When I was a kid, we lived in a sprawling apartment complex in Denver, CO. I must've been 3 or 4 at the time. On the way home from the tiny community pool, I realized I had left my favorite t-shirt behind. It was navy, short-sleeved and showcased a muscular cartoon football player with a thick neck that stopped at the collar where my head became the player's head. (It didn’t hurt that I had a helmet-shaped haircut.) I looked all over for it: around the pool deck, under the chairs, at the bottom of the pool, by the bushes, in the parking lot—several times. My brother finally shouted, WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FOR?! My shirt! I shot back, my eyes darting around in desperation, glaring at the pool-goers who obviously stole it. YOU'RE WEARING IT!! Whaaaaa...? Such a relief to look down and find my favorite shirt that had never been missing. That's a large part of what I think my abstract painting practice is, an opportunity to search for the things I thought I had lost only to find that I’d been looking for them in the wrong places.
These days we feel like we’ve lost so much and that we’ve lost our way. Nothing makes sense any more. We’re a middle school band without sheet music—our discourse is an incoherent din as we all blast our own notes with no regard to what the person next to us is playing. And of course blaming them for the awful sounds as everything gets louder and more chaotic. It’s easy to become pessimistic and filled with dread and maybe we’d rather be numb to it all or lash out in anger because we’re afraid. But what if being lost is the key.
Henry David Thoreau wrote in Walden, “Not till we are completely lost, or turned round...do we appreciate the vastness and strangeness of nature. Not till we are lost, in other words not till we have lost the world, do we begin to find ourselves, and realize where we are and the infinite extent of our relations.” We’re all lost in the same liminal space. Lost between a past that is dying and a future that is not yet born. It’s an uncomfortable space filled with doubt and uncertainty but it can also be filled with hope and optimism. Maybe we need to be lost in order to separate ourselves from the habits that are destroying us individually, socially, economically and ecologically. Maybe we need to separate ourselves from the familiar in order to discover a new path that better connects us to ourselves, each other and the world we share.
In my nonrepresentational work, I intentionally try to get lost which fills me with equal measures of frustration and aspiration. It’s not the kind of lost where time falls away, although that's important, but it’s being lost where the way forward is veiled in uncertainty. Searching for some sort of resonance with the ambiguous mess in front of me, I work to coax something out of the canvas as the painting unfolds rather than impose something onto it. Striving to short-circuit the connection to what is familiar and habitual in hopes to discover something new or to rediscover something forgotten. My improvised compositions are dynamic and open-ended with layers of gestural, provisional brushstrokes that are hurried and raw. Not wanting to hide, the marks compete and clash, then as if by fate somehow find a coherent rhythm. And I suppose we are all like each of these marks, wavering between awkward and elegant, working hard to find our place in the melody.