Out of Nothing
October 22 - December 3, 2016
Out of Nothing
In March of this year my father died after a year of struggle with brain cancer. At the time of diagnosis I was developing a body of work about spiritualism and embodiment within the cultural mythology of white/Western privilege. Referencing Goya’s Disasters of War prints, I was painting thick oil studies that shifted and moved away from logical narratives, emphasizing a crisis between abstraction and physicality. As his illness progressed I was suspended from my usual art practice and in that space of strangeness and grief I closely held my father as layers of complex material that had always been too difficult to unravel yielded, fell away and exposed many of the themes I had explored in paint for over a decade. My gaze had been altered and with that came the realization that my work navigating large swaths of American history was also and had always been a familial portrait.
In a blended transmission of the chosen religion of Buddhism, a cultural inheritance of Christianity and a personalized touch of hippy my father created an enlightenment mythos that nested my childhood. For much of my life we carried on a conversation about the nature of “self” constructing a slippery slope of abstracted states of being. We would read, meditate, practice Aikido and talk in karmic loops for hours. My father offered his deepest heartfelt wish that I find a path that lead to the end of suffering and together we would ponder enlightenment with an infusion of old testament style longing for the Garden. My childhood imaginings of this awakening read more like a sermon inside of a Baptist revival tent. I imagined literally shucking my ego like an ear of corn. The only remains a static and perfect moment of liberation; no more suffering and nothing complicated or messy to be ashamed about.
Through many years of meditation and life rubbing up against this fantasy I have come to realize just how improbable living would be in such a state. In my fathers death there was an unexpected radiance in the room and a conclusion to our long weaving conversation. And in that freefall space we both reached for different kinds of freedom. Out of Nothing is an expression of that conclusion of conversation, a ritual of individuation and a process of letting go. As my father has been released into the great mystery of nothing I have been invited to come out of it.
Water is the medium by which I have drifted through this process of grief. Both the large scale oil paintings of figures bathing at night and the sculptural installations of cotton and burlap washed in plaster reflect this element. The sculpted cloth installations move in and out of a temporal field in three parts, Pre form, Form and Letting go of form. These spaces articulate the passage of the body from stretched open to bundled and layered to discarded remnant. The figurative paintings reside within the space of Form as pairs floating, swimming and thrashing towards a new mythology of self. The figures washed in forgiveness and desire of all the messy shifting states of embodiment.
My father’s painting rests in the final room. A horizontal landscape of light and water which faces a final discarded bundle of dusty burlap set against a sea of plaster and chalk. In this space I celebrate his freedom. I feel his stillness, a perfect hum of energy unbound by gravity and breath and I lovingly let him go.