Eskimo Girl

Inuit ancestor  

 

When I think about where I come from, I think about my mother, and I think about the north.  My mother was born in Alaska.  My mother's father, grandpa John, was born in Alaska. His mother, great grandmother Selma, was born in Alaska. And before her,  my ancestors for the past 10,000 years plus come from the north, from Alaska.  Somewhere beyond memory, faded into the very fabric of family history, exists my Inuit mother.  My great great great great grandmother.  She lived a full life and experienced all the universal moments of being human, all the feelings of hope, sorrow, peace, conflict, love, pain, and so on and so forth.  

I believe that all the moments we have as humans are the same.  Difference arises from expression, and only in our unique expression do we create a multitude of variation.  But in the end, in its fundamental form, all the moments of existence are shared.  I like to believe that I can share my great great great great grandmother's experience of being an inuit girl watching the clouds drift across the northern sky.  I like to believe that she shows up across the genetic code and is still a part of the migration from generation to generation.  Sometimes I see her in my mother's face, and sometimes she gazes at the stars of her youth, through the eyes of her distant great great great grandson.  

Eskimo Girl, 48"x48" acrylic on panel 2016

Eskimo Girl, 48"x48" acrylic on panel 2016

Dad, Portrait of a Painter

I've had a number of people ask me how I learned to paint.  Have you always been artist?  Did you paint and draw when you were young?  No I reply.  I never had art classes when I was a kid. I went to a small christian school that didn't offer art.  I remember checking out a book of Edgar Degas' portraits of children from the library when I was 12 or 13 and copying his drawings.  So I had early interest in art but It wasn't until I joined the army at 17 years old that I began painting.  I bought my first set of oil paints when I was stationed in Fairbanks, Alaska. I figured out oil painting on any surface available, small table tops, random pieces of wood, and even a small mural in the arms room behind a poster showing all the parts of an M-16 assault rifle.  Almost got in serious trouble for that one.

 I didn't take a painting class until my last semester in college.  I had taken a number of drawing classes.  Drawing for me has always been somewhat of a struggle, but put a paint brush in my hand and I feel like I can render anything. My first real painting, in an intro to painting class, poured through me and materialized before me on the canvas in a magical and natural action.  I remember being completely in my body and focused inside the act of putting paint on canvas and yet at the same time hovering slightly above my body observing myself paint.   This sensation filled me with incredible joy.  

I wondered why holding a paint brush felt so good in my hand while holding a pencil or pen or any other writing utensil felt awkward.  Then It dawned on me that I most likely had a paint brush in my hand long before I held a pencil or pen. I imagine a very small paul following dad around holding a very large paint brush, or bumping into and falling over his paint cans and painting gear as I tried to help him with his work.  So in reality, my dad taught me how to paint.  This narrative makes sense.  

Dad taught me how to clean brushes, put down drop cloths, tape base boards, fill holes, tape and mud, cut in walls, roll ceilings,  spray cabinets, all the jobs of a painter.  Mostly though, beyond the tricks of the trade, dad taught me how to work hard, work diligently, work patiently, work methodically, and to trust in the universe.  I know that dad prayed constantly while he worked and that his faith brought him through the struggle, pain, and exhaustion of being a painter.  

The summer after I graduated with my philosophy degree, I took a long adventure trip into the northern wilderness.  When I came home after six weeks of living off the land, I decided that I would dedicate my life to art, and specifically that I wanted to spend my time putting paint on surfaces.  A large part of my decision came from a desire to pray.  Painting offered me a contemplative space, a space of presence, a space to be filled up.  Thanks for teaching me how to paint dad.  

Dad, Portrait of a Painter , detail

Dad, Portrait of a Painter, detail

Dad, Portrait of a Painter , 48"x48" acrylic and oil on panel

Dad, Portrait of a Painter, 48"x48" acrylic and oil on panel

Polar Grid

My latest work explores my experience of light while living in the far north.  When I lived in Alaska, I experienced the long cold winter darkness filled with many wonders.  In the winter the sun barely peeks over the horizon and its light holds no warmth. I grew accustomed to dimness and navigation by moonlight and starlight.  All light feels slow and trapped within the cold and the world is quite and dreamy.  On the coldest nights, minus twenty and colder, the air freezes and is filled with dancing ice crystals that form a bridge between the earth and the sky and it feels like the stars stretch from the ground to the infinite.  The vast sky rules the long northern night and the queen of the sky is the northern lights, Aurora Borealis.  Some times she flows like a crackling river from edge to edge.  Other times she expands through the sky like fireworks in slow motion.  With Polar Grid, I capture the way I experienced the northern light as a solid force that overlays and holds all other forms.  

Polar Grid, 48"x48" acrylic on panel

Polar Grid, 48"x48" acrylic on panel

Aquatic Portraits

I recently completed two new paintings exploring the watery world of our fish cousins.   The first painting captures the murky depths of the walleye, one of my favorite fish.  When fishing for walleye you go to a place beyond vision, to a place of feeling.  You have to cast out your line and let your lure dive into the unknown.   We are creatures of the surface, our natural place is between the sky and the depths.  We sit on the surface of this world and dwell in a space of reflected light.  With the lure on the end of a thin transparent line we feel into the dim world of filtered light; our eyes are not equipped to decipher the world of the walleye and whatever else may exist below.  First through fishing and then through the paint, I feel my awareness expanding into that unknown world. From the depths of that world I pull beauty to the surface.  

Walleye , 30"x40" oil on canvas

Walleye, 30"x40" oil on canvas

The second painting is a portrait of the whale shark, the largest of all the fish of the world. As far as I can remember,  I don't have any personal experience with whale shark.  So this creature falls into the category of abstract idea for me and becomes purely representation.  The primary idea behind this painting, and most of the paintings I've made over the past year, is object in its environment.  The question I contemplate while I study visual phenomena is -where is the end of one thing and the beginning of another thing.  Sometimes the geometry transcends and unites all individuals and all categories.  This painting attempts to look beyond biology and explores those geometric similarities.  The spots and lines on the whale shark's body reminds me of deep night sky.  This correlation makes me believe that all I see and encounter arises from and falls back into geometry.  

Whale Shark,  48"x48"  a crylic of panel

Whale Shark, 48"x48" acrylic of panel