrow love is the greatest love I have known.
The paintings in this series I use both my hair and feathers. My hair is used as in a brush for painting; my human plumage. The feather is a quill for the writing of words and is the plumage of birds. In these paintings I marry the human and the bird, the painter and the writer, for I am both.
October 20th, 2012 by Theresa
I have had a massive crush on Robert Hughes for most of my life. Reading Shock of the New when I was thirteen set in stone that I was an artist. Now that he has passed my crush on him has not eased off but rather intensified.
I never met him. In the first year I moved to New York I mailed him a letter & a copy of my book THE DIVINE MISTAKE. Maybe it never got to him, maybe he threw it out. I do not know. The small reach to him was big for me as my focus is always on the bones of my painting becoming fleshed.
But in reading his work, crying with his words that lashed my heart with the brutal truth – history, ours “A Fatal Shore” – telling the cold hard facts like poetry – honey & the sting, I felt him, me, us our heritage, nothing blushed over. At Robert Hughes’ heart was the courage of a true artist or rather when there is no fear there is no need for courage. “Art is a lie that tells the truth”, writes Picasso. Writing history is the truth that blows out your heart and switches on your spirit.
For many Aussies it was far easier to ditz this great man as un-Australian or on a high-horse, the fact was he was far above our piddling notions of freedom, that progress treadmill most of us are caught on.
New York has a quality; it allows you to be who you are without owning you.
Now he is gone I feel we can finally meet.
July 2nd, 2012 by Theresa
Life gets in the way of writing about my life.
Clearing, sorting, checking off chores, bills, exhibitions, done, done & done. No more performances for the year & no painting. I have sold enough of my paintings to grant myself 6 months of writing. I must hit it hard, be mega focused & finish this manuscript, my second book now, half-way written.
It has been two years since two huge publishers said they must wait for my completed manuscript before they sign me. It has run through my head – so what of my life, who really cares? All I want to do is paint, that is what my life is all about, what brought me to New York & to this point. I applied for a literature grant twice, declined, declined – regardless I still have a niggle to finish this second autobiography.
I asked my long time East Village friend Lata Kennedy why I should finish writing my book. I went to her wedding a decade ago, my then priest boyfriend conducted the ceremony. Crying she exclaimed, “You have to finish!”
I asked, “Why”
She said, “Cause you live life with no excuses, fearless you make your work, blow us away & then onto new project to surprise us again. You have to write it cause we need it Theresa, your strength, your example.”
As if that was not encouragement enough I asked another friend who was visiting New York from Australia. Henry Everingham used to be a journalist for Sydney Morning Herald. He helped me rescue a chapter from a corrupted disk that I had written for my first book THE DIVINE MISTAKE. I asked Henry, “ Give me good reason why I should finish this book.”
He replied, “Cause you can. You are a bloody good artist and you can write. You have to finish it. You may think your life is relatively normal well it isn’t it is extraordinary. Most people do not leave the country they were born in, family that they know & lifestyle they are comfortable with, you are in New York surviving, thriving as an artist. Theresa there is no question it is your obligation.
From July 1 until January 1 2013 I am writing full time – over & out.
To contribute to my writing project (tax deductable donation) GO TO :
June 18th, 2012 by Theresa
A performance by Theresa Byrnes
I was exhausted just before I was to perform. I just didn’t feel up to it. The month of organizing & instructing culminating in four hours of manically preparing the space, projection, soundtrack, lighting, fan to blow my costume, floor covered with leaves and finishing painting black the 9 ft scales.
I had jokingly said to Sean Naftal who built the giant scales for me that I couldn’t wait to try it on. As though the huge apparatus was like a pair of shoes.
Well I would be standing in it. Being wheelchair mobile, to stand isn’t my natural state. I can stand with the right support but I was a little worried, my back had spasmed the day before and I knew that if my toes curled or my feet twisted while standing the pain would be insufferable and I would have to end the performance.
Antony Zito, Simeon Rose, Irene Karpatharkis, Amy Sanchez & I decided my exit –alert code would be 5 blinks.
Sean had warned me that in crucifixion one actually suffocates so my out-stretched arms had to be loosely strung up. I thought going in that I may die, but what better way to go than standing up for what you believe in and saying it in your own way.
Putting on my 9ft gown and laying on the plank – I was slipping into immortal skin, a giant authority, justice, law that is every individual.
