I grew up on the edge of a forest then spent some years in cities that had virtually no trees. I went back to the woods after an ex kept threatening (and sometimes trying) to murder me. In time, I met a woman whom I loved to a ridiculous degree, but while I was painting pictures of the trees near my own home, her ex-husband tried to murder her in hers. She vanished shortly after, I was alone in the woods again.
I always had romantic notions of living close to nature, but it can be a terrible place to be lost on your own.
I have begun a series of paintings and sculptures featuring characters trying to make their way through a dark forest. The paintings deal, largely, with issues of domestic violence, with a cast of creatures and animals. The paintings have an implied narrative. They tie in with one another so that a story seems to unfold from one to the next. It is a story I am rarely able to address with words.
Sometimes the sculptures are based on characters already in paintings, but I also make sculptures based on ideas for the paintings. By shining a strong light on a sculpture, I can better conceptualize how it should fit in a painting: how the light should look, how the shadows should be cast...
The paintings and sculptures inform each other in this way.
On nicer afternoons, I also paint landscapes of secluded natural areas, en plein air. This provides a fuller exploration of “the Woods”.
There is the romantic, colorful, serene aspect, and there is that frightening place that it becomes when you wander alone.
You will see it in paintings and in sculptures.
I had a girlfriend who was deathly afraid of snakes. Any trace, any mention of them and she would go: rigid, pallid, clammy, cold…
But she would coil around you and there was all the warmth in the world.
I had a girlfriend whom I loved, fiercely, so we kept her safe, safe from snakes. No serpent ever harmed her. We never even uttered the word: - snake-.
It was her ex-husband who tried to murder her. He slithered in on his wet cold belly and he swallowed her whole. Why had we wasted all that effort over snakes?
One of these snakes has no head and no tail because this is a problem with no resolution.
In the painting: "...snakes..." (below), the snakes were meant to allude to this mostly irrational fear, while something far more dangerous was ignored and dismissed entirely.
In the series of paintings: "the Woods" the ever-increasing number of snakes is meant to signify the spread of fear and trauma, from one afflicted individual to another.
I like cats. An old drunk man on one of the islands of Japan gave me a cat one day which, initially, I wasn't allowed to keep, but my ex-wife changed her mind. She sometimes threatened to poison me, but when she was really mad, she'd threaten to poison my cat. In this series of paintings, there is a great clowder of colorful cats, and one little yellow cat which is lost by itself.
The Moth with Tattered Wings -
I don't know if anything symbolizes: frailty, beauty, and change so well as a butterfly/ moth.
In "the Woods", this creature grows in a cocoon atop the woman's piano. Later it assists the woman and the cat by drinking a swollen body of water down to a dry river bed. (There is at least one species of moth that has been documented drinking an incredible amount of water, for the salt content, so this isn't a complete fabrication.)
Later in this series of paintings, it flies through a forest full of knives and, weakened, is devoured by the alien.
This gives rise to new varieties of snakes and crocodiles with delicate colored wings
the Blind Horse -
The horse is my idea for society. Horses (unwillingly) helped to build society by transporting people and goods, by fighting in wars, by pulling plows... (They say that even the designs for rocketships had to be based on the breadth of a horse - because rocketships required component pieces to travel over roads/ through tunnels, which were designed for cars, which were, in turn, designed to travel over paths that two horses could walk abreast.)
Horses have to be "broken" to be "useful" though. They have to be tethered and led by others. The horse in "the Woods is encumbered by snakes, blinded by them, and led through the darkness, (As analogies go, I think that's pretty spot on.)
Its eyes are, initially, the blue of 'the Woman in Blue's' dress, but they disappear when the snakes take control. This is when it takes the false appearance of a unicorn (because how often are things exactly as they seem?)
the Alien -
The alien is the antithesis/ the compliment of the little yellow cat, which is also a tiger. Here, it represents the parts of yourself that you're rarely cognizant of, the feelings and memories that are so repressed / rarely acknowledged that they may as well be "alien". It is glimpsed intermittently, usually evoking a deep fear in the other characters.