A Kind of Waiting #within: Oct 6

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(These paintings are up at Extra Gallery, NYC, now through Nov 1st.)

I began work on these paintings in the middle of the summer. The panel shapes came first, then the words followed. Friends and family members went in and out of the hospital. Quietness settled in. The words that are a part of this set of paintings wound themselves in & out of my days. I wrote them down. I crossed them out. I worked on the paintings in my mind, the place I’m most accustomed to working. The actual painting had to wait a spell, as I worked a plan to have the panels made; they were finally cut for me, for free, gratis, what a gift. I don’t own any electric saws.

The painting work became a complex paint in & paint out experience, referring back to the written work, forgetting it necessarily, and coming back in. The paintings began as one painting in five parts, and everything felt fragmented as the paintings made clear that they were not parts of a whole, but each whole in themselves. I ended up with five paintings. Finally I reached the point where I could work with them individually, instead of corralling the five in a group like messy-headed rowdy children being herded in one direction. Because you know that never works.

So I worked with the connected paintings, then made my way back to the words. The pieces of phrases that had been with me all summer arranged themselves into the story I have had with me for some time. I’m not posting the poem at this point, but the poem is there- it’s in the paintings (for the most part, not that you can read anything clearly.) This has been a step in the #within project for me. I started out placing factual statements into paintings, things plainly understood if they were read (though of course they were hidden/cut apart/buried.) And I have gotten to the point where the text for the #within paintings are another layer–poems–and there are no plain statements, and all of a sudden I am composed. In a manner of speaking. :)

Sort of what is written in the press release:

This is a set of paintings that bring attention to the mental shift that takes place when one enters, waits within, and then exits a space. The layers of encaustic paint and hidden text activate the tension between space and void, here and there, now and then. The paintings are hung in this order to be read from right to left: “Happening before I”, “Is the place of”, “Neither here nor”, “Leave me with”, and “I am left”. The titles are taken from a five stanza poem I wrote in conjunction with these paintings. Portions of the poem are buried into the paintings.

Extra Gallery NYC “While You Wait”
Oct 6 – Nov 1, 2011

The Extra Gallery is located in a semi-private space in Chelsea in New York City. If you would like to make arrangements to view the exhibition or would like more information, please contact Brian Dupont via email at briandupont@gmail.com.

Press Release is here.

This is Week #39 of #within.

Keep going #within: Sep 15

An unspoken truth doesn’t cease to exist. It doesn’t disappear into the background,
It isn’t irrelevant.
It’s the frightened surface of the lightning rod, silent and waiting for the charge.
– written by me, this summer

After so very many weeks (okay, months!!), I am making another written record of the #within project. Last night, I took my post from July out of draft mode. I wrote it but was never able to post it.

I have been painting.

in my studio yesterday

The more I paint, the less I have to say. I thought I knew what I would want each painting to say, but instead I have to listen. And sometimes I don’t like what I hear. And sometimes I don’t want to talk about it.

Here is where I first posted my thoughts on the #within project. I wrote “I am hoping to draw people in to experience this with me,” but I guess I let people in, then I suddenly felt like shouting Get out! My apologies.  I had no idea what to do with that. By Week 2, I was already starting to fixate on the notion of privacy, and I wanted it more & more. Huge conflict though: I hang out on social media a lot. I’m compelled to by my own strange desire to simultaneously connect with people and be alone.  I wrote in Week 2 that I “move forward to find a voice for quietness.” You know what that voice sounds like? Nothing. It’s absence, it’s silence, and I keep listening, and it stays the same. The voice for quietness is me shutting up. And yet I can’t. I chatter on social media and sometimes I want to slap myself for it. I also wrote “living in an open way paves the way for access.” Well, I guess by not blogging this for months, I shut down a piece of that access. But it’s also because, while I wanted to “crack open the process” of creating these works, I couldn’t crack the code. I am dealing with information, pieces of things that constitute my private life.

one of the records of info for the #within project

How did I think I could force myself to out all this information, even if I was burying it in the paintings? I rebelled against myself. Apparently I told myself You can’t tell me what to do. Well, anyway, here I am. The process is changing me. I thought I was directing the process. I laid out all these criteria on January 8th, thinking I was charting a path for creating painted works in a way I had never done. I thought I could take the map out of my artist backpack and chart out the plan and head out on this hike. But this year has had event after event telling me I am not in control, not just of my life, but of my work. I can’t explain how so much has undermined my intentions to go in a chartered direction. It isn’t just people I love getting very sick, it isn’t just fears of their deaths, it’s the crumbling financial system, political leaders not leading, floods, earthquakes, droughts, fires, starvation, tsunamis, nuclear reactors, well… you know.

