Monday, November 04, 2013

Art and Impermanence: thoughts on painting out "We Dance to Pray"

My latest show at the Bridgette Mayer Gallery, "Presence", closed back on October 5th, 2013. Earlier that week, I arranged to be at the gallery when the deinstallation was to take place so that I could be the person to begin the process of  covering up my painting installation "We Dance to Pray". It was really important to me to bring this piece full-circle because I made it, so I should be the one to destroy it. This is what I had planned for back when I thought of doing a wall piece for the show. The show had a finite time-span and since it was a part of the architecture that needed to be used for following shows, so did this piece. 

The obvious question from most everyone that I talked to about what I was going to do was some variation of, "Won't you feel sad about it being painted over?". My answer was that it was intended to be a temporary work, so, I had no reservations about striking out the painting, as long as I was the one to at least start the process of doing so. It was important to experience that control over something that I made. I didn't want to leave this part of this exhibition experience to someone else. I won't deny that there were times when I thought of the physical and emotional energy it took to make the painting and said to myself, "Wow, all of that energy used and now I'll have to cover all of this up in a month". The thing is, I go through this every time I paint something. Inevitably, there are those moments where certain marks are made and passages of color are admired, and I start thinking about ways to save those satisfying moments of bliss. However, as I remarked in recent conversations, many of those small, enjoyable moments in a painting might contribute to, but not make an entire painting work. Often some of those small moments have to be sacrificed on the way to hopefully making a good painting, or a good painting better. The same as with life where we may experience what seem to be too-quick moments of extraordinary bliss and pleasure. Those moments are often fleeting and cannot be recreated, but they contribute something mighty to our existence. 

Covering up "We Dance to Pray" myself was about practicing what I preach about not letting any artwork become so precious that you cannot conceive of letting it go, whether changed while in the process of being made, the work being sold, or through some other way that you might not have control over. Having the opportunity to cover the painting myself was immensely satisfying because I had personal closure with the entire experience of the exhibition, from start to finish; a year and-a-half or more in the making. Had I left the coverage entirely to the gallery's wall preparer, I would have felt more of a loss than closure. It's a similar feeling as not being able to grieve properly for a loved one, whatever that process might be for you. When that happens, there's a sense that the experience is left open-ended with business unfinished. Having done this, I was able to close that chapter and move on to whatever else I'm going to be doing next without that loose end hanging out there. 

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