Living in a Time of Disruption
There is no question our world has been upended. Basic assumptions are thrown out the window. I was already distracted from my work when I was forced by economics to vacate my studio. Working in my studio and creating things with my hands was my way of finding equilibrium for myself. Each of us has something that provides an anchor or rudder, to use a nautical metaphor, as we sail or drift through our own lives. The loss of my studio set me adrift. I was not alone. Then the global pandemic rocked the boat. Most of the inhabitants of this planet found themselves in strange circumstances, each grasping to maintain their own balance.
Disruption as a State of Being
When the ground beneath my feet trembles or the boat threatens to capsize, I do what everyone else does. I bend my knees, lower my balance point, and go to that place inside me that has always sustained me. I find a brush and some paint.
No longer having a large studio and canvas I sought something on hand that would temporarily serve a purpose; something potentially disposable. Initially I found a long-buried and forgotten package of 12” diameter paper graphing disks. These circular sheets of thin paper, imprinted with swirling lines, were intended to record the temperature and humidity fluctuations within a 24-hour time period by a mechanical device fitted with a pen. I had no such machine. The disks were a curiosity I had found at a time when I was making shaped paper, non-rectangular artworks.
I broke the seal on the package and withdrew a number of paper disks, laid them out and painted both sides with gesso. There were two basic reasons both sides were coated in a layer of gesso. The first is that paper tends to curl or buckle if you paint one side. This is why watercolor paper is often taped down to a board before the paper is dampened. Painting both sides counteracts the curling.
The second reason I painted both sides is I got to make two paintings on the same piece of paper. Not long after I began showing my work, I met Alan Shields and found he was also painting two-sided artworks, often painting on one side while causing a stain to leak through to the other side. The stains would then lead to a new artwork. This commonality was possible as we were both working with dyes on unsized handmade rag paper.
A third reason may seem quirky. In 1976 when the Museum of Modern Art hung my fan-shaped print between a Dine and a Rauschenberg, they hung it face to the wall. It was an honest mistake as they did not realize my work was signed on the back, not the front. An ordinary sheet of paper has a front and a back. The back and front are identical on a blank sheet, as are top, bottom, right and left. It is the right angles of the sheet that suggest a similarity to a window or door and how any marks on that paper might be viewed.
Still, knowing the back of my work might be displayed as readily as the front was a revelation. A related inadvertent framing of a different shaped paper print opened the door to not worrying about horizontality or vertically. I paint while the paper or canvas is horizontal. In the case of a disk there is no base or sides, no top.
I had begun to paint both sides of these repurposed disks with a simple intention: to return to creating things with my hands was my way of finding equilibrium for myself.
It is quite a transition from making exclusively fifteen foot paintings for the past five years to work on one foot diameter disks.
I have greater appreciation now for those who “print your name on a grain of rice”.Disks 2020