Turns out I am not the boss of me.  I’m not just taking orders. I’m just on a hike to I-don’t-know-where. I don’t know how I’ll get there, and I don’t know how long it’ll take.

This is #within, This is Week #36.

piece of paper found on an actual hike I took yesterday

Absence is so hard to recognize. #within: Jul 27

1. Summertime has been quiet. The studio is quiet, the tools are quiet, the mind is quiet while the activity buzzes around me, the two little boys and summer and running and true break of dawn till sundown activity, and it’s quiet, I’m quiet. It’s quiet. I’m listening for something that I can’t hear right now. Still listening.

2. Suffocated by air.

3. So, hours pass. Days. Weeks.

4. Stealing time. Taking a break. Breaking away. Breaking in. Braking. Breaking. Broken.

5. Social media art. Posts. Critiques. Comments. Retorts. (There is no shame in being a spectator. Is what I tell myself.)

6. Sorting circles. Making my own circles. Going in circles. (The launch of Google+ and the unseen social sorting that I’m pretending doesn’t matter.)

7. Slow motion.

some new things #within: May 9

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a. There isn’t, #within
b. Lo que no me (progress isn’t just a), #within
c. A time when, #within
d. Aquí o acá (looking over), #within

on panel… encaustic (wax/resin), string, nails, silk tissue, & a bit of: wood, oil, acrylic, aluminum

Here are some recent paintings from the #within project I began in January. The process is one I’m growing into, as far as the burying of information, the documenting of it, and making work in which I am conscious of each step… sometimes I get happily lost in the making & I forget about the documenting & I sometimes forget about the information itself. But I always come back to it. What’s #within has been surprising. I thought I knew what it was going to be about, but I am discovering additional stories that want to be a part of this.

#Within and #Whatever: Mar 2

Progress on this Within project has been a series of bursts of energy followed by quiet flameouts.  I feel like I’ve been trying to ascend into this exploration with a succession of hand-powered pounds of a fireplace bellow, trying to generate a force of air that will propel me somewhere.

Fireplace Bellow

Instead, I’m finding it’s fine to be grounded, and to move haltingly or carefully as needed. I’m certain I’ve felt compelled to do more, more quickly, because of the sense of needing to make up for lost time. As an emerging artist, With an emerging career, At this point, I’m fully aware of the disadvantages I have (if they can be called that) when matched up against artists who are younger or fresh out of MFA programs, or who are networked-into/geographically-located-in major art cities, and who are less encumbered by life responsibilities. Still, I wouldn’t have it any other way.  I was heartened to read this recently in Mira Schor’s introduction to her A Decade of Negative Thinking: Essays on Art, Politics, and Daily Life:

I hope that the time I have taken to play out the meanings of some of the sentences and images that inspired my writing can generate for my readers a different view of the art industry’s critical mechanisms, offer less conforming interpretations of some contemporary art, and suggest other possibilities and sources for making art. I am particularly interested in the artists who form part of the MFA generation… There are times that I have wished that I could declare a moratorium… on spending six years in art school and on cradle-robbing by dealers and collectors. Young artists should have breathing space to grow up, test their desire to make art, and figure out what subjects they really want to explore, instead of just ordering from column A or column B of the menu of recipe art. I’ve wished I could give my students and myself the gift of time, time to work or not work in the studio, and more importantly, to forget about ART; time to just take a walk, not to go somewhere but to experience the city or land in which one lives.

