Things that were unrealized due to lack of funds, space, time, interest.
That about covers all unrealized things in general, and last year saw a big uptick in the Unrealized Things index. I took this quote from a typed document, “Project List 1990-91,” left in our shared studio by my late studio-mate/mentor, Drake Deknatel, when he died in 2005. I later hung it on the wall in my subsequent studio, and I look at it frequently. I think of it as a kind of shrine to unfinished projects, a testament to all the ideas we leave behind that never materialize. It had always struck me as funny, too: I mean, lack of funds is a chronic problem for most of us, space can be an issue, time is in short supply for nearly everyone—but interest? If he’d lost interest in these projects back in the 1970’s, say, why was it on the list to pick them back up again in 1990 or 1991? It only occurred to me very recently, after 15 years of staring at this list, that he might have meant other people’s interest. The interested people or entities who might provide the funds, space, and, indirectly, the time, to realize these things.
My own Project List for 2020 included: Reassess the role of fabric in my painting, which means reassessing how I paint, and Finding the Next Big Thing. By which I meant things like subject matter and the shape and size of the canvas. I had left unquestioned the assumption that I would remain a figurative painter.
It didn’t quite work out that way. I did make some new paintings, even had a show of them, and started a few more. With a global pandemic, civil unrest, a racial reckoning, impending autocracy, and general madness floating about, following the project list from the beginning of the year made less and less intuitive sense. Why continue to satirize the American Dream while it’s imploding? Are we moving forwards or backwards in its pursuit? I’m a narrative painter, sure, but not one who reacts to immediate “iss-yoos:” I try to take in a longer view, and a wider one, to understand what stories I want to tell; I like my art (and the art I look at) to have a longer shelf-life.
Funds, space, time, interest: We are always balancing that equation, but this year the four were in constant flux and the math especially tricky. However, out of the flux emerged opportunities to create some things that I didn’t plan on, things I had always wanted to explore but had never made the list because they weren’t my “real” work.
Some building owners of my acquaintance had an empty space (a lot of those these days) and were willing to spend some funds, so I proposed a window installation for them. I took some time—which there is never going to be enough of—to revisit and explore ideas I’d never let myself spend this much time on before because they weren’t painting, i.e., my “real” work. It could be called a “departure,” because at first glance it bears little resemblance to the work I’ve been doing for thirty years, particularly if you like your categories neat. I think of it more as an arrival.
Things That Were Unrealized Due to Lack of Funds, Space, Time, Interest is installed at West Edge, 1430 2nd Avenue, visible from the street 24/7, best viewed in daylight or early evening.