“The river was blank and mindless with beauty. It was the most glorious thing I had ever seen.”
- James Dickey, Deliverance
My art practice is centred on moments of transition used as metaphors for revelation; Of narratives set at the fulcrum of the known to the unknown. In the simplest terms, one might call these images film stills of a utopic journey. Part and parcel is an emphasis on citation – in imagery and titles – as a means to gather evidence of the difficulty and grace of living in the world.
Materially, my emphasis on ink or watercolour on paper echoes a sentiment of wandering and exploration. It is predominantly a practice based on portability and minimalism, and of using the art object is an extension of this paradigm.
These images then, take on the central paradox of rendering what is unpresentable — that which exists beyond the known. Past the last tree in the forest or the burnt-out car on a highway – and towards the revelation that might be found past the limits of our imaginings.
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If we were to travel back to the beginning of the 1970s, to Omaha, Nebraska, we might find Randolph Jaffe. If we subsequently made our way to the dead letters room of the US Postal Service in that city, we certainly would. Peering over his shoulder in third-person omniscient we could watch the surly and passed-over Jaffe sorting through a multitude of small, lopsided hills of mail. Opening these discarded letters and packages, he slowly begins to piece together a secret world inside America. This world in words, drawings, and artifacts gives him a tantalizing, if oblique, understanding that magic exists via dreams turned flesh, and through a relentless unraveling of these early clues he can claim a place within this realm.
And as we read of Jaffe’s transcendent revelations, we might come to believe that there are indeed worlds within the world. They exist a few degrees off true, spinning with their own gravity and rules, and, depending on the predilections of the reader, these worlds might hurt or illuminate, or both.
Chapters and decades later, we meet William Witt, real estate agent, as he keeps overwatch on Palomo Grove, California. But like so many people in this town and others, his secret life is his true life. Voyeur of those to whom he has sold homes, Witt peers through curtains, sidles along garage doors, and hides in shrubbery. But he is also possessed of the completist’s mania for porn. Like Jaffe, Witt seeks glimpses behind the veil: the occasional hand of a fluffer, a too-low boom mike, or that fleeting moment when eye meets camera. Jaffe searches, Witt searches, and there’s a good chance that this story’s readers wouldn’t stick around through its 688 pages if they weren’t also searching, didn’t also have a sense that something had slipped within their own lives and that in these off-axis worlds they might glimpse glory or transcendence, even as the days methodically tick down to the inevitable full stop.
In another story, Reba McClean realizes that “Whatever she did, she would end the same way everyone does: flat on her back with a tube in her nose, wondering, ‘Is this all?’” And in his memoir, Anthony Loyd similarly railed, “Could I accept what to me seemed the drudgery of everyday existence, the life we endure without so much as a glimpse of an angel’s wing? Fuck that.”
There’s also Alice. Professor Coombs. She helps create a void (or a curatorial hole) in space. Through the rigours of physics she recognizes that this Lack is also searching, has desires. It accepts the keys and strawberries and cats that are passed into its nothingness, but ignores batter’s helmets, ice axes, and aluminum foil. As Lack plays “hard to perceive,” Alice falls in love with its singularity and is drawn to the possibility of becoming part of its curated universe.
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