My friends (the crew) who have known me for years and have by now worked on many of my projects gulp; I feel their concern as Simeon & Zito raise me bound to the plank & while they screw it in place. I stand 10 ft. tall. The spotlight in my face is too bright & hot, constrained & towering I shriek for them to turn it off. They do & then Andrzej Liguz yells out, “we love you Theresa.”
The audience enters. Amy, adept #1 (leaf girl) places an hourglass at my feet – performance commences. Kristiina Salaka, adept #2 (money girl) places cash on the left scale tray and Amy places leaves on the right. My outspread arms control the weighing arm; my body is the fulcrum.
Amy at various moments gave the audience leaves & Kristiina gave cash-play-money to put into the scales. This was the first time I have invited audience participation in my performance. I was electrified by how clearly people “got it” and how emotional & poetic their contributions were.
At first people put leaves with leaves & money with money but then they started putting money on leaves, I thought it was by mistake at first but then I came to realize that people were making statements of their own: it was their performance too.
A woman burst through the crowd and grabbed all the cash money off the tray and put on the leaf pile & stomped off; her fury was palpable. The performance regained rhythm one to one, leaf to leaf, money to money but then a man calmly straightened, counted 5 or so bills on the tray, folded them and put then in his pocket, normal rhythm resumed, than a woman dumped a huge armful of leaves on the leaf side. Close to the end of the performance a man picked up some cash, gently folded it & slipped it under the hourglass.
To guide the scale arm from left to right needed muscle. Being justice, controlling the balance, was an athletic job. I had expected it to be more graceful but I found myself grunting & my feet begun to ache.
The last sand in the hourglass fell. Amy & Kristiina retreated to the wall and after applause Irene ushered the audience out.
Simeon & Zito unscrewed the plank laying it across 2 chairs to unbind me. Irene unclipped my feet from the ankle braces. I laid down amongst the leaves to rest and re-centre. A man came up and after congratulating me said that if the performance went on much longer people would have broken out into fights as everyone felt that invested.
I had been exhausted and dreading the entire ordeal moments before lift off and now I felt energized and relived. There is nothing like going way beyond yourself and coming back again. Irene said I had a post coital glow.
Kevin O’hanlon & Irene slipped me out of my costume & back into regular clothes.
We did it again! Deeply euphoric that the performance happened without a hitch & equally with my amazing team of talented friends new & old who got sucked into my whirlwind reminding me of the nature of true love & wealth.
Amy Sanchez – Chief assistant & headdress maker
Sean Naftel – construction
Hong Yu – costume
Warren Riznychok – leaf stamper & coffee boy
Ronnie Guzman, Stephanie Howard, Daniella Mamon & Dominick Castiglia – leaf gatherers & sorters
Bobbi Bennett, Video & web support
Simeon Rose, AV & venue prep
Irene Karpathakis, stage manager
Antony Zito – Chief lifter & binder
Kevin O’Hanlon & Jonathan Goldman – filmmakers
Ed Marshall & Andrzej Liguz photography
Kristiina Salaka – money-girl
Special thanks to my L.E.S community who brought me leaves, to Merf Bill for supplying the lumber, to Brian Tate for spearheading the event, to Anne for sourcing an hourglass for me the day of show & to The Hourglass Tavern for loaning it & to The Queens Council On The Arts for their guts, vision & respect.
June 12th, 2012 by Theresa
A performance by Theresa Byrnes
Friday June 15 2012
Performance – 7.30 – 8.30 p.m.
So here I go again, another performance, another time for making an event appear out of deep thought and decisive action.
My new volunteer/assistant Amy Sanchez appeared, my friend Riz Rich and neighbours helped me collect items needed for the installation, the construction site next door donated the wood for the performance structure. I met a young fashion student on the Street, HONG YU, and we collaborated on the costume.
As an artist belief in an idea and respect and faith in my work becomes Tender. People assist me to fulfil artistic projects NOT FOR legal tender (money) but for creative tender, establishing an economy of respect to achieve intellectual progress and community.
“TENDER” a performance about money and the economy.
We see cash as cold and hard and inhuman, but it is the product of our primary human quality to balance, weigh and value and then to share, trade and sell.
Our INTRINSIC IMPULSE TO BUY & SELL brings people, communities and civilizations together and is central to the human experience.
People place money and the economy as a force unto itself and often as the enemy. But the only reason the dollar is accepted it is because we accept it.
