11/15/2007: "Should We "Paint What We Know"?"
Awhile ago a collector sold a few of my paintings because she wanted to be surrounded by images that were more representative of her hopes and dreams (of a man and possibly children) and the images of solitary women were not the best way to visualize that desired future.
At the time I was hurt and disappointed in her decision even though I could sort of understand it.
Then a couple weekends ago I decided to take down the three Hedwig and the Angry Inch paintings that had been hanging in my bedroom for a similar reason. They are images of the intense pain born out of unrequited love. I used to identify with these images so strongly, and though my memories of those feelings are still strong, I don’t want to fixate on them any more. Maybe one day I’ll get dumped and have to unceremoniously drag them back out of the closet…but I hope not.
Today I ordered 20 canvases online, ranging in size from 16”x20 to 30”x40”. I’m feeling the intense need to start painting again. The problem is that I’m not sure where to begin. This is an age-old problem for me. I now have (at least I think I do) a somewhat original “voice” but I’m no longer confident that my work is still representative of “me”.
At my last show (I shit you not) a woman came up to me and asked me why all the women in the paintings were “thin”. The women in the paintings weren’t *that* thin, and I felt like it was a critique on me…I wonder if she would have asked that if the artist had been skinny too? I felt like she was saying “Why don’t you paint fatties like yourself”…ok, I’m maybe reading too much into this but…why is there this notion that we have to “paint what we know” so damn much? Or that our work has to be reflective of some aspect of our inner lives? Is that the most important thing? Can’t it just be about making a painting that makes me feel good because the forms and colors work well together? Or is that a total cop out?
I don’t know, honestly I’m confused. But I look to the Boneman, who paints constantly, everything around him without so many existential breakdowns. At the end of the day, he painted. Which is more than I can say as of late.