Thursday, May 08, 2008

artist statement: hidden spaces

Four oil paintings, 4x4" on deep edge canvas

I feel more at home in miniature worlds.
Gaston Bachelard

In Looking at the Overlooked: Four Essays on Still Life Painting, art historian and theorist Norman Bryson explains the difference between megalography, the representation of those things that are grand and important, and rhopography, which is the presentation of things that are picayune and overlooked. Where megalography is involved in telling the story of the human character within the picture frame, rhopography, or still life, omits storytelling and the human persuasion altogether. It contends with our own private value hierarchies, asking us to modify our notions of what is really important.

Bryson observes that in the megalographic pursuit of greatness, everything else goes by the wayside. The story is paramount and we are trained to disregard the details that are not relevant to it. On the contrary, still life is not concerned with the storytelling ideal; it is interested in the instinctual belief that art can elevate the insignificant. Instead of inviting us into the painting and then beyond it, still life comes forward into our world. It ruptures our personal space with its peculiar offering of both familiarity and novelty.

The incredible thing I have found about still life is that a painting eventually takes on its own identity. With pockets, I have inadvertently fashioned miniature worlds I would like to live in. I've been wondering what it is about pockets that makes them so compelling for me. Are they an escape from reality—a tiny, perfect universe to hide in? Are they representative of the small, bright fragments of human imagination that make life worth living, however arduous and absurd it sometimes seems? Are these pockets empty? Or are they receptacles for secrets, admissions, promises, and relics? And if the latter is true, are these things remembered and treasured, or lost and forgotten?

I can’t say for sure what the answer is, and that's just it. These pockets won’t reveal their contents. With bright colors and glimmering buttons, their childlike qualities belie the fact they are not meant to be opened.

You can view more of my tiny paintings here.

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