Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Altered Border States

Altered Border States, 2009. 16"x5.25" watercolor
You may recognize the hill on the right from Ms. Moments of Clarity's post. She's very prolific, so it was a long time ago that she put it up.

This continues my series on marks and signs found in my environment. In this case, an ominous [literal] sign—courtesy of the Parks Department— completely transformed my sense of the landscape in front of me that day. The innocent landscape was instantly a place of unease. And yet, the sign was also intrinsically ridiculous.

In preparing for the painting, I was stitching images in Photoshop, and realized that each layer I added obscured something below in the previous. So, my obscured images might include armies of "illegals," and you would never know. Just as I couldn't know, as I stood there painting plein air, if there was a band of drug smugglers camped on the back side of that hill in front of me. And I realized that the stitched image had become a metaphor for my experience of the altered landscape: it became disjointed, a landscape reframed as something else, something alien.

It is a part of this series that I reproduce something in the landscape that is already a man-made mark. These marks are art in its most basic form: artifice, for the purpose of expressing communication. So, the series is about making a mark about an encounter with another mark. But, the medium (pretty traditional watercolor) is used to signify the traditions of fine art and the art industry: my expressions of other's signs, images and scribbles found in passing through the world, becomes—not without irony—art "for the gallery."

12 comments:

silvina said...

Did you ever see David Hockney's photographic collage of a desert road called Pearblossom Hwy.? Your style here reminds me of that work somehow. In Hockney's landscape he has included road signs and even litter on the side of the road. It's no innocent landscape, but I like it. I like that you added the sign in yours too!

TSL said...

You and Melinda painting anywhere near where drug smugglers may be makes me nervous as heck. Having written that and it is all behind you, I am glad you both had the experience and the lovely work to show for it, and makes for a great story.

Melinda said...

Wow. Silvina is so insightful. She's described perfectly the similarities of your watercolor to David Hockney's collage!

You've done an excellent job with this piece. Keep pushing the boundaries while we stay safely at home in El Fuerte.

bob cornelis said...

Interesting concept for a series - marks of marks. I like it. And then there's the way you've layered the images and related that to an aspect of the scene. All of this gives the viewer a lot to think about when looking at the work.

It's nice to see it with your commentary so that you can point us at these concepts. I wonder how many people who look at artwork have no idea of the hidden layers of meaning going on in the artist's mind?

Sometimes I guess it's apparent, other times more subtle and in need of explanation.

Edgar said...

Silvina— Yes! I remember Hockney's collage, now that you mention it. That's the effect that I'm using here, for other purposes.

TSL—That's the thing: we saw some hunters and other people, but no drug mules and AK-47s. Maybe they were taking the day off. Or maybe they weren't within miles of the spot. The sign is there all the time. The people aren't.

Melinda— Let's stay safe... but I'm going to run out of material really fast if we have to stay home.

Bob— I, for one, often feel in the dark about the layers of meaning in art.
I'm torn about artist's statements: on the one hand, we were admonished by instructors in graphic design class not to "talk our comps" (that is, explain them... they were supposed to 'sell' themselves). In art class too, my instructors disdained artists' statements (and even titles.) But, where else in life are we expected to draw meaning from so little information? Doesn't everything and everyone have a story worth telling, which enriches and deepens our appreciation? I would hate to have people draw conclusions about me with only a first glance... they might draw the wrong ones. And I love titles -- they make every piece into a multimedia event.

Barbara M. said...

Hi Edgar,

I love the painting. Did you paint the feeling of collage, or is this a collage? To me the painting says that nature triumphs over our attempts to control what people think. I could encounter smugglers or illegal immigrants every time I go to buy milk. This city is filled with both -- and yet oddly enough relatively safe.

In the midst of the turmoil a sign in the park today read "Dogs who dig holes must have their owners pick up after them." That made me
laugh.

Take care,

Barbara

Karen said...

I think it's incredibly interesting to work on these landscapes with something man-made in them...a mark like that sign, that once put there, now somehow is a real part of that very landscape.
I also like the collage aspect of this a lot, that it calls my attention back to the paper on which the illusion was made.


p.s I never really knew what to say about that interview you wrote, but did want to say that it was very thought-provoking, and I've thought of different parts of it many times since you posted it.

Karen said...

I think it's incredibly interesting to work on these landscapes with something man-made in them...a mark like that sign, that once put there, now somehow is a real part of that very landscape.
I also like the collage aspect of this a lot, that it calls my attention back to the paper on which the illusion was made.


p.s I never really knew what to say about that interview you wrote, but did want to say that it was very thought-provoking, and I've thought of different parts of it many times since you posted it.

Edgar said...

Barbara— Illegals are pretty harmless, normally, but the black market here has spiral so high, that they are now very desperate.

The smugglers are our own fault: it's the so-called war on drugs. I remember hearing about the cigarette smugglers in Canada exchanging automatic gunfire as they crossed the Hudson. Make something valuable enough, and people will happily kill over it.

Your dog sign made me laugh! I can just imagine the dogs requiring their owners to clean up. Very Anglophilic phrasing.

Edgar said...

Barbara— The collage effect is just painted. It's part of the artificiality of the image that I'm building into the concept.

Edgar said...

Karen— Yes, it's my natural aesthetic instinct to edit the man-made objects out of my compositions. It's an act of will to look for a means to leave them in.

Thanks for seeing the collage-to-artifact connection.

p.s. me, too. Maurice did me a great service.

Marian Fortunati said...

Edgar...
I've seen your comments on other blogs so I know you're alive and well...

So get off the pot.... Give us something deep to think about again from YOUR blog!!!