May 31, 2011
Regarding Subject Matter
Those of us who make art representing the things of this world must choose our subject matter. Why this and not that? and what does our decision mean? I've been painting agricultural landscape and implements for 25 years, which was a natural evolution from my early paintings of domestic architecture. To read more about my transition and thinking, and see some earlier work, see this blog post, "Contemporary Agriculture". In brief, all the issues around agriculture––ecological, social and historical––have been part of the content of my work for years. But as my work has gotten more abstract, more concerned with the elements of color and form and less with narrative, I sometimes wonder if I could expand the sources of my imagery from farm implements, as seen above, recently gathered from the field.
So when I was in Coney Island last week, I took some photos with the idea that they just might work as paintings for me. There is a relationship between these images because of their strong design and striking color––especially the second image which I find compelling in its weirdness––and my agricultural images. But you know what? I just don't have the emotional connection that I need in order to move ahead with them. Underlying the seeming abstraction of my farm implements is still the complex content I've thought about for years.
But there was an exception to this disconnect from the Coney Island subject matter and that was a series of photos I took of the base of the Parachute Jump, a ride I remember from my childhood with great fondness. I love the shapes and the primary colors of this piece of Brooklyn history; as opposed to the new rides, this one has meaning for me. I put together 3 of the images as a triptych, and even though the shapes are smaller in scale than usual in my work, I'm seriously considering a 3 panel work, each 8 x 8 inches (click on image for an enlargement). What do you think? And what about your own choice of subjects?