So while I’m pro artists-who-have-things-figured-out-sooner and pro artists-who-get-things-going-sooner, there is a place for taking one’s time. Except when you are that person, and you’re tired of all the time you already took (as nice as it was), and you’re in a hurry to get somewhere (even if you don’t know where it is) just as much as you like where you’re at. And what if other people get there first? And there is no room left by the time you get there? What if? Well, it turns out I can’t live thinking like that.

detail of 1st encaustic painting; text reads "WHAT IS"

So, I move forward doing what I’ve gotta do. During the month of March, I have responsibilities that trump art making. I don’t even know if there will be any art thinking or art talking. For my own peace of mind, though, let me note recent progress on my Within series.

untitled painting study for Within series

“Within” series progress notes Feb 18-Feb 28:

1. I had planned on using built up layers of acrylic for the series. I completed several painting studies using acrylic mediums, mostly using matte ones (one study is pictured above) that played with light and depth. But I was uncomfortable with the plasticity of the material. I wanted the naturalness of oil but the quickness of acrylic. And then I discovered…

2. I took a class to learn encaustic painting. Fell in love. So, I decided. This series will be painted in encaustics.

3. I purchased/acquired/scrounged supplies and set up my studio with an electric pancake griddle, extra muffin tins, beeswax/resin medium & paint sticks from Evans Encaustics, hake brushes, a blow torch, plywood pieces and one cradled panel. (I also brought in a fire extinguisher & burn cream, there are large windows, and I have a ventilating fan that I didn’t know was there.) I’m ready to go.

4. Yeah, I had progress, but this feels like it’s taking forever. It’s making me a little crazy. And now I need to take about a month off since I will have little bandwidth to invest in my artwork for the month of March (aforementioned life responsibilities.)

5. I may or may not begin a new series in March that I will call Whatever. With it, I will give myself permission to make Whatever I want without having to think or feel about it. As if I needed permission. Like, Whatever. I just want to be able to go in & out of the studio as I please and fiddle around. I want art to be an escape. Art can be whatever I want, and I can use it for whatever purposes I want, either High or Low.  I can avoid it if I want or chase it down if I want. Sometimes I feel like art is using me to say something. Maybe I just want to use it instead, or maybe I just want to co-exist with it. Whatever! I think it will last my whole life.

Purely #within: Feb 18

I’ve spent some days in the studio, painting. And just today, I gathered hardware supplies to learn the process of constructing my own stretcher bars for these unique sized canvases I want to paint on (34″ x 44″), basically four times the size of a standard piece of paper.

Painting really is this solitary thing. Previously I’ve been able to make progress on conceptually based work whether or not activity is swirling around me. This time, as I’ve really tried to let the paint lead me somewhere, I can’t handle intrusions, even the self-made ones. And when I’m painting, the conceptual aspect of this project goes into hiding.

The more I work the surface of the paintings, the more I lose what I’m doing. It’s this engrossing experience, but one that can feel rather shallow, too. Because, is something of substance really happening in these small 2-dimensional fields of 8″ x 10″ color? It’s hard to believe. I don’t trust myself. Even if something is happening there for me, what really carries over once someone else is looking at it? It seems so trivial because right now I know it won’t carry over. Not yet. So, even though I’m enjoying what I’m doing, it’s hard to picture myself just hanging paintings in a space at the end of this project and leaving it at that. I enjoy those spaces just fine; I love to lose myself in other people’s work, but it’s hard to believe that I will really be using all the language of art that I speak if I limit myself to hanging pieces on a wall.

Why am I doing this? I just want to sell work, or what? I just want to show work? I just want someone to see my work, hear me, pay attention, be relevant, have permanence, something to show for myself, after those years of doing those things that I didn’t document? That no one cares knows about? All those things… By saying this out loud writing this here am I admitting something I should pretend has nothing to do with this creative process? Should I claim some higher purity?

raining sky picture, Thursday Feb 17th 11am

I want to work. I want a reason to make what I love, and love what I make.  I need to spend some time staring into a wall. Or at the sky.

