I'd have loved to talk with Angie today about the challenges and rewards of incorporating plastic into my newest pieces, but in such an anxious state, I didn't think to bring it up - perhaps because only one of the ten works (pictured - R) I'll have at Kimball Jenkins in two weeks incorporates this trash in the way my new work is beginning to. For a long time I've used found objects to make marks in my paintings. I have a roofing nail that I've kept in my painter's box since I was a teenager and I often use it to incise through the paint or create blurred stippling with the nail head. I also have made a habit of using expired credit cards to scrape and apply paints & mediums with. It wasn't long before I was cutting the cards to create different shapes (and therefore different marks), and in Still life w/flowers… I began applying the actual plastic of the card to the paintings surface. Instead of using the card as a tool, it became the medium. I know it's a bit crazy of me to keep all these small plastics: milk caps, "disposable" lighters, nylon fishing rope, and six-pack holders, which notoriously strangle, deform, and wreak havoc on the sea life – but I'd rather see them incorporated into something people will want to look at than feel a hit of guilt every time I throw a piece of plastic in the garbage.
In one newer piece I've incorporated the red plastic netting they wrapped our xmas tree in, and in another, one of my empty inhalers, hangs suffocated in plastic. Instead of talking about these I tried to focus more on the work that will be in the show – paintings and prints about the landscape and a type of visual memoir expressed through repeated shapes and patterns that have kind of embedded themselves into my visual vocabulary, Seeds, pillows, rain, flowers, stars, birds, discs that float like angels: these are the marks I find myself repeating over and over.
Angie asked me if my intent with these pieces was to raise awareness of ocean plastics and environmentalist issues, and I had to admit that I don't really paint with intent, and I'm ashamed to say it! Perhaps because I don't work from preconceived sketches or ideas, and instead I'm discovering each individual piece along the way… not all of my paintings are about environmentalist issues. Perhaps because some my paintings are quite literally about pillows or pasta or whiffle ball, I felt that I couldn't also paint with the intention of spreading environmental awareness. Yet some of my pieces are spent marveling at our very existence in this fragile shell of atmosphere we insist on polluting. I paint what is on my mind, so even though I'm not painting to raise awareness, it's a happy side-effect to have more and more people to start thinking about ocean plastics and their own garbage production and plastic consumption. The average American produces nearly four and a half pounds of trash everyday. We don't think about it, but we're brushing our teeth with plastic brushes which we're "throwing away" every three months, we're buying plastic water bottles by the case. It's roughly 500 "disposable" coffee cups per working American, per year. It's baffling. Next time you're in the grocery store, think about the packaging of the food you're buying – how much of it is plastic? I suppose I should own the fact that I'm concerned about our planet. I should try painting with the intent of education, of raising awareness.
I'd love to be the type of person to organize an event that will incite understanding and compassion and knowledge about our hurting earth, that will generate proceeds for the continuation of real organizations working to combat the problems of waste, plastic, and the climate emergency. I want to be the type of person who betters their communities and their environment through education, and outreach, and action. It feels like a big, challenging task. It feels like maybe the problem is too big and too out of control, and that I am only one person. It feels like 728,000 tons of daily garbage. But change is something that needs to be practiced, and if I could create work that might contribute to the betterment of something as important and wonderful and deserving of celebration and preservation as our fantastic little planet, well that feels like a good place to start.