Tuesday, July 26, 2011

If You Wanna Get Down, Down on the Ground...

Two weeks ago, my esteemed professor, Irina Aristarkhova (my Virgil in wrests with gender, literary, and art theory) gifted me the acquaintanceship of Guna Nadarajan, Vice Provost for Research at Baltimore’s MICA.
Over coffee in northern Virginia, Guna posited several questions about my work, which seemed capable of hastening a good ecdysis of my stuff.
The first, and the one I’ll try to unpack here, was “What Is Ground?”

When I am drawing you, where are you within the image? I have rarely rendered a definable background to house figures. Often nowadays, all my ephemeral marks, which are a record of my “missteps”, are what enclose the figure. They are accompanied by tons of inadvertent fingerprints, condensed into something like an army of flies.

The fingerprints get there because as I draw with my right hand, I hold as many pastels in my left as I can. Then, when the paper has buckled where I must achieve some fineness of line, I use my left hand to press it flat as I draw. Bodily regions that are important to me – like faces – will always sport this mark to their left. Only where I have cut the figure out of its page or painted a dark color around him/her will there be no buzz of fingerprints.
The fingerprints have garnered many responses, heartening and hateful alike. I guess I like that they signify my body and that peristaltic process of ‘physical intimacy’ that births another’s [often nude] body on the page.

I need to settle up my estate with Ground. I have treated it as utterly ‘second chair’ to the aria of the body. The only rub of my ground, the fingerprints, is accidental and still uncertain.

Don’t I want you to be somewhere?
In the mud, the fluid, the membrane, the sac of consciousness. On the slab, an examination table, to be studied and the marvel of your form cooed at. In the hot white light, where you have left your body (deferring some control to the viewer) and have never lived so truly inside it (your autonomy, and the autonomy of your nakedness, still whole). In some impossibly transient moment where you were divine. Human but somehow less temporal: transcendent.
The picture is a document of who you were just then, just now.
I don’t really need to see the room you live in, or your things beside you. Isn’t your body where you live, inextricably? Aren’t those parts grafted all over you, your property, your onus, your tools?

I don’t know what to do with Ground. I think I need to keep the fingerprints, but I think I need to pump up the jam, for sure.

1 comment:

  1. "Human but somehow less temporal: transcendent."

    And that's what I see you trying, and mostly succeeding, in capturing. (I'd prefer to discuss where I think you're not quite succeeding in person). Of all the art out there yours is the closest I've seen in a very long time to capturing the inner essence, the soul, of the subject. That's a rare gift I think and you're exploiting it beautifully. Don't sweat the fingerprints--I'm confident you'll find a way to incorporate them into the piece so it looks natural. Love seeing your work. Keep it coming. Don.