Notes I mull over in studies for #within: Feb 10

My mind wanders a lot when I’m lost in activities, not the least of which is painting. I’m pushing this liquified color around panels & canvases, and I lose myself/observe myself at the same time. This process is so halting, my relationship to the painting medium is on this side of new, so I’m just now making discoveries about my place in front of these small wet painted spaces of color. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve painted. But I have not sat before a piece to see it come to life before my eyes. Painting was a means to an end, and right now, I’m doing something in a different way.

1. The wordless language of paint is complex and inticing. I know this as a viewer, but I know it better as a painter.

2. Spending time in the studio starts to become a jar of honey spilled on the kitchen counter- it spreads slowly, with everything getting irreversibly messy.

3. This project is about imbedding pieces of my own information into paintings, along with the documentation of the making & the selling (recap: I’m exploring personal vs. public; concepts vs. objects; artist vs. market). I started a working document of everything in the realm of personal that I could think of in my life, and I pull pieces of information from this list in order to write it (hidden) into the pieces. In these few studies for the series I’m working on, I’ve noticed a few things:

  • I haven’t selected the info to work with until I sit before the painting. At that point, it’s too late to compose the thought. I rush into jotting it down in pencil (backwards), then painting.
  • So far I have selected information that’s only slighty risky yet slightly innocuous.
  • Sometimes I lose sight of the concept I’m working with because the painting has been so seductive.
  • I haven’t explored alternate ways of placing the info in the work. I want to do more than write it (backwards) then paint over it.
  • The more I paint, the more I realize I need time to think about what I’m doing. But I’m resisting it, it sounds so boring! Why think when I can paint!!!

4. Despite the luscious joy I’m having with painting, I feel limited by only painting. On the one hand, it’s all I need, on the other, it’s letting me down. I want to throw in my usual suspects (metal, nails, thread, wire, wood) but I can’t just do that. I have to think this through. But if I over-think it, won’t I lose what I’ve gained so far?

5. I know that I’m documenting this as I go, so that as I’m painting, I’m taking pictures of the pieces before they’re done. It’s seems a little much. I want to work in peace. I don’t want to be observed mid-piece. But here I am. How can I have a voice when I’m being observed? How can I hear myself think, hear myself paint? Am I violating my own privacy? Is it worth it?

6. Does anyone really care that I’m doing this, this personal information thing? It’s so easy to lose sight that I’m not making this as an autobiographical piece. It’s easy for me to lose sight of it. I’m pushing myself in an act of exposure/disclosure that is layered & withdrawn, and it’s about that. Sort of. Isn’t it? Do I really know what this is all about, or am I waiting to find out?

7. What’s the role of ambiguity in this project series? Ambiguity #within.

Proceeding to Precede: Feb 10

So I found a way to lose myself in painting. I’m moving ahead with placing myself in an essential art making form, while infusing it with layers of ways to approach this very activity that I love. I started in the Painting Department at the San Francisco Art Institute, then moved quickly over to New Genres to study under conceptual, performance, and video artists as well as writers. Now, why can’t I just paint? I’m figuring that out.

So I’ve been painting, but still I want to break out of painting. I love what I’m doing, but it’s still not enough.

I might have to cross post here on this blog and on my project blog also. Or maybe I will incorporate that other blog here? That’s a technical issue. But just a heads up that I’m figuring it out. I expect this to be a long term project.

My project title is: #within, titled thus because I occasionally incorporate posts from twitter as I think through this project. So, “#” = a way to indicate an ongoing subject title on twitter.

#within: http://inprogressmrk.wordpress.com/ (I have moved all my #within project posts here to my main website, you can click on the box below for the complete #within category posts.)

Painting #within: Feb 8

Last week (my previous post) was the first trial run for exploring the process of physically creating this #within project.

So I did it. I chose a piece of information and I buried it into a little painting that I sent out to someone. But instead of working from the #within list on my laptop, I had to work with a piece of information that was more in the moment. Still, I couldn’t even write out what I was thinking to look at with my own eyes alone in my studio… I didn’t want to see the words. The best I could do was allude to the fact that there was something I wasn’t talking about. I wrote it out, flipped it over, painted over it, and collaged it into the painting.

I withdrew, held back, fell short, let it happen–and it was just as it should have been. I don’t know where this is going, and I want the process to tell me as much about what to do as I am telling it to do.

