I believe part of my growth process as an artist is reflecting on my process and my work. At least, this is what I tell myself on the days when I can’t find the motivation or insight to paint. If I am internalizing the process and reflecting on my work, then at least I am still dedicating time to art even if I am not actively creating work at that moment.
Internalizing my process up to this point is really trying to understand my own work and what I am driven to create. I have been at peace thus far to say, “I paint my memories.” I have asserted previously that my memory seems to work differently than other people’s memories. When I return to memories, I am returning to washes of color layered on textures with swirls of paint bubbling up from my emotional recollections and spreading over the contextual landscapes of my history with varying degrees of opacity shading the present translucent perception of my reality. When people view a piece of abstract art and seek to attach meaning to it, often they turn to the artist to ask about the process, influence, or inspiration of a piece. An artist can speak to the meaning of a work in the title to clarify the message they wish to convey. In their artist statement an artist can address their recursive process, list their artistic influences, or cite ideology they find fascinating which bears a presence in their work. As I am evolving as an artist, I have arrived at a point of wanting to pin my artwork into a specific artistic space. The English teacher in me is driven to classify, define, and expound on thoughts and experiences. The artist in me wants to know where my work falls in the context of other artists, not to be comparative but to belong to a community upon which I can draw wisdom to continue to evolve as an artist.
I have learned to name the specific techniques and mediums I use to create my art. I know that my work lays somewhere among the heap of abstract art; however, I feel that is so wide a population that I still find myself alone in a crowded room. As I have sought to narrow the funnel for myself, I keep coming back to Abstract Expressionism. I embrace and find inspiration in the likes of Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, and Mark Rothko. However, when I pick up a brush I don’t feel driven by the same chaotic voices present in Pollock’s or de Kooning’s Abstract Expressionism nor am I boxed in like Rothko’s color fields. The term Abstract Expressionism feels like a small rough pebble in the toe of my shoe. My hands seem to be guided by the voices of my emotional subconsciousness allowing me to paint so that I can process my own emotions—true art therapy—a way of expressing my soul without the need to be representational. At times those voices are chaotic chants, but they are more than that too: violent screams, nagging fears, gentle whispers, and others.
When I began painting, I believed I created from similar place as others and if I grounded myself in that artistic community I would enter a world of shared experiences. However, the more I have studied in the past few months about other artists, the more alone I have felt. In reading the works and words of other artists and in seeking out their feedback on my own work, I am learning how vastly different I am in my experience. The past few weeks I have been reaching for a term for myself. If I were a Google search, what would I be? Turning words over in my head, at times even turning to Google. Thumbing through my thesaurus. I get further and further away from Abstract Expressionism and feel I am wandering into a land of Abstract Emotionalism. I’ve been on that one for nearly a week now.
In the tiny hours of morning dark, I chanced Googling “Abstract Emotionalism” and guess what I found! A kindred spirit! Richard Grieco of all people. As written on his site:
The description seems to fit me better than anything else I have managed to put my finger on or is that only because it is a description written by the artist himself? Am I projecting my own psychological needs on the writings of another artist and only “hearing” what I want to “hear” so that I can feel like I belong somewhere?
But is this “Abstract Emotionalism” just a misnomer for “Lyrical Abstraction?” What is the implied relationship between “Emotionalism” of the early 1900’s and “Abstract Emotionalism?” Is “Abstract Impressionism” something I should be grappling with? With such a hazy and cluttered field of abstract art, Abstract Expressionism, Abstract Impressionism, Lyrical Abstraction, Abstract Emotionalism, and seemingly countless others do such distinctions even matter beyond the artists themselves splitting hairs about what predecessors with whom they want to be associated?
I don’t know.
I do know that at the end of all these blogs, I end up having more questions than when I started. I started this particular entry excited because after months of searching, I felt like I had an answer. But having that answer and beginning to conjecture at the meaning of that answer has just led me in a circle of, “Do you really have the answer?” and “Does the answer even matter?” Frankly, I need a mentor!