Let the work speak.

If you are an artist or a maker, how do you use your art or craft to speak?  I've been thinking hard about this lately.

As artists and makers, does all of our work speak in one way or another?  

I think about my friends who make small-batch clothing or beauty products, or dye with natural materials or do local flower design and I can see - literally - the connection between their clothing/moisturizer/bouquets and a statement of some sort, whether it’s slow fashion or buying local or waste reduction or the elimination of harmful materials, for example.

Visual art speaks too, but it’s different.  What I’m thinking about or exploring when I’m painting isn’t necessarily what you see when you look at my painting, or at a sculpture or a weaving or any other work of visual art.  (And maybe that’s true for my maker friends too - maybe everybody doesn’t see the supply chain when they look at a vase of flowers.)  The viewer certainly thinks or feels or sees something when looking at a visual artwork, but does it matter whether what the viewer sees is what the artist intended?

These questions have been on my mind for a long time, and I’ve often said that I have a story to tell in words that lives beside my paintings.  This has never been more true then it is today, this week, lately, as I struggle to find meaning in the aftermath of a shift in our society that has, quite honestly, shaken the foundation of everything I believe in.

I have long felt that my work is about light; about bringing light into a darkening world, about seeing through a lens of possibility, about opening to joy and hope.  My flowers, brightly colored and bold, I hope say, “this is the light, this is what is possible, join me in looking at the world this way.”  My horizon paintings, entirely similar and altogether different, speak of endlessness, a vast opening, of possibility.  This has been my work these last ten years - flowers and horizons and possibility and light.

And now.  

It is as though I thought we were speaking one language and suddenly we are speaking another.  I find myself looking for a different kind of meaning in my work in recent weeks.  What is it that I want to say?  I’m finding a whole new vocabulary, a whole new language, as though I'm starting from scratch.  Can I still make paintings of brightly colored flowers?  What do those brightly colored flowers say?  And how am I using my work to speak my truth in the world?

As I approach painting in the last few weeks with a different world view, my perspective shifted, with dramatically different imagery on my mind and coming out of my brush, I'm feeling a total unfamiliarity about where I go from here - as though starting from an entirely new beginning.  Suddenly I feel an urgency – I want my work to roar.  It's not enough to make pretty pictures anymore and hope the viewer find solace inside and maybe some meaning, suddenly I want my paintings to shout about action and human interaction, I want to tell stories of hope that jump off the page.  I want to paint about justice and love and kindness towards other human beings.  I want to shout from the paper, not whisper.  I want to bang down doors.  And I don't know how to do that yet.  So I draw flowers and I cover them over with paint.  I draw rudimentary female reproductive organs and I layer on top of them, erasing them too.  I write JUSTICE over and over in charcoal and paint.  LIBERTY and ACT, too.  I write my senator’s phone number in the middle of the canvas with a big fat brush and magenta paint.  I cover it all over again and find another flower form in the wet paint.  I'm going to have to move to painting on canvas or panel soon because the paper just won't hold all of these layers of paint as I figure out how to do my work in this new world.

This is how we rise.