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The Middle Way

Painting Flowers... Every manifest thing is a concentration of so much energy, beauty, fragility and transience. A flower is the pinnacle metaphor for this, for an expression of the life force which is never static, changing every instant as it moves from bud to bloom and ultimately crumbles, withers.

What an amazing subject for painting! But how to paint a flower, now in the 21st century, when it’s been painted with such mastery and variety over centuries… how to paint it and make it somehow different, relevant, singular?

When I started making flowers in my paintings- which was more than 20 years ago- I realized from the beginning that I wanted to do it in a way I hadn’t seen before, and which captured the transient beauty. Is it coming into being, peaking or past its prime?  I wanted to capture the vitality of flowers in a palpable way.

The first flower paintings I made were thick with oil and a resinous lacquer surface I concocted. I let those paintings bake in the sun until they literally started smoking and I had to wear gloves to pick them up.

Next, I moved on to making flowers that were really crusty and built up with oil, but I would somehow degrade them, break them down, make them drippy, obscure them… Roses, tulips, irises, sunflowers… is that what those are? That’s the sense I wanted to invoke. Almost literal, but still uncertain.

Then for a while I became obsessed with sunflowers, but I wanted to show them in a unique way. Lots of great paintings have been made of sunflowers! If I’m going down this road I have to find something I haven’t seen before. So I started making sunflowers with layers of painted gauze that I would build up and tear away in sections, showing sunflowers that were simultaneously luminous yet wounded.

Working with gauze in my process of making flowers lead to the most recent series in which I began to tear and sew the flowers as a kind of “repair” to underline the transience and constant changeability of flowers.

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