June 5 - 30, 2019
Friday, June 7, 6 pm - 8:30 pm
”Doctrine of Liberty”
”Some Assembly Required”
Carl Mehrbach: “Doctrine of Liberty”
My process is similar to the one that produced homo sapiens. It is organic, filled with missteps and successes, trials and tribulations; the most fit survive. I am filled with possibilities; my ideas are like the soup of particles before the big bang. I do not know where I am going, but I do know I am pent up with knowledge and emotions. I choose to examine my existence through my art. I am passionately engaged in finding order and meaning in life and living.
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To make sense of this I construct my worldview through active exercise of my imagination. My work is meditative and philosophical, yet resists standardized intelligence. I do not accept anything as absolutely true. I am like a planet in a solar system circling its source of energy, its one true light. However, my relentless journey is not an orbit, but a spiral, slowly falling toward my one true voice. It is a never-ending quest to depict the meaning of life and living. Reality is an abstraction of who we are, where we have been, and how we wish to be. There are many possible viewpoints; I choose three-dimensional abstractions as my means to decipher reality.
My present work is Three-Dimensional Abstraction; it is an artifice of 3D space on 2D canvas and paper. My earliest works were also 3D abstractions. If you look back at the Art I made in the First Decade of the 21st century you would see Representational and Figurative work. I have transformed my Art in this Second Decade of the 21st Century; I have returned to the origins of my art-making. I have always made art from instinct and intuition, but the process has taken its time to ripen. It slowly became the most vital activity of my life, a present-tense, active exercise of my imagination. It is a construct of my worldview. I put together parts of the world in an attempt to make reality coherent. Each painting and drawing is made during a unique moment in my existence, thus each of my works are unique and different. I approach reality with piecemeal understanding. Reality is constantly changing. Reality is an activity; it is not static.
The accumulation of my artistic endeavors has incessantly moved me toward clearer understanding of my existence. Great art touches us deeply because it makes reality more clearly understood. Artists have only the transformative power of imagination. Imagination is not equivalent to consciousness, nor is "reality" equivalent to the world as it exists outside our minds. In my images I find imaginatively satisfying ways to reflect the world. The radiant and lyrical raw materials of art create an abstraction of reality.
My most important mentor was Philip Guston. He was my artistic father. For several years I emulated his art. I failed. My contemporary, the Artist/Performer Hetain Patel, said, “Every time I fail to become like my father I become more like myself.” I am becoming myself. I find it ironic that Guston’s and my artistic developments have undergone similar transitions, but in opposite directions. Guston transformed his art from his well received Abstract Expressionism of the 1950’s & 60's to his great figurative works of the last 15 years of his life (1960’s & 70’s). I was a figurative artist in 2010, now I am abstract artist.
John S. Donne wrote in the preface to his book, "The Way of All the Earth," “Passing over and coming back, it seems, is the spiritual adventure of our time.” I have lived my life passing over and coming back. This is my spiritual journey. The paintings I make are me realizing who I am.
I am an information gatherer. I watch, I observe, I digest, I act. In the first decade of the 21st Century I believed I had returned, come back, come home. I had several major, summative exhibitions. Despite the success of these exhibitions I was startled and astounded that I ended the decade in quandary. Each exhibition of my art had enlightened me, yet I was dissatisfied. I am acutely aware the process of making art will always fall short: Complete depiction of reality is impossible. Reality is dynamic, never complete, yet I believe it is possible to accurately depict one’s personal presence. This is what I strive to do.
A few years ago my brother, Glenn, gave me a trinket from the Art Institute of Chicago. Glenn understood what I am going through. His gift was a fanciful, bizarrely colored baseball, imprinted with a quote from Vincent van Gogh: “What I want and aim at is confoundedly difficult, and yet I do not think I aim too high.”
Gretchen Warsen: “Some Assembly Required”
“Some Assembly Required”—whenever I see that phrase on an Ikea box, I’m instantly happy. There is pure joy in knowing that the well-designed (and to me, inspiring) instruction manual will be my guide for putting together a 3D “puzzle” of sorts. Thanks to the designers at Ikea, all the hard work and measuring is already done and all I have to do is follow the plan to end up with something beautifully functional--and I get to be the final step in its creation!
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As an abstract artist, I see myself as the “plan maker and engineer,” using my own creative tools--drawing from reality as well as imagination--to “assemble” finished paintings. In the process, I make the decisions of what works and what doesn’t and then by selecting the right title, inviting the viewer to be the last step by making some kind of a connection.
I find myself often returning to technical and architectural drawings for inspiration. There is so much beauty in the sort of vulnerable exploratory sketches by hand as well as in the polished computer-illustrated plans. I think my admiration of this kind of “thinking that gets planned and worked out on paper” stems from how my dad used to help me work through math word problems by drawing them out on paper, or seeing how he would make a sketch with measurements before fixing something around the house or in planning his own aerodynamic and physics-based sculptures. In my work, I include pencil and marker lines as the bones and visual connectors that hold up and tie a composition together.
From growing up in the Maine woods near the coast, organic forms are equally important and inspirational to me. I feel that by studying, marveling at and incorporating small visual elements from nature--a dandelion seed, a seashell, an insect wing—I can begin to appreciate and celebrate how often the beauty in nature is tied to its function.
And the titles! The last thing I want is for people to feel alienated by my abstract paintings, like they aren’t in on the joke or they just don’t “get it.” After a piece is finished, I do a little mental inventory and choose a title based on what I was thinking about while I was making it, hoping that the feeling or idea might be somewhat relatable and thereby inviting the viewer to connect to the piece.
Overall, this particular collection of abstract paintings on paper invites you, the viewer, into my imagined world where both natural and engineered structures converge. Each piece is "assembled," testing out how small-but-beautiful elements from nature might join together with the lines, structures and functions of the mechanical world, using layers of color and line.