for your consideration and mine

Repost of this set of goals. The older post has gotten infected by some spam engine of doom.

Some more goals:

A drawing that throbs with its own reckoning, Tell-Tale-Heart-style.

A drawing that breathes through its teeth, makes bad jokes and laughs at itself. That apologizes too often and second-guesses its intentions. Its lines are halting and unsure. It smells like milk and garlic.

A drawing that chops the water into black diamonds edged in gray. The color only comes if coaxed. It slides in on glass-smooth chips and takes its place between austere facets. It is a stifled giggle, a shred of music escaping the window of a passing car.

A drawing that shops at thrift stores and wears pants that I’m pretty sure are out of style. It might have a hole in the big toe of its sock. It might have a stye in its eye.

A drawing that just sits on its ass in a museum.

A drawing that rumbles like thunder, rimmed with trembling light and shivering in the sudden cold. Rivulets, downpours, wash-outs, sinkholes.

A drawing that tries to keep what has been lost—a lock of hair flattened along with its ribbon in an old book. It is preciously sentimental and adoringly useless. A voiceless specimen for an unnamed audience.

A drawing that offers a nauseatingly off-kilter missed-beat, back-beat, back-alley, skip-time record scratch. All the weight is thrown into the wrong corners. The open space is begging for a mark of any kind, sighing in its blankness, aching for new language—a pale steady hum held against the scratchiness of static.

A drawing that gets swallowed up by the earth when it opens up, finally. Rich loam and dark fragrance. Unopened seeds and insect eggs. Wandering roots like hair.

A drawing that makes it all okay—modern lines and mechanical curves. Everything has a place and everything in its place. A yoga topknot. Clean sheets. The right wine. Cute kids. Health insurance. A kitchen garden and herbs in a window box.

A drawing that tastes infinity at the edge of restless sleep and dives under the deep water with abandon bordering on recklessness. Impossibly indigo, beautifully black, Solaris’ circular windows. A swan dive, a breaststroke, a cruciform opening out and in at once.

(bonus image: a beautifully crowded Persian miniature)

The Eye Travels Along the Paths Cut Out (Blue-Orange)


What a fun experience it was to collaborate with Nicholas Strobelt a couple weeks ago at Strange Coupling– an annual collaborative project between University of Washington seniors and graduate students with local working artists. Nick is a senior in Photomedia, with boundless energy and smarts. He’s been making photos like this (these are from a series called Self-Tracing):

nick_strobelt2 wat


I love how his photos are both austere and playful, messing with perception and the thin line between flatness and a sense of depth. I especially enjoy his photos where the devices are laid bare (say, the threading at the end of the mop handle used as a leg of a trapezoid and an imagined triangle.) My current obsession, though it has been rolling out in folded paper, drawing and painting, has been geometry. For years, I’ve been using it, and now my mind is trained on it as a subject for more focused contemplation. I’ve been looking at and reading and thinking about the ways that geometry has been a philosophical and even theological/spiritual tool for centuries. Nick and I enfolded our mutual interest in geometry, and my current teaching in color theory, to make an interactive stage of slowly shifting color fields. People were invited to come aboard and watch their shadows shift from teal to magenta, from green to gray to white. One of my favorite sections of the piece was the “box of light” where we positioned a pedestal on a cinder block to catch in its void a shifting color field abstraction. It was an ideal abstraction until you moved a little closer and the shadows of flyaway hairs or the crescent of your ear would invade. To me, it became a picture of our modernist ideas of perfection being dirtied up by the less-than-ideal figures of life lived in real spaces. And, of course, I find those less-than-ideal parts the most compelling, when it comes down to it.


IMG_2784 IMG_2783 IMG_2782
IMG_2773 IMG_2771 IMG_2769


Flowering Fossil Bed


The name of the show “The Ether and the Mantle,” my last solo show at G.Gibson Gallery, was an imagined love affair between elements of the air and elements of the earth, a picture of the magnetism and wooing and coupling that has everything and nothing to do with human lovemaking. Here is my short statement from the show:

The work in “The Ether and the Mantle” can be read as a series of love poems between elements in the earth and those in the air. The timely meetings of these elements on Earth is a crucial part of the story of our genesis as living creatures. Inspired by recent work with a biochemist, and in the spirit of previous bodies of work, in which I have anthropomorphized mountains, water, rocks and air, I have both seriously and playfully engaged with the tumultuous history of life on a chemical/geological level. It is a story of catastrophe and exchange, morphing structures and unlocking of elements in their time, repulsion, attraction and harmony.


Flowering Fossil Bed (Gala Bent 2013)


This piece above, “Flowering Fossil Bed,” was the largest piece in the show, and I thought of it as a sort of honeymoon bed. Rocks bloom and flowers crystallize. Hope and future-love hold tenuous sway. Do you know the feeling of weddings? Joy and melancholy and hope and small talk. Awkward dancing, public cake shoving, lights and flowers and aisles and old friendships. Heartbreak and mourning and laughter and boredom. The earth is so full of all of it.

