I left this painting in England in 2010 after completing my master’s degree. It was part of a show that I put on called “Landscape Resounds.” I left it at a local cafe in Totnes, the Fat Lemon, where it hung until they contacted me last year saying they didn’t have space for it anymore. In that same week, someone at Dartington Hall had contacted me about the painting, and, a dozen or so emails later, with assistance from my former professor Richard Povall, the painting had traveled up the hill to the Dartington Estate. I had donated it to Dartington Hall.
The painting now hangs in this building
This is a surreal experience to coordinate from across the pond as well as a thought provoking one. Paintings need time and space in order to come into their own. They find their place, often on their own accord and in surprising ways.
This was not my favorite painting that I produced during my time in England, but this process has made me reconsider and warm up to it. It now is participating in the long unfolding history of Dartington Hall and the people involved in making that place.
The initial email included the sentence, “There are a group of us here that are working to bring learning back to Dartington and we’re making progress.” I was in the final year of Dartington College of the Arts before it moved to Falmouth University to eventually get swallowed up. The phrase “bring learning back to Dartington” takes on extra resonance for me with the thought of the painting returning to the estate to be hung on a wall for display. It creates a new layer of meaning related to the painting, years after it was ostensibly “completed.”
If the artwork accumulates meaning as it progresses through time, it makes me ask the obvious question—At what point is a painting finished? The secondary question that arises is, how can I craft paintings to best be prepared for these unexpected moments? I imagine paintings as seeds sent off into the future, sometimes finding fertile moments of germination, growth, and meaning.
Paintings as seeds for meaning in an imagined unexpected future context.
There is something to that as an idea. I think it is how a painting practice operates consciously within the context of the social fabric. I’ve seen works of mine blossom in wholly unexpected futures that become integral to the success of the piece. Painting with the past, present, and future in mind.
Speaking of time, I did a time-lapse video of the process of creating the painting. I also made the soundtrack music from ambient noises captured in the studio.
The Barn is located on the Dartington Estate in Devon. While I was there it was surrounded by security fencing, but I stuck my camera through the fence to get my reference photos. At the time, I fixated on ruins, and what they say about our relationship to land. The best information I could find about the barn was that it was likely from the 1800’s, used as a field barn for the Dartington Estate. I’m not sure how long the security fencing was around it, but a recent search reveals it is being actively reimagined as a place for therapeutic horses.
Below are photos of the 4 foot square painting hanging in Dartington Hall. Check it out if you are in the area. The building is gorgeous and dates back to the 14th or 15th century. Pretty cool to have a painting on display there.
I drew this colored pencil portrait of Bernie Sanders during the 2016 primary season. I never expected that, within one year, this would happen.
That’s my brother Ian on the left. He gave Bernie a gicleé print of the drawing and Bernie pulled out his pen and offered to sign another copy that my brother was carrying. Adam took the photograph. Bernie signed right across the chin.
The best part about this: they were able to keep it secret for over 6 weeks until they saw me in person and were able to hand it to me directly.
I’m told he was impressed that I captured the likeness so well and was grateful to take a copy with him.
I just got it framed by a neighbor and Dorsey Gallery artist, Mr Bell Bey. He did a fantastic job.
I’m so pleased to be exhibiting this painting for the first time, during the very first ArtSlope.nyc. For details on the location and opening times, click here.
It is my largest oil painting to date, the largest canvas I can drag down six flights of stairs and transport on the subway. The painting, to me, is about growth and death at the same time.
I’ve had Mag, my recently departed 92-year-old friend in mind while painting this sugar maple. I started it during the stretch when she was clearly dying, yet it seemed to never come. It was stressful—I needed to jolt myself out of it and assert my own agency precisely because I felt so helpless. A 6 foot square painting was the perfect challenge.
The challenge didn’t quite originate from me. Janet Fanning, a painter in my neighborhood, had passed away. Her family kindly asked if I was interested in some of her old stretcher bars. I said yes. Many of the bars were 4 to 6 feet in length, fashioned out of sturdy 30 year-old-wood. Janet had stopped painting on rectilinear frames over 30 years ago. I’m no expert, but it was clear to me that the quality was something from a bygone era. I’m grateful to Janet and her family for the challenge and opportunity to reawaken these canvas stretchers.
(You can’t get stretcher bars that feel like this anymore. The necessary increase in speed of wood production during the past 30 years has negatively impacted the quality of mass produced canvas stretcher bars. Hyper capitalism relentlessly seems to transform objects into cheap replicas of themselves.)
The subject matter of the painting is a sugar maple in Prospect Park. It is illuminated from behind, colored red during the height of autumn.
Mag gave me a book called “Freddy the Leaf” after my mother died. It is about a leaf, transitions through life, and death. I thought about that while painting this tree.
I also thought about the connection between the growth of a human and the growth of a tree…as well the way I orient myself to both. I can only attempt to grasp what that a 92 year old perspective feels like—it is about as inaccessible to me as the perspective of a tree. I’m left wondering what lessons there are in my relationship with Mag that can inform how I relate to a tree. A human and a tree cannot change their roots. They are formed by the conditions they are born into.
Mag was a Catholic Nun. I cannot help but also think of the burning bush from the bible.
I’d be lying if I said I had any of this in mind at the outset. But that is key I think. I thought of this while painting. It is generated through the process itself. The painting continues to generate its meaning now that it is out in the world.
I hope you get the chance to see it. Let me know what you think.
This painting is a tree at human scale. You are forced to confront it directly: growing, dying, and beautiful.
I drew Bernie Sanders this primary season in colored pencil. I thought he was the best choice for president. I’m selling fine art gicleé prints of the drawing for $20 (shipping included). The prints are signed and numbered.
The prints are on arches fine-art watercolor paper – 240gm, archival quality. The ink is Epson Ultrachrome, also archival quality.