Social Fabric began as a show about “the grid”. In many ways, it’s just that—paintings and works on paper that celebrate patterns, pattern density, and pattern collisions. But as the work progressed I thought more and more about how grids reflect social constructs such as maps, fabrics and product comparison charts. Grids invite comparative thinking—x/y, up/down, good/bad, frightening/comforting, in/out, familiar/unknown—concepts that can pull people, societies, and selves apart. But grids can be viewed holistically as well, and I frequently found my studio time to be a meditation on life as known now and life as it could become. And more importantly, a meditation on who I am now and who I can become.
I have no idea if the work will affect many others this way. How can colors and lines change the way a person thinks and feels? It seems unlikely, but posting pictures of two of the faith and doubt paintings on Instagram got this response: “ . . . the vibration makes me question my assumptions and sort of assumes I should question more . . . it makes me feel like my messes and my issues are all just a part of the works.” This is eerily similar to what I felt creating these pieces.
Here’s a bit of the thought behind the collections of paintings in Social Fabric.
Capitol Hill in Denver (Cap Hill to locals) is Denver’s most dense neighborhood and had historically been the center of Queer life in Colorado. With gentrification and Denver’s growth, that has been changing. The same rainbow pattern forms the base for each of the three Cap Hill paintings, but each painting has overlays that enhance or mute the rainbow.
The nine Colfax paintings are an homage to Piet Mondrian, the Dutch painter whose iconic grids were a force within the modern art movement. For almost 20 years, Mondrian paintings were very similar, but in the last two years of his life he began to innovate. Colfax imagines how Mondrian might have evolved his artistic vocabulary had he lived longer. Once known as the “Wickedest Street in America”, Colfax runs through metro Denver for over 30 miles and is the longest urban street in the United States. Still edgy, Colfax, too, is changing, although in a complex, uneven manner.
faith and doubt
In these paintings I put together patterns that intentionally collide, with colors that usually don’t go together. I painted these while listening to a podcast featuring Richard Rohr, a Franciscan priest who talks about the dangers of dualistic thinking. Rohr believes that life is best lived when “everything belongs”, accepting all parts of the self without hesitation or exception.
Starting with a hand-drawn 6 x 5 grid, 29.x are small color studies (6” x 5” paper with a 3” x 2.5” image) that use five colors, often randomly chosen, that cover 29 of the 30 squares. They are painted following a common algorithm based on prime numbers. I love working with prime numbers. Prime number sequences seem patterned but they are not. I’ve found that incorporating prime number relationships into paintings naturally leads to works that have perceived patterns but with visual surprises. This is an ongoing series, and I complete one, or a few, most days as a morning meditation.
heaven and earth
This painting sums up the exhibition, with soaring colors grounded by an asphalt-like patterned backdrop. It’s my prayer for committing to living a life of non-violence, acceptance, and compassion as best as I can.