My practice is a relatively new one by the standards of my peers. I moved to New York in January 2019 after a tumultuous few months of blizzard-induced depression at my university. I moved into a space with four blank white walls overlooking 162nd street in Washington Heights. Green to the city and preparing to graduate, my adjustment to living here was difficult, and as the winter continued to build, so did an internal shift that I had felt expanding over the past three months.
I felt compressed in my space.
Perhaps it was the adjustment to shoebox living that every New Yorker is forced to experience, but the walls of my room began to feel oppressive. Tightening with every moment my eyes were closed.
After a few weeks of watching my walls press in, I couldn’t take it anymore. I went out and bought the cheapest sketching paper I could find, and with black paint and no plan, I began to cover my walls.
My initial paintings were rugged, always covered with tape and staples, and meant to be ripped apart like a badly wrapped Christmas present. As I continued, I noticed a throughline beginning to develop. I quickly discovered through my painting a sense of interconnectedness expressed through my broad brush strokes. More than just in the strokes, but the way that painting informed the physical life of my body.
I began experimenting with the type of music I put on while I painted, and if it had any impact on the work itself. I eventually discovered that by layering elements of musicality as well as physical expression into my painting process.
My storytelling wasn’t just limited to a final product, it could be expressed throughout, from start to finish. I began to create stories in my room, only to find disappointment in a final product that was only the denouement of the entire arc.
I spent the next few years in the city as the Covid-19 pandemic raged on, and if my walls were trying to collapse onto me prior to the pandemic, then during it the weight was unbearable.
In 2022, as the city began to return to normalcy, I produced my first installation of what I’ve described as performance painting at The Tank in Midtown Manhattan. With a sprawling unprimed canvas of 9’ by 8’ laying underneath my feet, I began pushing, flicking, and scrubbing paint into the empty space. The installation lasted approximately 55 minutes, with painting sections intercut by spoken text and hand-built audio scapes. It felt something akin to group mediation. Using the space around us to invoke a sense of interconnectedness. It felt like the right way to paint.
Since being at The Tank, I have had other opportunities to continue exploring this work, and each time the paintings are less prepared, less structured, and embrace a more organic development. My current practice is still heavily focused on the exploration of space as both a concept and an object, and how it is occupied. Space has the natural juxtaposition to personal experience, to the feeling of total catastrophe within this never-ending entity. How big our lives feel versus how small they really are. How can you experience that? How can you express that? I aim to keep exploring those questions through my body, my words, and a lot of paint.
As my practice continues, I am looking to continue to expand this style of performance painting by exploring how milestones in our shared existence influence the physical expression of this form, and to involve other artistic collaborators to step onto the canvas with me.
I am currently developing a piece that would make bringing in other collaborators a reality. The current title of the piece is “The Rage Upstairs”
“The Rage Upstairs” is an interdisciplinary performance painting piece centering around unique experiences of rage and how these experiences contribute to the greater space around us. It aims to give ourselves the means to feel collective rage and make room to experience what is beautiful in our lived moments. Rage has an undeserved negative implication. rage spurs action, rage can motivate, rage can inspire. Rage can create.
My goals for continued development are to lay the foundation for a full installation of “The Rage Upstairs”. This would mean developing the physical vocabulary in relation to covering a canvas. There are currently eight painting sections of this piece titled as follows:
The great scrub
Each of these explores different movements to guide the painting through its development. In between sections text is introduced like previous iterations, and what movement is best used to juxtapose the spoken word and what movement is best to support it will also be a critical part of the development process.
This work is not resource intensive, but it does require a lot of space, which is a difficult commodity to procure in New York. As I continue this artistic development, one element that will be constantly considered is creative solutions to the hurdles most artists face when producing their own work in this city.
Until this project becomes a reality, I will continue my practice through smaller-scale works focusing on grotesque portraiture built around abstract expressionist structures. Perhaps these works will eventually collide.
From one Unestablished Artist to another,