My exploration of this work began after I spent time observing prehistoric figurines at the Birmingham Museum of Art. As an art history major in college I remembered learning that the intentions of prehistoric artists is unknown for certain, but it is assumed that one purpose of ancient art was to act as a sacred object of spiritual power, possibly used in ritual. I tried to imagine how an artist today, given the vast cultural differences between then and now, would approach a similar intention. This curiosity gave rise to my Without a Net series.
In short, if I were to imbue an object with a sort of non-material power, I supposed that I’d start with the only thing I knew I could possibly have power over: my own mind and actions. From there it seemed obvious, since I am human, that my mental and behavioral ground could use a little sweeping, and the idea grew into a thrilling prospect: that through my art I could become more conscious of myself, more effective at making change, and more accepting of how things are.
I’ve no way to exactly emulate ancient humans in their art-making rituals. I know that because the ancients were more connected with nature we sometimes romanticize their spirituality and see it as more intuitive, pure, and evolved. Maybe it was. But I’m not ancient, (exactly) so with a wide-open acceptance of the very interesting culture I presently live in, I decided to investigate a current and individual take on the ancient pursuit of making art as a power object.
I chose oil paints as the medium of expression for the project because I’m a painter and have been at it for a long time. Contemporary trends in art encompass literally any medium and method of communication, and often lean toward the digital and technological. While all art forms are valid, I found that oil painting particularly lends itself to my task. It is ancient, and involves a concentrated focus on a developed manual skill. The act of rendering an object by hand moves the mind from the analytical to the contemplative, and into a place where intuition and mystery reign. I was grateful to be a long-trained craftsman with enough experience to trust that painting would be an adequate vehicle for my journey.
The above image is a detail from an urn in the Pre-Columbian Art collection of the Birmingham Museum of Art and represents Cosijo, the God of Rain, of the ancient Zapotec people. Learn more about Cosijo.