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Tannimachi Line, gouache on Fabriano paper by Mel Prest

Upon leaving school, my artwork was chastened with words like “generic”, “specific”, and hell, even “folky.” These words have continued to haunt me since that final critique.
My focus for the past year or so has been on the tight rendering of figures–humans, animals, details in between. While working at the SFSU art gallery, I got to have a discussion about subject matter with Mel Prest, one of the adjunct professors in the painting program there. I voiced my concerns to her about realism and portraiture and how I felt like I was going to get stuck in a gimmick, which she totally understood and identified with. If you’ve ever seen her work, you know that it’s the complete opposite of those two things. She, along with anyone and practically everyone else who’s completed a grad program in painting, has “abstracted” her methods of representation through linear codes and invisible language. Based on such unexpected systems as Osaka metro lines and Led Zeppelin lyrics, her works are deliciously ambiguous and mysterious. I’m finding myself less attracted to the idea of the stressful decisions involved in portraiture and more so to the idea of letting the system itself make decisions for you.

But I’m not a code painter. It’s therapeutic for me to render a subject. I love the problem solving involved in matching hues and values, creating shapes and depth, and possessing the ability to make my own decisions (at least some of the time).

                       ilu/ilu2 painting from Painting 2 class, fall 2010

This was one of my more successful class assignments. It was completely open topic aside from the guiding rule of using an analogous color palette. It was a really fun mixed-media project based on a miniature sketch of a village neighborhood. My classmates came up with all these bizarre interpretations, while I hadn’t really considered the implications of the imagery myself (was too busy finishing this for class, lol). I’ve come back to this image many times wanting to explore the meaning of home in as many ways as possible. This is something I feel could become a really successful series–I’m interested in making it personal and applicable to a larger audience. I associate many years in my past with certain places I spent the most time in–just thinking back on the apartments and bedrooms of friends, boyfriends, girlfriends, my mother, father brings back a million things to reconsider about my past choices and memories.

satellites by amy casey, one of my favorite contemporary painters

A vacant place is home to the unspoken, and by fragmenting it and inserting it into absurd settings would further disguise its secrets. And yes, all of this rambling can be dumbed down to the corny “if walls could talk” idiom. However, I’m willing to see where this will go.

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