The primary human dichotomy is that of debtor and creditor. The scale of justice is our own body. Primordial debt can be cleared by complete respect and tender care for the earth, the only true wealth.
Queens Art Express Festival
Currency Gallery @ SUPERNOVA
26-19 Jackson Avenue
Long Island City
WHAT IF WE RE-MADE U.S. ECONOMIC POLICY?
Friday June 15
Performance – 8.00 – 9.00 p.m.
Exhibition & installation 6 – 9 p.m.
www.theresabyrnes.com | www.queensartexpress.com
February 4th, 2012 by Theresa
“>Painting is about letting go & about choosing what to hold on to. Art history is what emerges through the ravages of time & survives through the ravages of critical authority.
“The World” & “The Planet” have two entirely different connotations. The World is primarily about human progression (anthropology); the planet is concerned with primordial cycles, nature.
As a human, an artist / mark-maker I wrestle between the two – I am of the world and of planet.
Painting is making millions of aesthetic choices without fear or hesitation. Unlike sculpture or installation painting takes up little space. I had planned only to use the 30ft roll-way on arches watercolor paper as a final product, a performance painting but I held onto the entire performance installation for three months. It struck a chord as to who I was between the world & the planet; giving birth & being given birth to.
It divided my studio & it halted my making new work. Over the weeks and months the mud dried. The hand ropes strung from the ceiling to help me pull myself along became like umbilical cords. And as the mud dried in the pits it became like the surface of the planet.
Two days ago I broke the mud pits up. Too heavy to keep as one Simeon loaded the dried mud into buckets & was astonished by how heavy it was. It was no surprise to me, when Derek & I drove the topsoil into Manhattan from Montauk it weighted his van down by 3 inches. This stuff is what constitutes the planet and the planet is WAY-heavy; this is stardust.
Being a professional artist since the age of 17 I rarely regret destructive choices in my process. I learnt very early as a painter – if you include all color you get mud. Being clear, creating new beauty is about using a limited palette & knowing when to stop. Making art is a very Zen practice.
The day after I recycled the dirt I was overcome with artistic regret. I erased a mark that was important & beautiful. But it took up space and was heavy. I justified – It was not a sculpture it was an experience, a performance.
Is naming something “Art” an attempt at making human existence permanent? Being a successful artist is not being attached to technique or a particular work but using that knowledge as a stepping-stone to new ways of working not an end.
“The mess and filth we clean and control is in actual fact stardust. The Earth is the compacted dust of thousands of exploding stars. From dirt we came and to dirt we shall return and in between is life. We are custodians of the most magical substance – dirt, nothing more and nothing less – it is a grand job.” TB
December 19th, 2011 by Theresa
In an instant one can reprogram experience & psyche by feeling the humanity behind the mark.
Painting, mark making, is a balanced combination of the scientific & the esoteric. Beyond intuitive it strips me to my primordial core. As an artist I use this to explore environmental – anthropological (eco-feminist) ideas.
I am interested in why & how we are here as a life force. Understanding the nature of life is within our individual selves. Our hair has our genetic code. Our skin, our organs all have cellular memory and are linked to the beginning of life on earth. I am fascinated to posses my body & I am fascinated by my ability as a painter to enter a visual mark and be emotionally and intellectually catapulted by it.
Making paintings is for me the ultimate form of contemplation, it is an experiment whose solution culminates in a painting that echoes the question and whose fierce beauty suggests the correctness of its answer or at the very least propels me to continue to examine life through the magnifying glass of painting.
I make paintings in the weeks and months preceding a performance with the medium I will perform with. In DUST TO DUST: dirt, earth pigments, ink, hair, water & watercolor paper. As I resolve these paintings a technique develops & leads me to want to more deeply penetrate an idea. The painting process becomes a method and this method informs me of what and how the performance will proceed.
Like my colleague fellow painter & performance artist Carolee Shneeemann, I am a painter first and foremost; performance art comes from that.
I am undoubtedly human, woman and sensual. I have to feel and be felt. And there comes a time in my painting when I am no longer satisfied to find painterly solutions for evolutionary, environmental & cultural questions. I have to get inside the picture plane – and so I plan for full body immersion in the painting and in the contemplation – a performance art piece. And the performance becomes group contemplation & it pushes us to a new level of understanding.
