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Dead Reckoning

As a youth, I thought the Renaissance was the hight of artistic achievement. As a teen, I had moved onto Surrealism. It gave me a traditional way to render subjects with an ironic twist and imagery that seems detached. But, as the years went by and I grew into adulthood, I began to embrace Modernism.

I never had formal training, so I learned to view Modernism in an unfiltered way. From an outside perspective, Modern Art doesn’t seem to have much of a rhyme or reason. From Duchamp to Pop Art to the present, Modern Art and it’s theories are confusing unless you’re an MFA. However, there’s something, “Real,” about it that is absent in traditional art making. It might be because it relies on a mental process that is difficult to define.

In 2005, I started painting for myself again and wanted to combine Realism and Abstraction with the goal of revealing psychological narratives in a kind of synthesis. It’s a difficult process, not only are you painting what you see, but also what you feel and believe, it’s a delicate balance. And, if the figures are too realistic, the painting looks staged, and if there’s too much abstraction the message is lost. Since I have a Conceptual Illustration background, I treated it like problem solving and made dozens of paintings. However, by 2008 the recession was in full swing and people stopped buying art. For an artist, desperation is like fuel which is usually a good thing. But, what if the recession lasted forever, I didn’t like the idea of starving and besides, some other artists were still doing fine. A change was in order, I looked at what I was doing and asked myself some hard questions. Do people need my art, was I just doing something clever, a kind of gimmick to stir the senses. If this was true, then my work was meaningless and went against the very definition of self-expression. While I wanted to believe it was the recession, inside I knew there was something wrong, something was missing.

I realize now that what I was doing was a homing instinct, like birds but a little different, and simply knowing which way north is, doesn’t get you home. Sailors used to call this, Dead Reckoning – calculating a current position by using previous positions, like remembering the path you took to get somewhere and being able to return by retracing your footsteps. I started these paintings with a specific purpose but, found I was unconsciously revisiting my favorite art movements and fusing them together with one part psychology and two parts imagination. I had been taking a shortcut instead of expressing myself and simply illustrating psychological anomalies. It wasn’t a synthesis – it was dead reckoning.

Dead Reckoning is not a series, it’s more of a period in my life and a way of making a type of art that’s not entirely complete. While this is probably a viable way to make art under certain circumstances, it’s just not right for me anymore. However, the process wasn’t a complete waste, most of the paintings from this time are good and the realization allowed me to grow and discover more about myself which eventually led to the beaded curtain.