Foretelling the Past, Part II
By Tom Wachunas
“All paintings start out of a mood, out of a relationship with things or people, out of a complete visual impression. To call this expression abstract seems to me often to confuse the issue. Abstract means literally to draw from or separate. In this sense every artist is abstract . . . a realistic or non-objective approach makes no difference. The result is what counts.” - Richard Diebenkorn
UPCOMING EXHIBIT – SAVE THE DATE PLEASE !! – Altared States, a solo exhibit of my work at The Little Art Gallery, on view July 19 – August 19, 2018 / located in the North Canton Public Library, 185 North Main Street, North Canton, Ohio / Opening reception on Thursday, July 19, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
Poet W.H.Auden once said, “We were put on this earth to make things.” Make of that what you will. As for me, today I made a fire.
I burned six failed experiments from around 10 years ago. They were to me wholly forgettable artworks, mute distractions gathering cobwebs in the cellar, ugly things, really. Not that everything else I’ve saved over the years is in some way beautiful, certainly, but these particular aberrations merited immediate extinction. A necessary purging. I can’t remember what I was attempting to do or say when I made them. So I decided to spare any fellow humans the discomfort of looking at them, or the unenviable and otherwise lugubrious task of answering me if I were to pursue the old wha–da-ya think? gambit. Careful what you wish for, eh?
That said, there are several much older pieces – specifically from my years in New York – that I thought still worthy of being seen in my upcoming exhibit. They’re chapters in a pictorial autobiography, or abstract analogs to the people, places, and events in my then everyday living. What startled me most when I re-discovered these small paintings was the vast difference in aura, or spirit, not to mention paint handling, between the gouache studies (pictured above, from top down: Open Invitation, In the Pink, Detour ) and the acrylic paintings on un-stretched scraps of linen (Apathy, What I Did To Her, and Omen), which were among the very last pieces I made before leaving New York at the close of 1991.
The gouaches were made between 1981 and 1982, much of their imagery inspired by honeymoon camping in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York. There’s optimism, a sense of promise, maybe even an air of mystery, but usually nothing too ominous. Even that red snake in the road of Detour seemed more whimsical than threatening to me.
But by 1990-91, my life had become a hopelessly tangled mess. Apathy is a self-portrait of a divorced, homeless drunk. What I Did To Her is also a portrait - a jarring meditation on the wreckage I caused in the life of the woman I married in 1981. Art as a form of confession.
In retrospect, I see the auratic darkness of those end-of-New York paintings as harbingers of an equally if not more rueful period to follow. The 1990s were years as devoid of sane thinking as they were saturated with cheap vodka. In any case, I made no art again until 2000.
I neither regret my past, nor wish to completely shut the door on it. After all, it’s what got me here. Now. And at the moment, there’s no place I’d rather be.
There will be ample evidence of my Ohio output in Altared States, including several brand new pieces, which I’ll be addressing more at length here after the show opens. For now, suffice it to say that the Ohio stuff is also of a confessional nature. But these Ohio “altarations” are not the doleful rants of a broken soul. They are in fact declarations of an ongoing catharsis, a series of discoveries and transformations. Stay tuned.
Now that the opening of the exhibit is only a few weeks off, I’m not ashamed to tell you that I’m thoroughly in the thrall of giddy anticipation, very much like the proverbial anxious kid on Christmas Eve. I can hardly wait to get your gift of…looking.
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