I consider myself a painter, though I use many different materials in my work. My MFA is in photography but I never actually thought of myself as a photographer. The photographic image was the skeleton of my work. I had a hard time keeping my hands off the image. I had to touch it, manipulate it, paint on it, erase parts and then draw back into them. My photographs looked like paintings, and now as a painter people tell me I paint with a photographer’s eye. I think what they mean by this is that I work with and am aware of the edges of the frame or canvas. This is where tension and poetry are created.
My latest body of work is called HUMAN STEPS. This is an ongoing series I have been working on for a year and a half. Currently, there are paintings and digital images but eventually there will be video components and an installation as well.
HUMAN: adjective, have, or relating, to characteristics of people. STEPS: noun, plural, the act of putting one foot in front of the other.
HUMAN STEPS is a dialog, which references the many disparate elements encountered in daily urban life – a metaphor for the way in which dark affects light and vice versa, how the sweet can become sickly if overdone and how close proximity to millions of people, diverse cultures and visual images can both inspire and overwhelm. It is a metaphor for tight quarters, pleasant or not so pleasant meetings and vibrant energy of the city in contrast to shadowy and emotionally difficult places.
For HUMAN STEPS, I use what most people consider garbage as a jumping off place in the work. The materials at one point might have been utilitarian, but were never considered beautiful. The hard, shiny, plastic surfaces often synonymous to commercial objects would never pass inspection as such. Dirt falls onto the canvases, scratches, cracks, marks occur and there are no straight lines, only the illusion of such. Through the act of turning detritus into “works of art”, or elevating the prestige of garbage, I aim to question the status quo of beauty, worthiness and usability.
Has my style changed over the years?
This year, I completely moved out of a house I was living in for a while. In doing so, I uncovered some of my photographic work from 1992. I was so intrigued when I saw them and what I had been working with at the time. Garbage! I was photographing cardboard, old window shades, hardware parts-junk really. The photographs looked like abstract paintings. So it seems my interest in materials has remained fairly consistent.
Themes continue to reoccur as well.
I am intrigued with seduction – seduction through colour, sensual line, materials- and with irony or contrast – that moment when the viewer realizes they are looking at garbage, but isn’t it beautiful garbage!
When I was living in San Francisco, I painted with sludge- the waste that sank to the bottom of the jar of turpentine where I cleaned my brushes. At one point I literally had a sludge farm. Jars and jars. The stuff just grows. So I began to experiment. I would layer these beautiful transparent pigments over the sludge like a protective skin. Through the layers, colors would arrive on their own, When complete the texture of the sludge, the way it cracked or lumped up was still very apparent, yet the skin was seductive and held two opposing ideas together in one place- inside/outside, beauty/waste, seduction/repulsion.
In the end, I think everyone brings his or her own experience to my work. I encourage that. I don’t want my art to be an absolute. It is too limiting. I want my work to spark dialog, intrigue or visceral experience.
1029 W. 35TH STREET
CHICAGO, IL 60609
Information on each of Connie’s featured images, including media used, here: http://community.livejournal.com/chaos_zine/7788.html