Wednesday, April 24, 2013


So due to an error in mixing the plaster for the central portion, I lost a large chunk of the mid-right side.  I am very sad at this, but I also kind of like it.  Currently I'm struggling with the decision to repair it or not, since part of my concept is that I surrender control of these pieces upon completion, but it may take me a while to figure out what the correct answer is.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013


4'x6' (wax, salt, acrylic, powdered charcoal, plaster, plaster sculpting clay, playsand)  
Today I completed my final piece for the semester, titled "Dysmorphia", in which I address specifically my struggles with body image, my diabetes, and gay culture.  My original plan was formulated in a previous post, but as you can see there have been some significant changes, all of which were discovered by accident.  There's a lot of talk about process here, but if you want to get straight to the meaning of this painting, you can skip to the blue section near the end :)

I began the way I normally do, looking at the intuition drawing to reorient myself on the emotional memories, and then letting my body intuitively express them on the canvas.  Next  I next began painting, using water to mix the paint with the charcoal, after which I began constructing the gash in the center with a mixture of plaster and (though I didn't intend this) plaster sculpting clay with I though was another carton of lightweight plaster and tossing around salt and powdered charcoal.  At this point I was feeling lost.  Everything seemed arbitrary and contrived and did not carry the emotional weight I had obtained in the intuition sketch.  So, I went to a crock pot in which I had been melting blocks of paraffin wax, and, since there were no handles to prevent me from burning my hands, i had use some oven mitts to lift out the pot.  Generally speaking, the pot was ceramic and therefore slippery, and this in addition to the lack of friction with the mitts its no surprise that I dropped it on the canvas and spilled wax across almost the entire surface.  Obviously, there was immediate horror, but these things do happen and I have learned to move with the situation.

So, I let everything cool down, meditated, and play with the new surface, discovering it was impossible to paint on but also froze everything underneath the wax which was awesome.  So I took it further, pouring on more wax, throwing n more charcoal, getting a knife and carving into the surface, spraying on a clear matte primer which allowed me to paint again, but what was this telling me?  I had done all these things to the surface but had not discovered anything.  But of course, this is when the revelation came.

When I first started dropping the charcoal, I had gotten a water bottle and sprayed water on to see if I could freeze the powder to surface with it without blowing it away.  Here I did the same thing, and unintentionally created pools of water that drifted across the surface, picking up particles of paint, wax, salt, and charcoal and depositing them in the cracks and crevices of the wax.  Unintentionally, I had discovered a way to reveal every mark and scar in the surface. 

How does his relate to dysmorphia?

Glad you asked!  I came to the realization that in this piece, the wax becomes my body, and every element that I added to alter the surface becomes a reflection of what I feel I need to change about myself.  These efforts destroy and alter the surface in ways that are mostly invisible to me, yet an unintentional element reveals the truth.  The water washes away the surface, picking up the superficial materials and redepositing them into the traumas that I have inflicted beneath the projections, forcing me to acknowledge not only the fact that they exist, but that I am accountable.  In many ways I do not see myself as I am, but only in terms of the environment in which I am placed.  This relative identification is corrosive because those elements are not inherent to my body, placed, instead, by the cultures of which I construct my identity.  The images of male models and masculinity are merely simulacrums of perfection, yet for me they have become reality and I am a deviation.  

You may wonder about the significance of the scar in the middle of the image.  Well, to me, the flaws in my appearance are the only things I see.  They become magnified to extreme proportions, though in reality they are mostly unnoticeable.  This scar is a side effect of my diabetes, called lipodystrophy (the deterioration of fat due to frequent insulin injections).  On my left thigh, I have developed a small dent where the fat has deteriorated, and though it's barely noticeable, I obsess over it enough that it is perfect for a representation of how I see myself.  

Sunday, April 07, 2013

2nd Pass of a Final Piece

    Completed a 2nd pass on this piece today.  I added blown up printouts of a journal I kept during my undergrad, and let me tell you how terrifying it is for me to put them there.  I literally had panic running through me as I read the entries, some of which contained detailed descriptions of my darkest thoughts that are more in depth than the posts that I put on this blog.  After placing them on the canvas, I immediately began a process of burying them and concealing them once again from view. However, eventually I was able to realize that hiding and concealment has been such a huge part of my life for so long, that I needed to excavate it and reveal it in order to accept myself and past.  Therefore, I began to wipe away what I had buried and reveal the texts (some of which the ink had begun to bleed and distort from the moisture, which is interesting).

    Overall, I was finding it difficult to tune into my memories today, so to experiment I took the painting outside while it was dark and continued to work on it in very minimal light.  Just enough that I could find my tools.  Since the concept of this piece is the blind search for self, I figured I might as well try to do it literally and see what happens.  The result?  A very intense emotional recall of some very specific and terrifying moments of anger and frustration connected to my inability to connect with others due to my fear of condemnation.  The passage in the upper left of the painting is where this took place, and in some places my brush strokes became so violent they stripped the layers of plaster underneath off the canvas.  Eventually, I got to the point where I threw the brush out and literally applied paint through my own hands, clawing and wiping at the surface as my body became tuned to the frantic search for form and structure that my memory was surfacing.  As usual, I'm not sure how I feel about the results, but currently I don't think I can observe the piece until the residues of disgust and frustration are washed away over a night's sleep.  You can also compare this iteration to my previous version here.

Monday, April 01, 2013

First Pass on a Final Piece for the Semester

As usual, exploring the effects of different orientations

close-ups of specific techniques of burial and excavation
So this painting is 4' x 8', and the scale is critical to the theoretical basis of my work this semester so the pictures really cannot do it much justice but I'll do my best to give an accurate depiction of what's going on here.

Staring at the huge blank canvas before me, it was incredibly difficult to make the first marks.  For whatever reason the sight of such a large area of pure possibility can be slightly paralyzing, and I have this fear that my influence will ruin that purity.  To help myself, I chose one of the intuition exercise to serve as a map for my emotional state:
Now I am not using this as a 1:1 sketch for an exact composition, but more of a guide to assist me in honing in on a particular emotional memory.  In doing these exercises, I am able to quickly sketch and express and remain true to emotional responses without the distractions of conscious mental processes.  However, working on a piece of this scale I am unable to maintain a continuous expression simply because I have to pause so often to prepare materials.  To remedy this, before I start throwing things on the canvas I stop and meditate on these sketched images to tune my intuition back into the region of memory response that I achieved during the sketch, and once I achieve that start letting my body create what it wants.  I literally use no constraints as to what artistic techniques I use: if I want to throw dirt and plans in with the paint I go outside and dig a hole and mash the dirt into the canvas.  If I want plaster to dig through I mix up some paint and plaster and glob it on and start digging through it, or if I want to cut through the surfaces I find the nearest object and started scratching and grinding away.  The process is incredibly liberating, and much like the photograms reveals much more than I ever could have consciously chosen to demonstrate.

As I worked on the piece, the meditations on my memories began to take the form of a mad scramble, as if I were digging to uncover something that I knew I needed though not knowing what it was  This is what it was like for me, especially in those first few years on my own as the strict rules that governed my younger years broke down and I built a new framework to live by.  This concept took root in my mind and I naturally began to look to earth and organic matter to form the surface upon which I literally dug through to uncover previous layers on the canvas.  I plan to continue to incorporate different materials over the next month to build mass on the surface and to further support the sense of history and discovery I am working towards.