I am not afraid to get dirty, I am not afraid of the cold – I have a high discomfort tolerance, I am not afraid of the rare disorder of the nervous system I have (Friedreich’s Ataxia). Because of FA I ride a wheelchair and the control of my muscles is progressively difficult – WHATEVA! I am not hung up on having a static or mainstream identity.
I am not shy about the different way my body moves, my performances often being athletic. I am curious and keen to see & feel just how I do move. My physicality, my vulnerably is a privilege. No one else is wired to move the way I do – it is unique and awkward and beautiful. Challenge is life & life demands struggle. I want to explore what it is to be human and anticipate how we might next evolve.
4 pre-performance paintings & 6 inch post DUST TO DUST paintings by Theresa Byrnes
DUST TO DUST performance installation ON VIEW!
& screening “The making of DUST TO DUST” – a 6 minute documentary by Kristiina Salaka
thru December 31st
616 East 9th Street (B &C)
December Hours: Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday & Sunday 3 – 8pm
or by appointment – mail@TheresaByrnes.com | www.theresabyrnes.com
November 25th, 2011 by Theresa
Thank You, to everybody in my life, throughout my whole life, for our every breath, for every chance encounter and for my ability to set a ball in motion and for the way the velocity of an idea in motion brings to itself a clearing and a force.
I am a high achiever; have always been. I am excited by and committed to a vision and nothing feels too difficult. New York streets are filled with resources and brilliant people.
I am not hot at applying for grants; but I am cool with reaching out in my community, the people I know and who know me, the people I meet on the street or wander into my studio… BAM and I have caught them, in a sparkling web of excitement and with a well thought out path to accomplishment.
In my last performance DUST TO DUST I had a crew of 15. The construction guy Derek Guadalupe I met one month before, rolling down 9th street as I was pondering how I was going to build this particular performance apparatus.
A week later I received an email from film student Kristiina Salaka, she wanted to make a short film on me. I suggested she document the making of DUST to DUST. Now, soon it will be on utube.
As the performance day neared the more people I instructed. I was micro managing from selecting dirt, mixing pigment, data entry, poster and costume design, colaboring with the composer to clearing the space for construction. By the day of I was wound tight. My instructions became shrill commands. Stress was damp in the atmosphere. I yelled at the team to not ask questions; just do what I say. An hour out from the performance and so much to yet be done, nicety and explanation was a luxury I could not afford.
The intrepid crew, new and old friends had trusted me thus far, had volunteered their time and energy without excuse or negativity. Now I demanded silent, committed action.
Kristiina smiled at me lovingly as I scream out orders. And in her sweet acknowledgement I remember her words to me “you are a great director, you know what you want and how to do it.” My crew, my friends show faith in me and have my back beyond money, recognition and even manners.
I am alone this Thanksgiving Day and night- an orphan in New York on this family holiday. But I feel no need to fill up my time with social stuff or my belly with food. I am truly satisfied and wholly grateful as I look back on my life; I have achieved all my visions with crews of human angels and now again with a slew of human angels and so it will be in the future as I concoct my next exhibition and see my 2012 performance though the fog.
Life rolls, from dust to dust, from one vision accomplished to the next. And for that I am supremely & radiantly thankful.
Derek Guadalupe – construction
Tim Cramer — composer
Bobbi Bennett — chief assistant
Sandra Casti & Art Guerra of Guerra Pigment co.
Kevin O,Hanlon – vidiographer
Rainer Hosch — photographer
Simeon Rose — live video feed
Karen Oughtred – stage manager
Louis Williams — general assistance & doorman
Daniela Mamon — adjustments to costume
Roger Norris – poster printing
Ed Marshall – Installation photography
Kristiina Salaka, Ama Teva, Andrew Stroker,
Eddy Menuau, & Hank for general assistance.
Figuration / Abstraction
As is pictured in my autobiography, "The Divine mistake" the first Self portrait in Blue I painted was at 14 years old, 1983. I used to paint a Self Portrait in Blue about every 2 years until 10 years ago. I had found that the depth of my emotion could sometimes only be relieved if I painted it out in the form. It was a surprise to me in January of 2002 that I commenced "self- portrait in Blue, NYC" having been a devoted abstract painter for near on a decade.
In mid 2003 I was commissioned to do a portrait of a boy. I did 22 paintings, 2 major works and 20 oil studies, renewing my relationship with figuration. In November 2004 I opened an exhibition of 112 abstract paintings and now I am being commissioned to do another portrait.
