I started a painting this past week, my first new one on canvas in years. (I’ve been working on papers.) This is a big deal to me. This is a major shift to me.

I’m slowly making progress with things like that – things that are a big deal to me – not needing to be a big deal to anyone else in order for me to treat them with seriousness. That I can acknowledge that a shift has taken place for me without anyone else needing to acknowledge it.

Going back to canvas is a shift for me – and a major one. One that’s snowballed to this point with no small amount of gathering momentum needed in order to crest the hill of resistance that I’ve been harboring towards returning to working on canvas. I needed an arm’s length long list of reasons to return to canvas, especially with the cost of working on it, and with the challenges in shipping it. Above all, the imposing physical presence that a large, deep, gallery wrapped canvas confers to a work of art had to be necessary for the work I was doing. I had to be doing work that needed that kind of physical Presence in a space, and it meant that I had to believe the work was Enough to warrant taking up that space, that it was powerful enough to be worth that investment. And, by proxy, that I did too. 

You can say that everyone deserves to take up space, but this is a different kind of feeling to me – a subtle nuanced feeling. My work deserves to exist, because I exist and I want it to. But to be seen? To be hung in a space and shown? Because that’s what thinking about the final Presence of a work in a space means – I intend to show this work outside of my home. This piece is meant to be seen by others – and I want to be respectful of their time, their engagement with it. I want the work to be more than just Me Me Me – I want it to be worth it for them, too. 

That’s why the canvas series gets referred to as The Observer Problem. It’s a quantum mechanics/theory reference, but it’s a tongue in cheek play on words too – how to make art that is yours, is still you showing up on canvas, that you would make even if no one else ever saw it – but that takes into account that there is a viewer, an observer, potentially, too? How does knowing there will be an observer change how you make the work? How do you control that influence? How do you influence that influence? How does it change the work?

It’s an undercurrent in the dialog that I’ve been having in paint and on social media for a decade, and on social media. It’s rooted in a gut-deep desire to be understood – the belief that the way I see the world and feel can somehow be translated enough to be understood. That it is possible to cross the gap of inadequate metaphors of language into a deeper understanding that art and music and creative works have been seeking for our entire history. Being seen and understood – being Not Alone and Understood – have been reoccurring themes in art, not just mine, for centuries. It’s not anything new – but I’m getting better at balancing the requirement that I show up as the artist and make MY Work, while still considering the viewer. To exist in relationship without compromising your Self, to consider the viewer and the Self in the work is it’s own kind of mastery – to be able to reach across the space between the viewer and the work, and for both the artist and viewer to feel seen and understood, outside of the bounds of time and space, that is, to me, the Point of Art. Or, at least mine.

I think, sometimes, that this being such an underpinning of my life experience and thus work, and something that I spend time analyzing and talking about, tends to piss some people off. Be authentic, they shout, don’t worry about the other! I propose that this attitude is The Problem more often than The Solution, but each to their own journey and experiences. 

Mine?

You must first understand in order to make yourself understood. 

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