Shrike Rust (Study in Entropic Mimesis) (2014)
acrylic on wood panel, 14" x 14"
This was an interesting painting to produce. I can't recall the last time the process for one of my artworks involved as much destruction as creation. This one certainly did-- deliberately putting pockmarks in the surface with a wrench and a hammer, sanding off the paint in between layering it on. I'm not sure if the photograph really does it justice, because those scars and abrasions are just as important as the colors themselves.
Ever since the days of Marcel Duchamp's Readymades, I think artists have had a unique fascination with the notion that there's some delineation between "art" and "not art". My understanding thus far was always that art is informed by intent-- the product of a willful intellect. As a self-interested artist, my philosophy has been that, regardless of the viewer's perspective, something is "art" when it demonstrates the presence of conscious effort on the part of an artist: a sunset isn't art, but a photograph or painting of one is; a snow shovel or unintelligible splatters of paint on a canvas or erotic photography can be art, if an artist makes the conscious effort to contextualize it as such. But in the process of creating this piece, I realized there's a blind spot in that philosophy, because on some level, it means that art inherently implies artifice. The simulacra hanging in the gallery is art, but the real thing in the real world is not. And that means that there are some things which artists can inherently never realize.
Take decay, for example. Decay is a real governing principle of natural life-- one which, I'll admit, sort of scares me because my artwork and I are just as subject to it as everyone and everything else. Entropy rots the organic and grinds down the inorganic. An artist like Robert Smithson can understand entropy, and build it into his practice, and take credit for it-- but its mechanics are ultimately not within our limited realm of control. Other factors are involved-- time, gravity, pressure, temperature, the elements, the intervention of other living beings, human or not, for which "aesthetic impact" may not be a consideration. There is a fundamental difference between an item that has been damaged through natural wear or neglect, and an item that has been damaged because some self-important idiot deliberately took a wrench and sandpaper to it in the name of "art"-- the former is real, and the latter is an illusion.
So I'm an illusionist. And confronted with the revelation that what I do is tantamount to magic tricks involving static two-dimensional surfaces instead of playing cards and impossible escapes-- the only reaction that makes logical sense to me as someone interested in art as a vehicle of personal growth is to be less concerned about how "real" the tricks seem to the audience, and more interested in how close to real they actually are. I understand that's a pretty subtle distinction, but take it from me-- the subject of entropy haunts a really dark corner of my psyche. It's pretty sobering to be saddled with a memento mori that won't go away-- not just for my mind and body and soul, but for my entire life's impact. None of it can possibly last forever. If I'm supposed to be some sort of intellectual magician, then this is me performing a trick in actual defiance of death.