It is odd to be doing both. I was critical of artists who do both abstraction and figurative work; I saw it as lack of commitment and focus. Some people see skill only in artists that can render the recognizable. I never needed to prove myself to anyone, I paint how and what I feel driven to. Some assume abstraction is a weakness rather than choice. Abstract painting is more challenging than representational painting for me as there is nothing to copy from. Portraiture is analogous to painting the clock and abstraction the tick-tock, when the individual brush strokes a portrait embody the force (the tick-tock) then it can capture the essence of a human life as we recognize it (the clock).
In the past I have been tormented, questioning my motivation for re engaging the figurative and being disappointed in my wavering faithfulness to abstraction. Am I going backwards, am I loosing consistency?
Now I glide between the two disciplines, no longer judging my self for working in two genres. Ultimately I love painting, I love the full spectrum of what paint can do through me. With a calm mind opposing forces inform each other. Skill and chance is a dualism I love to juggle. I became an abstractionist when I felt the movement of the brushstroke being restricted by the form, and now I do not feel restricted by it, I am experimenting, exploring and playing with the varied extent of my ability.
Figuration / Abstraction & Performance art
Performance art came from seeing the becoming of a painting as ritual and also a commentary of a current way of seeing. As a painter primarily, I am privy to watching paint and my handling of it perform. It is that intimate relationship with nature, the laws of becoming that both mesmerize and excite me.
Through a life dedicated to art making I live outside the bounds of security. My performance art arises from a stirring to articulate eco-feminist ideas and social / political conclusions I have come to, on war, ecology, veganism, world resources. All my performances urge the viewer to feel global issues as personal issues, choices.
The language of my performance is paint with me inside it. My body is not the brush, I am inside the creative process itself, no separation.
I do not rehearse a performance, and perform it only once. I spend months organizing, finding soundtracks, color, choreographing, planning etc but the final performance has to have the same spontaneity and thrill as I experience making a painting in my studio. I want to bring the viewer into the intimate and sacred act and imprint upon them a concise message.
A picture can paint a thousand words and my impulse is to throw my body into it, fully commit to the paint, to the art making process and let my life as a female artist contextualize; historically, culturally & philosophically the message particular to the piece.
My portrait / figurative painting documents intimately the human experience, abstraction documents the natural forces of life and my performance art unifies the two and provides a conclusion particular to a contemplation.
"Light, space and time blur into one, seeming to be truth but really it is just
blurring - painting."
20 years ago I had my first exhibition. My paintings were figurative. Figuration was my apprenticeship. Through 10 years of painting representationally I learned the magic and technique of painting.
I explored the brush stroke, to make portrait, figure or scene, until I just wanted to explore the brush stroke itself. I didn't want to arrange marks to make an image of something known. I chose painting to show me what was unknown.
In abstraction there is nothing to copy. Abstraction is like jumping off the earth into the universe, letting go of mother's hand and stepping into the ether of thought.
I find myself in the great void of potential. This subject does not dictate its structure to me but demands I release all ideas of knowing and open to new ways of seeing. When I paint I feel like an explorer of new paths and am privy to the experience of beauty unfolding in ways I have never seen.
The medium becomes almost irrelevant; it is the intent that gives my work consistency. My approach is not about finding a style but rather using style and medium as a vehicle.
As a child I wanted to be a scientist. My parents supplied me with science kits. I would sit on our concrete driveway warmed by the sun, ignite the Bunsen burner, set out the elements and chemicals, discard the instruction manual and endeavor to make dramatic explosions of color and froth.
I had to have an immediate reaction to feel I was going where no one had gone before. I longed to be delighted and surprised by the result and then think back to understand the technique. Experiment led to technique - not the other way around.
My parents bought me my first oil painting kit when I was five. We would go out as a family and set up easels to paint en plein air. Dissatisfied with science kits, not wanting to work with manuals I returned to painting. It was dangerous, it was not child proof and it gave me the thrill like nothing else could.
In this series I work with the flow of water and the reactions of certain colored inks added together by an eyedropper. I layer paper to manipulate the stream and create shapes (inkling # 1 & 2, Shuffle, Merge). I remove the layers and they become works in themselves (Road Trip came from Stone, Frond 1-3 came from Greenhouse.) I have disconnected from the surface. As Leonard Shlain explains in Art and Physics, "The crack between cause and effect, a brief moment occurred which was out of control, like the gap in a spark plug, this moment is what Aristotle once proposed as Potentia."
