3/21/18 - Remembering, Reflecting, Rewriting
It’s been more than a year since my cross-country bicycle journey came to an end. I still remember waking up for the last time in Joshua Tree National Park. Covered in a blanket of gray clouds, the sun was not there to greet us like she usually was. It was by far the dreariest day I had seen in my month of staying in the park, a sign that our plan to leave that day was the right choice.
Vinny and I crawled up off the ground and sleepily started packing up. When the first few rain drops fell, we started moving much more quickly. Driving out of the park for the last time was an emotional experience that the heavy wind and rain emphasized quite nicely in a sad sort of way. Our 2.5 day drive to Austin, Texas had begun. From there, Vinny would travel South to Mexico and I would fly home to Massachusetts.
I was truly excited at the time, I had accomplished what I set out to do and the most rational thing next was to go home and process everything that had occurred. At the point of walking through my front door for the first time in 7 months, everything I had seen and done on my journey was such a blur, a long strip of film balled up and stuffed in a box in a drawer in a desk in my head. But now, more and more, I can simply close my eyes and find myself reliving all the little moments of my trip in great detail: the feeling of crossing into New York realizing I wouldn’t be back in Massachusetts for a long time; rolling over the hills lined with corn in Illinois and Iowa; the subtle shifts in the landscape once I entered South Dakota; the moment I saw the Pacific Ocean in Oregon and all the miles I rode next to that great expanse of blue all the way down to SoCal. I’m still transported when I listen to music I heard on the seat of my bike and just the smell of peanut butter brings me back inside my tent where I ate many sandwiches topped with m&m’s or trail mix.
It’s almost eerie in a way to be able to jump back in time with such clarity by a sound or smell or simple thought. I can understand how soldiers coming back from war find it difficult or impossible to return to civilian life. At least my trip was a positive experience. And its positive effects on my life seem to be getting clearer and clearer. Since I’ve been home, all I’ve been doing with my time is making art. Lots of images just came out of me as I was trying to get back in the habit of drawing and learning how to use watercolor. I just wanted to make pictures. But now, a year into making art full time and rewriting my artist’s statement for maybe the fourth time, I finally see how much that bike trip has influenced my life and how much of painting is processing the memories and emotions experienced on that ride.
It’s hard to remember what life was like before I left for the West coast, it really is. My life was a certain way for so long and having such an intense experience makes me feel like a different person now. Maybe it’s just that some part of me is more alive. After graduating college I did not have the same dedication to studio time as I did when I was a student. In fact, I felt devoid of all ideas, direction, and inspiration, lost in the act of “trying to make a living” through an unsatisfying job. After a few years, I didn’t quite know what I wanted, I just knew I didn’t want what I had. And so began the planning for the trip of a lifetime. I pulled a U-turn on the dead end road I was driving down; or maybe I just parked the car and left in the opposite direction on my bike.
All I know now is the act of making art is an attempt to portray the power of the journey, the spiritual evolution that can occur in a person when they give in to the unknown and allow it to guide them. Without my cross-country ride, I don’t think my life would be the way it is now, pursuing a career in art, full of fire and inspiration, a healthy relationship with myself and a wonderful relationship with a man I love that’s been blossoming almost since I came home. A lot of great things can happen when we make the changes we feel are necessary in our lives. However, a lot of tension and anxiety can build and consume us if we don’t go after the things our heart truly wants. You might not know what you want but, acknowledging you have something you don’t want can be the first step of a new and exciting journey.
What follows is the latest concoction of words I’ve used to describe my intentions in making the art that I am making, thanks for reading:
A journey begins with a conscious decision to stray from the path that we tread every day, a willingness to encounter the unknown and allow it to guide us in hopes of discovering a better understanding of life and ourselves. I once felt trapped by the decisions I had made and in trying to work my way out, everything changed. Life seemed to unfold before me in ways I had never experienced or imagined possible and I portray the feeling of liberation and continuous mystery of life in my art.
My paintings depict figures wandering through dramatic and colorful landscapes often pulled from my imagination based on memories and emotions felt on my own journey. The inhabitants of my images are often a smaller part of the composition which gives the environment it’s own presence and power over the figure. Humans aren’t as dominant in the world as we like to believe, there are forces much greater than us and we can see evidence of that in all the diverse and dynamic landscapes Mother Nature has shaped.
I want the viewer to feel small, like standing on top of a mountain or at the roots of a mighty redwood; the same feeling you have in your gut when you realize you’ve never been so far away from home and suddenly you get a sense of your scale: a tiny spec, untethered, roaming across a world that, by chance, came to be and has existed for what seems like an infinite amount of time and will outlive us for even longer.