Thursday, August 29, 2013

Preps for an Upcoming Exhibition

I've been asked to be a part of an exhibition opening next week in Asheville.  The show is titled "Thought-Provoking Art by Six UNCA Alumni".  When Robert Tynes, the curator, asked me to be in it, I had nothing on hand that hadn't already been exhibited in town.  So I said, "Sure, I'll participate!"  This was a way to get my ass in gear and paint something.

But the pressure is on.  Not only does it have to be exhibition-ready, but it has to be thought-provoking as well.  That's a pretty high bar in my book.  So what to do?  I thought of maybe doing something about the current disaster of North Carolina's idiot governor and state legislature, but I really don't want to go back to satirical political paintings again.  Thinking of politics just makes my blood boil.  I then thought about doing the first of my intended new series on "Survivors".  The problem is that I don't yet have a survivor to work with, and I'm not about to just make stuff up.  Eventually, I decided to do a painting based on my experiences in Afghanistan.  I went back through my photos, thought about how they might be used, came up with some ideas, and finally whittled them down to two.  Of those, one is now underway.

The painting is tentatively titled "Negotiation".  Three Afghan men are sitting cross-legged on the ground, looking directly at the viewer.  One is a white-bearded elder who is carrying on the conversation, one is an adult, and one is maybe a teenager.  An AK-47 leans against the wall behind them, while a plate of treats and cups of tea sit between the viewer and the Afghans.  I'm trying to make the setting ambiguous: are they a threat? friendly? what's the viewer's role? what might happen?  In other words, it's typical of most any negotiation with Afghans, particularly villagers.

I'm posting photos of the development of the new painting on my website in the "Development of a Painting" (duhh) section.  Normally, I'd do this after the painting is done just to make sure (a) the finished work is something worth looking at and (b) I can make it look like I knew what I was doing all along.  This time, though, all that's out the window.  I don't know what it'll be like, whether it'll be worth a look, and it's showing how everything keeps changing.  So in addition to the pressure to make a "thought-provoking work", I'm upping the pressure on myself, showing you the ugly side of the sausage-making process.

One last note.  I mentioned photos.  I much prefer to work from life, but that's impossible in this case, so I have to use what's available.  This painting is not a copy of one photo, it's being put together from parts of many.  At least 12 photos have contributed something so far: an expression here, the position of a hand there, the shape of an AK-47 from two others.  The overall idea and composition, though, is straight out of my head.  There is no way I could have taken a photo like this.

So go take a look and let me know what you think.  I can still change it.  Next week at this time, though, it'll be too late!