Dr Masaru Emoto in his book "the Message of water" photographs the molecular effect on water by thought. His results show the dramatic effect thoughts have in shaping water molecules.
Painting with the basic element of life intensifies the experiment of creating reality with thought. I pour water, it pools to rivulets running with colored inks that merge in curves of paper becoming landscape, geological and biological, mirroring nature in the unifying patina that suggests both the outer and the inner world.
In physics, mathematics and nature there are shapes and structures which appear irregular and random, but nevertheless have a special pattern of regularity called self similarity. The term fractal was invented by the mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot in 1975.
One God is made up of 112 ink drops causing fractalizaton. It represents the cornucopia of souls that make up humanity and is also reminiscent of the individuality of each and every snowflake or of stars popping in the night sky. God is every particle; I am reminded of this by the uniqueness of every humble ink drop.
Romantic artist Eugene Delacroix once speculated "it would be worthy to investigate whether straight lines exist only in our brains". Leonard Shlain writes "The Western adherence to the illusion that the link between objects in space and events in time is a straight line is similar to belief in a religious dogma". There are no straight lines in nature, except for the horizon and even that is curved.
American minimalist painter Agnes Martin has me enthralled by her work. Her straight lines are tinted with human frailty. Imperfection blurred by seeing the painting as a whole, iconic and essential like the horizon. Her repetitive, delicately dispassionate minimal lines are sublime and move me like the ocean's current. I feel it but do not have the reserve to express in that considered repetitive way.
The cut out and placed strips I use to create Strings 3 & 4 add repetition with out forcing me to meditate on the mundane. With this technique I can utilize structure while maintaining my passionate and explosive approach.
The strips started in 1983 where I applied masking tape diagonally on canvas and spray gunned paint, in 1994 I represented trees and buildings simultaneously with single lines and in 1996 I made 14 Foot lines by rolling on a dolly on my back, with the canvas above, making a continuous line with an 8 inch brush while in motion (On the Way To the Awakening series). In 1998, with the Nature Behind Bars series, I made splatters and daubes with a row of ordered lines in front. And in 1999 in Four Digging Sticks, four vertical lines represented my four appointed aboriginal mothers (I was accepted into a Yolngu clan in 1990), symbolized as digging sticks, the female tool for harvesting water from the earth.
Now in 2005 Strings 3 & 4 reflect on the theory of super strings. String theory requires the universe to possess more than three spatial dimensions and offers the first self-consistent approach to combining quantum theory and general relativity into a single unified theory of all physical phenomena.
When I was a child I would run around on hot summer days in my Aunty Agnes's back yard with my cousins. I would run by the old wooden paling fence. What was behind was obscured, dissected and abstracted by the spaced intervals of line. As I ran past it created a strobe effect. Foreground and background were separated but inseparable. Straight lines represent our assumption of sequential time. As I ran by the fence, form and order became music and what was clear and upfront became unknowable like behind.
A unity of self occurs while painting and through that state comes art. Rene Magrite called this "presence of mind". This state is the heart of being an artist.
Art like science is an endless experiment, and it is never finished. Life and truth are constantly evolving and I am committed intently to continuing the experiment.
I am on a date with God / Goddess. Paint is the copper wire conduit
connecting me to the divine. Painting - a prayer or mantra, yet
active and ecstatic. It combines the desire to unite with God with
the sensuality of physical being. It strikes a balance between
humility and ego; recognizing the doorway, intuitively selecting a
color, making shapes and marks without hesitation. And like pools my
paintings reflect back memories of the transcendent painting process
- celestial and molecular, they explore deep within my own biology,
to the vastness of the universe, to the comfort of earthy nature and
its cycles, to intellectual awakenings and esoteric truths.
The true reality of The Void is attained by observing and
experiencing the oneness of diametric opposites: the union of
passive and dynamic, mind and matter, male and female, the base and
Sadhaka (the Tantric adept) uses tantric paintings, among other
tools, to achieve the religious experience of liberation from being
chained to the false realities perceived by the human senses. The
sadhaka's meditations inform him or her that the nirvana he seeks is
non-existence, the great bliss of The Void. Through contemplation
and ritual - seek what philosophers have called "enstasy." A term
that embraces both ecstasy and profound attainment of wisdom, the
state of enstasy is, in fact, that state of nirvana when one
recognizes The Void, the absolute reality that everything is
nothing. Meditating on the ecstasy, feeling a surge of joy or thrill
bringing it from the base to the crown, harnessing ones divine
energy to clear the body, cleanse the mind and revitalize the
These paintings follow in the tradition of ancient Indian Tantric
painting, as meditation aids to further enlightenment. I hope they
transpose my painterly voyage to deeper wisdom fueled by ecstasy to
unleash spiritual liberation, and that they act upon you.
