Monthly Archives: November 2010

recent work

lunette/flume, headstone/tomb: for Li Bai

lunette/flume, headstone/tomb (for Li Bai)

We had a Washington University faculty exhibition at the Des Lee Gallery last month, which was a good excuse to finish a new painting and try a different form of presentation.  Instead of using the word “installation”, I might use something like “actualization”, as the point of the piece was to enhance the viewer’s awareness of the object-presence, material relationships, imaginative space, and historical (or anecdotal) reference with near simultaneity.  This poses an interesting set of problems in a gallery context because of the associated conventions for displaying and interacting with the work.  Lunette is painted on a sheet of sandpaper from a floor-sander, and features a wooden remnant from some plumbing work in my house.  The painting is hung about ten inches lower than normal, a kind of “setting” towards the bench which is meant to emphasize their relationship while encouraging the viewer to lean over.  I made the frame out of African Mahogany flooring reclaimed from my neighbor’s house.  It is the same species of wood that I used to build the bench, wood which had been discarded because of the extreme warping and cupping that it had undergone.

Collectively the work is meant to invoke rather than portray the ingredients of the poet Li Bai’s anecdotal demise– intoxicated, falling from his boat and drowning while trying to embrace the reflection of the moon.

a selective memory

catepillar before blog

tobacco horn worm, speckled with fate

caterpillars blog

Florence's drawing

the husk of the host

the husk of the host

In September we found a few tobacco horn worms on our tomato plants, and decided that we were willing to share our produce in exchange for the privilege of seeing the world at work in our front yard.  But the wonder and beauty turned macabre when two of the worms were parasitized by Braconid wasp larvae.  Our 4 year old was not prepared for this plot shift.  One morning soon after this discovery, I went over to see the drawing that Florence had been making.  She told me that she was making a drawing of the caterpillars so that she could remember them as they were before the wasps got to them.  I could hardly think of a better reason to make a picture.  In an academic context it is particularly easy to lose track of the fundamentals which would otherwise guide my creative action.  I am distracted by nuance.  To see things in a particular way, and to convey that vision–to drag a selective past into the present with insistence, relevance, and a joy clarified by sorrow– is something worth doing.