It’s a natural ebb & flow for me anyway, I tend to move forward, then retreat, over & over again.

Today I painted some more. This time, I used pieces of information from the #within document I keep on my laptop. Any visable text is pixellated/blurred below. This painting isn’t finished. It may look nothing like this when it’s done. But here it is as it was at 3pm on Tuesday.

#within, the Surface Treatments: Jan 28

(Seriously, I need to update here a couple times a week. That’s my plan anyway. Thanks for your patience as I warm up to this project. Here is my continuing record of the process of the creation of this project, from concept time, to time of sale. If anyone buys this. Following is week #3.)

The most I have done for this project this week has been all in thought… . I’ve got questions I’m mulling over & materials I’m considering.

Will there be any connection on the surface of the paintings to what’s #within– the private notions that I’ll bury into the work? I’ve thought about using the title or imagery to allude to what is #within each piece, but lately what seems so much more appealing is to have no connection whatsoever. My experiences of late seem to be highlighting the comfort in carrying certain parts of life in confidence, meaning of course that I am valuing the experience of keeping things to myself. The safety of it is rather… familiar. I’m finding a space that I want to carve out and make my own, with no access for anyone but me,  it’s self-contained; it’s a place that isn’t wired out, it’s quiet, peaceful… It’s a place that’s my own.

On my gallery crawl in San Francisco two weeks ago, I started a mental inventory of what materials/usage attractively suggest worth. Instead of looking at the content of #within for the visual language that is appropriate to what I’m working to convey, I’m really investigating what surface treatments will allow these pieces to hang in these environments. Maybe the content doesn’t have to relate to the form it takes. Maybe the finished form is more about what it wants to be than what it actually is about.

Is this too detached? Is that bad? Maybe not. Maybe I want #within to function by separating from the content. Maybe I just want to create work that has a chance at finding a place to hang out and sell itself for a price.

Or maybe this is all about announcing to everyone that I’m not going to give away anything. I want this all for myself. You can buy it, but you can’t really have it. At the end of the day, it’s all still mine.


a. I want this series to be on panel or stretched canvas.
b. I want the size to relate to the dimensions of a piece of notebook paper (8.5″ x 11″), but not that small. I love that shape.
c. They may or may not hang on the wall.
d. I will make about 20.
e. When I get close to “done” writing out all my information, I will print it out, and permanently delete it from my computer. Maybe I will rip the print-out into tiny pieces. So, I am selecting 20 pieces of information, then I will begin making this series. I will document which piece of information is in each piece. I said that already in a previous post. But maybe I will document it in code.
f. I want to use color, but I love tints and hints of color. We’ll see what happens.
g. what if a condition of sale is that the whole series has to be sold together & displayed together? (Maybe in that case they should be small.) Anyway, this idea is from the lecture I attended at SFMoMA with R. H. Quaytman, it was from a story she told. So, maybe I want to be sold whole, not piece by piece. If I am to be known at all, maybe I want to be all together.
h. I’m still listing out all the private information I can think of from my entire life (private is being defined in varying ways.) Today I am working on things I am not talking about This Week.

Protecting #within: Jan 18

(This is a link-happy post.)

Another intro:
Here’s this #within project, me pledging to bury important pieces of information into paintings, and this documentation process to prove that I’m doing so. I’m not only burying this private information into the paintings, but I’m exposing the fact that I’m doing so. I’ve created this space to lay bare the project from the very beginning, the framework is set for exposure… and increasingly my thoughts turn to the value of keeping private things protected.

Biography as intrusion:
Last week, life intruded in unpleasant & unwanted ways, and I had to decide… to what extent do I talk about it publicly? What place does this have in other people’s information streams? I completed my contribution to @Platea‘s Project VIII, (all contributions are mapped out here at their blog). Here’s my piece: John Muir, and then something happened. The project became this discovery about what happened to an aspect of John Muir’s legacy, as well as what happened to me in real time (more specifically, to my friends) in the same week. I could have posted the work without explaining my personal connection to it, but it seemed to me that the piece wasn’t just the physical things I made, but it was the state of mind I had while making it, and the concurrent discovery/experience that happened. I posted it despite my hesitations. It seemed to be true to the work to do so. But it was inconvenient; the whole week was inconvenient.