As is pictured in my autobiography, "The Divine mistake" the first Self portrait in Blue I painted was at 14 years old. I used to paint a Self Portrait in Blue about every 2 years until 10 years ago. I had found that the depth of my emotion could sometimes only be relieved if I painted it out in this form. It was a surprise to me in January of 2002 that I commenced "self- portrait in Blue, NYC" having been a devoted abstract painter for near on a decade. I just finished the work, pictured here - oil on canvas, 26 x 52 inches.
Self Portrait in Blue, oil on canvas 2002 Self portrait in Blue #1, oil on canvas 1984
Beneath these is another portrait of my private commission subject, "Boy and Sky", oil on linen, 24 x 28 1/2 inches. He recently went into the hospital for critical brain surgery. I thought what better way to send him love and strength but to focus on him by painting him. He is home and recovering well and I feel closer to knowing his indomitable spirit. Toward the end of the painting I got emotional and dissatisfied with the image. I began to scrape it back. To my amazement it had mostly dried, which does not happen with oil paint in 2 days. As I was scraping with my palette knife the saying, as in art, so in life, rung true. My little subject is a miracle boy, he has survived every operation since his difficult birth, refusing to leave life and his face and spirit also refused to leave my painting. So I left it in tact with scrapes and peals, depicting his eggshell like fragility and his image blowing away but remaining.
Between the portraits I am working on a series of abstract enamels on aluminum that truly rock my world. I am utilizing the chemical reactions of certain colors to get desired effects.
It is odd to be doing both. I am critical of artists who do both abstraction and figurative work; I see it as lack of commitment and focus, flakey and hokey. And certain people see skill only in artists that can render the recognizable, I never needed to prove myself to anyone, I paint how and what I feel driven to. There are even those who assume that as I became disabled I also lost my ability to paint representationally, implying abstraction is a weakness rather than choice. In the past month between high productivity I have been tormented, questioning my motivation for re engaging the figurative and being disappointed in my wavering faithfulness to abstraction. Am I going backwards? Am I loosing consistency?
Now that I am gliding between the two disciplines I am no longer judging my self for working in 2 genres. Ultimately I love painting, I love the full spectrum of what paint can do through me. With a calm mind opposing forces inform each other. Skill and chance is a dualism I love to juggle, I became an abstractionist when I felt restricted by the form and now I do not feel restricted by it. I am experimenting, exploring and playing with the varied extent of my ability. You can not judge process just be transformed by it.
Tomorrow I will be in ANTHEM Magazine wearing designer - LIZ COLLINS fab clothes. And there is a little interview too.
CHOOSE TO REFUSE
Feeding blood to suckling calves, eating spinal cord in t-bone.
Hot dogs and pies, mass food
People don't think, don't know
Are kept in the dark
To turn a massive buck
To fund election
And we suck the blood
Of a deal
By advertising and normalizing.
I wrote this poem on January 3. It was the point on which I exited a night and day of hysterical crying. I often find that before a new series of work bursts forth I get hysterically emotional. I am grappling with ideas and thoughts that seem too big for me, lost by the endlessness of them I feel hopeless and frustrated. It is the birth of clarity. The catharsis projects me into my new work.
From this I now am developing a new performance piece, a short video and a series of paintings. Enamel on aluminum is the medium.
I just finished a commission. It originally was to be two portraits but I became obsessed with my subject and did 22 studies in oil and 2 major portraits (oil on linen). When I began my professional career as a painter 18 years ago portraits, still lives and the nude were my thing. Ten years ago I got board with figuration and dropped the representational bag. I became more concerned with expressing and exploring philosophical ideas through abstraction (and later political ideas through performance). Abstraction liberated me from the mundane and from the world of the ego.
When I was asked to do the portrait, there was no doubt in my mind. I had already met the subject, a 2 year old boy who had defied the odds to be born. He was a little miracle and I was driven to paint him.
3 Months later all the paintings are with the family. They love them and my love for figuration has re emerged.