(detail of Flowering Fossil Bed– Gala Bent 2013)

Tal R

Every artwork should have a certain “hand” that reaches out for the audience, but the physical experience is completely beyond what you can explain on the phone. You can almost explain Donald Judd or Bruce Nauman over the phone. But when you see the pieces, they work on you in a different way. I want there to be normal things in my paintings that everybody can pick up, but when you stand in front of them you get insecure about what you’re watching. It’s like getting the viewer to the dance floor with a very cheesy pop song. If you ask people, they won’t admit that they like the song, but when they hear it, they move. Or like when you put french fries on the table. People will say, “No, I don’t like french fries.” But then everybody’s picking at the french fries. That’s how the painting should work. –Tal R

Tal R “Cousins”


“But I always think the best way to know God is to love many things.” (V.VanGogh)

Another opening or a tear. (An opening is designed to gape, while a tear is a minor tragedy.) The life that we longed for sags with the weight of its own losses. It’s a sling of paper, wet until it gives. And here we are, after all, breathers on this side of death, with meaty arms and quiet shoulders where the wind blows in the evening and street lights make oases between gravelly dirt. The street lights make the night more alien, but you take my hand in yours. And the cars growl by, and the planes blink silently far above, just like rhythmic planets, just like punctuated shooting stars. You are my beau, you know, and there will never be another. The traveller that sides with me. Under our feet is grass and under the grass is dirt, where worms and untold hordes of insects march their dignified lives on. A slug is a friend and he is part of me and is my other. When he mates, his sliminess flanges out into a wide petalled flower. He is as beautiful as any one of us and more because of his direct actions. He trails the sea with him. His skin is the carrying of the sea. Let me carry the sea with me– the salty water of my blood is enough. Come swim in me as I swim in you. The ocean is the most foreign thing I know and everything that holds me.

There is so much going on…

I was a painter in the Midwest in the early 2000s. I listened to gritty music in gritty venues, and made work that was a study in browns, rubbed and stained and scratched back. Looking at the wide expanses of empty farm fields during the long winters, observed, as they were, by a high gray sky, and bordered by thin leafless tree-lines, I painted big dirty landscapes with seeds under the surface. I painted ripples and riffles in the sky– diagrams and flocks of harmonizing birds. Among other things. But at that moment, right after graduate school, color was a secondary concern. Zack and I were married, then, without children, and we took a vacation trip to San Francisco. There, I was totally romanced– swept off my feet– by the brash use of color. I saw lots of things, but especially memorable was a show by Chris Johanson:

Chris Johanson
Chris Johanson

From that trip on, I have not left color behind. I’m rereading Kandinsky’s “Concerning the Spiritual in Art,” in which he declares,

“Color directly influences the soul. Color is the keyboard, the eyes are the hammers, the soul is the piano with many strings. The artist is the hand that plays, touching one key or another purposively, to cause vibrations in the soul.”

There is So Much Going On (Gala Bent 2013)
(Over) Reactive Volcano (Gala Bent 2013)

Kandinsky’s view of color and especially synesthesia are idiosyncratic, but I completely relate to that sensitivity. Color has such a pull on me that it is almost ecstatic sometimes, almost nauseating other times. Color is, to put it dramatically, one of my favorite things on earth. But those two paintings above… those were, if you can believe this, a big leap. I’m in the Northwest, after all, not the relatively-speaking sunny coast cities of California, where houses are painted pink or teal on every block. For the last few years, I’ve been inviting color into my paintings in discreet geometries stretched over neutral washes, conjoining vivid hues to staid gray graphite, keeping color in its place. So. These strong handed greens and pinks were a departure for me, and a really satisfying one.

Catch up look ahead

I was scrolling back through last year’s posts and realize that the holidays and whatever-else bowled me right through the year-change and the last solo show without a reflection here on my blog. As I find myself elbow deep in a new set of pieces, it’s helpful to look back and see what happened in “The Ether and the Mantle,” which was shown at G.Gibson Gallery last Fall. I’m going to devote some time to looking at some of the work that has what I think of as the loose threads that I’d like to pick up and continue weaving.

Matter Mirror (2013) Gala Bent

This piece had its first incarnation as part of an installed set of drawings at Vignettes; the show was a visual response to the poetry of Heather Christle. I chose Aqualung:

what I like      likes me back     I like the sky     and

information     I walk around     everything bounces

off the world and sticks to me     and it is called a

system     the red light on my chest     is a symptom

of I am about to be shot     or else I am going to

be mentioned     in a short presentation on love

and deep misgivings     like how today I was

exploring     the pink coral reef     my body slipped

out     and stood beside me     we could not see each

other     and assembled our two visions into one

the world was different     because it looked

different     and it still likes us     but we don’t like it


I especially loved the body double aspect of this poem, and its wry humor (an element in a lot of Heather Christle’s poetry). For years, I have been thinking about reflections, echoes and mirrors. So much of the symmetry of the world is a bounce-back, an endless recording with variations. Having been at the chemical level lately as I learn about biochemical actions and reactions, it has become apparent that the act of mirroring and recording is ridiculously central to life, especially at that scale. But then the small adjustments and accidents and body doubles of the chemical world are the shifts that cause the astounding variety we see in the natural world. Practicing this process as I draw and paint– echoing but allowing variations to spin out, is a satisfying meditation. It makes sense to me in a very visceral way that my intuitive attraction to geometries that spin inside and out of looser forms is a formal portrait of the mathematical connections of atomic charge. (And, again, in my studio it is not an accurate or pragmatic illustration of these forces, but a lyrical response to them). There are webs of geometric electrical arrangements that hold our bodies and matter itself together. Mind blowing.