Storytelling has always been an essential slice of my creative life. I hear many artists wishing their work would “just speak for itself” or lamenting the requirement of creating an artist statement. I’m the opposite. I’m always being asked to write less and scale back. I decided I just needed a medium beyond the artist statement and a format for sharing the stories that arise from my artwork.
In my Inside Stories series, I plan to take on the narrative that exists beyond the edges of a painting, before and after the moment the work captures. It is a space where I give names to the unnameable creatures that birthed themselves from paper scraps and oil pastel smudges. A place where I espouse my imaginary science experiments (perhaps compensating for my boyhood assumption that science was not for me, and it had nothing to do with art–a stance I now regret!) and gather my findings for a grand archive.
My dear friend Demetri Broxton once told me that my painting’s titles reminded him of Captain Jean-Luc Picard’s “Captain’s Logs” at the beginning of each Next Generation episode. I first chuckled at the comparison, and felt a touch ashamed to have my adolescent Star Trek influences be so visible. The more I sat with that observation, I reflected on why I titled my work in a way that recalled a captain’s log. Do I see myself as a captain on some imaginary away team? The presence of an artist on an exploration team is a common one throughout history and fiction, but we’re included in missions to document encounters. In my imagined worlds, teams of explorers are needed to process the vast oddities and I see myself as taking on multiple roles beyond documentarian: I’m definitely in the role of artist, but I’m also on the science team, the mental health team and on the security team. I see my artwork’s titles as describing those different roles. For example, the work in this post, As I Warmly Retrieve, documents an action of someone (maybe a lowly intern?) carefully collecting a sample of a fragile life form.
In thinking about my work as an experiment in its construction as an art object and also its depiction of an imaginary experiment, I feel compelled to soften the clinical idea of a life form being sampled, sliced or coerced into a cage. What if my work was about the labors of a very compassionate lab tech who imbued every squirt of saline solution with care and warmth for the new life form they had discovered?
These stories sometimes form while I’m creating my work, and sometimes several weeks after I’ve finished. This is one reason I’m not too concerned with defining the parameters of a project before it’s begun. My main requirement is to begin each session in the studio with curiosity. Always lead with the “What if?” question.
Whenever an artwork’s Inside Story forms, I’ve decided I need an outlet to share it. Check back every month for new additions to the series!