Value & Cost:
Things have been quiet since then. But I move forward to find a voice for quietness. The value of privacy now seems so much more acute to me… there seems to be an increased value of protecting it (suffer privately, maintain public normalcy), and the cost of breaking it is intangible but real (voicing the personal & then what?) But there’s always the alternate… living in an open way paves the way for access. But access to what? And for whom? Who benefits? These are some of the questions I will explore as I work on project #within.


1. I’ve been reading the catalog/volume of SFMoMA’s Exposed: Voyeurism, Surveillance, and the Camera Since 1870. I went into that exhibition last Thursday. I was raw that day, and the show was just too much more raw for me to take in. I walked right out, with one image in particular that haunted me into the next day. Some things are better not seen? But someone had to take that picture? Shouldn’t we see the kind of violence that happens in war? There’s value in outing the truth? I think it should be documented. But I still walked out.

2. I’m thinking about Ed Winkleman’s list from December: Top Ten Things I Didn’t Understand in 2010, in particular:

4. Why people were so willing to be so publicly concerned with how Marina Abramovic urinated during her performance at MoMA. I mean, I realize that hours and hours and hours and hours of waiting for one’s turn does tend to make the mind wander, but what ever happened to keeping certain thoughts to one’s self?

That last part- keeping certain thoughts to one’s self- has stuck with me. I think- yeah what happened to that? Above was re. crude/useless discussions, but I think, what about filters? And making choices about what to think vs. what to say? Choices have to be made. I want to explore those choices.

3. I’m thinking about performance artist Man Bartlett’s tumblr post: On the Conflation of Religion and Spirituality, in which he wrote:

A concern I have regarding expressing thoughts/opinions publicly about spirituality is that it will over-influence the reception of my work. I am very careful about how and when my beliefs make their way into my practice and how I speak about them. To that end I think it’s important that there are healthy divisions between personal life and artistic practice. However consider this a public proclamation that I often smuggle spiritual principles into my work.

I’ve discussed with a few artist friends about that concept of putting hidden information into work (Alexis Manheim, Joanie San Chirico) and also I saw Kianga Ellis’s interview with Jason Varone where he talks about that. We have this push/pull- this layered communication that happens and the slow reveal of experience we hope to unveil. I’m also struck by the ways various communities have their unspoken standards as to what is acceptable and what is less so, and this is true for the art world as well (as Bartlett described above), a world in which we celebrate diversity–to a point. In this way, the art community is just like any other. My membership in opposing communities all my life tells me this is an intrinsic human behavior that artists like to think they’re above. Sometimes I feel like I have a dual passport to countries that are at war. Sometimes there are cease fires, but the tensions remain.

4. Also last Thursday, I visited Catherine Clark Gallery in San Francisco, and saw Jonathan Solo’s show entitled: Shadow. Kimberly Chun at SF Chronicle quoted Solo and discussed the development of his work over the past few years by saying:

“I thought I was a man, honey, till I lost my mother. It changed me to my core,” Solo says. “I had my own run-ins to relieve the pain, and so it became darker for a while, and in those moments, I started to really deal with myself.”

In addition Solo’s father was recently diagnosed with a brain tumor and given a year to live; as a result, the artist reassessed everything, including his work.

Mostly I am just thankful that he worked in this way, that even with what was happening to him personally (which, I note, wasn’t just a part of the work he made, but he also didn’t hesitate to discuss the current facts of his biography with a reporter), he kept working, making, doing. Because he has worked & is working through his grief & despite his grief, it gives me hope that I can do the same. It presents a model to me, and this is in itself something that reminds me of the value of cracking open the door to what can seem to be a private matter… sometimes it’s just another way to be reminded that I’m human and OK. And that I can go on.

I had planned to write about sources of this #within project in some chronological order, but it’s just not happening. Instead, this is in its entirety, this whole blog, is a document of what is happening for me as I experience this #within. From start to finish, I am documenting what I’m doing. This is week #2.