Standing before a blank 3’X5′ wall of canvas, a rush of memories and emotions crept up from the far reaches of my brain. To date, I have driven across the country five times, lived on both coasts and spent a summer pounding massive G&T’s at 8000 feet. A pebble cracked my windshield in Texas, five miles from my destination after driving 2000 consequence free miles. In Oklahoma, I went to dinner at the only diner in the town of Arbuckle, where the marquee read, “Happy Birthday Edna Arbuckle.” My gauge hit 130MPH in Montana.
A map, as Jasper Johns realized 19 years before my birth, is a simple, flat, appealing lexicon loaded with complex emotion. By the time I pasted the entire Rand McNally map to the surface, I found myself back on the road… Route 66, Old Route 66, a store selling rocks, that $20-a-night hotel with a hot tub in the room on an Indian Reservation in Wisconsin.
While I consider myself largely a-political, I have a great deal of feeling and opinion about America’s current course. However, this painting wasn’t about the debt we are creating, the uncertainty rising from the ghosts of Cold War era fear…. 9/11… this painting is titled My America… it reflects my feelings. After the jump, each stroke and some memories of many roadtrip’s dripped into the concrete on a stretch of highway, any highway.
Is about the final image? Or is it the entire process? Giving little thought to either question, I decided, “why painstakingly draw the map, when I can buy one that is 32″X50″ and simply paste the bastard on the canvas to start?”
Since pasting large objects leads to severe air bubble inflation (no auto or financial industry pun forthcoming), I decided to slice the map into moderately even rectangles and paste them one at a time.
Once fully pasted, I indulged, and let myself circle some important places, and make notes in Sharpie about some not-so-important memories – my own… these missives are forever buried beneath the surface, like an Egyptian Kings’ now fossilized dog and favorite servants… vaulted away for eternity, or until some guy in a pit helmet digs em’ up.
Unlike most of my recent collages, I decided to go Ransom Note crazy all over this thing, and collage mostly individual letters for the states. You are a snowflake. You are unique. You matter.
Red and Blue state definition was not considered a priority during the process of this picture. Thus, I began by splashing color around haphazard-like, with Jasper’s Map providing a loose guideline.
Working the Northwestern United States first… working with several fresh colors on my palette, allowing the paint to mix on the surface, creating harsh color transitions… something I did frequently in my early work, not so much recently.
On this particular day, I decided to tap into some long lost angst and play things out visually. I’m not really a guy to swear or put too much meaning into the words (on canvas anyway), but, for this one, I decided I would do the exact opposite and be quite intentional.
Due to the size of the canvas, and my use of paint, I decided to work regionally, with hot and cool palettes. My objective was to build the entire canvas at the same time, with a path of localization. Each mark was created by a fine brush, or my finger tips. Finger painting is the new hotness.
There is the green. Arizona is still paint-less, probably a slap for their staggeringly hot summers and Sedona as a whole. Just kidding, Sedona is nice.
Beginning to strike a polar balance with color, though the image feels like the country is leaning to the left…
The progression from each stage shot seems slow, so I enjoy a quick scroll from top to bottom… it’s like old tyme animation. For the record, the word “massacre” over Texas was simply a coincidence. Labeling Ohio “Lebron“, however, was not a coincidence. If he comes to the Knicks, Dolan will be effectively take away the soul of the state… and James will continue to lose in the worst complementary pair (orange and blue.)
At this point, gel medium is still part of the equation, though his use gets phased out in the final stages of the picture.
It was a dark and stormy Northeast…
And nothing stirred, except for an oil spill in the Gulf…
The West Coast, set ablaze by forest fires and Arnold Schwarzenegger‘s ongoing battle with the machines, in Terminator 4 – The Energy Crisis.
Ah, now this painting is starting to make sense. For anyone who has been, Idaho has to rank as one of the most under-appreciated states. The potatoes are good, to be sure, but the beautiful pastoral lands and proximity to California and luscious skiing, make it a great refuge for celebrities and their doll collections.
When I find myself in need of a visual solution, I revert to my standard color cycle, in order: red, yellow, blue, orange, green and purple. It’s like rocking a baby to sleep, or watching your jittery roommate toke before playing three hours of video games.
A modified Mason Dixon line, colorful, defined boundaries.
Quite close to the end of the painting… the states feel right, the balance is there, a contrast of cool calculation and blazing conflict. America.
Deep purple, it’s so deep.
A muted, disgusting green… nearly as nasty as the smell I received while driving through Arkansas on a hot day… not trying to place blame on the entire state, just most of it.
And completed. There is something magical about closing your eyes and being back on the road. Driving through New Mexico with a stealth bomber flying so close to your van full of drunks on Spring Break, it shakes. Sitting in a hot tub in Lake Havasu, getting hit in the back by a tumbleweed. Walking through Joplin Missouri at night with Dan, wondering how we ended up in this place more than once. Nearly getting into a fistfight a thrift store in the same state. Finding our Grandfathers grave in Louisville, against all odds. Standing on the bank of the Mississippi River, wondering how you can drown there. Driving all day into the night, hitting Vegas at 1AM, realizing the entire reverse journey from Swingers lies ahead… as you barrel towards 6AM business traffic in San Jose.
A detail of the Northeast, notice, the state of Lebron.
West Coast…. not falling into the ocean yet.
Central United States…. the Great Lakes.
Florida, the Gulf Coast, Oil spills, turmoil, retirees.
Alaska and my beloved Hawaii. When I get rich and super paid up, I am going to own a place in Maui.