What a whirlwind crazy 9 months. I spent the last 9 months creating new work for a duo show with the fantastically talented Naomi Scheck. She asked me if I would be interested in exhibiting my work with her and I jumped at the opportunity. She is without a doubt one of my favorite artists in Colorado. Her work is rich with detail and has a deeply profound poetic quality to it. When we began the planning for this Mammoth undertaking we decided that we would make BIG work, and BIG work is what we made. I decided almost immediately that I would challenge myself to make work unlike any I had made before, to push myself into new directions and not hold back.
During my work on this exhibit, I turned to silk screening, lino-cut, and another process that I accidentally “created” using paint syringes and a resin that acts like a printing process. The process was laborious and took hours upon hours to create each work. The panel that is featured on this entry Se não fosse o samba, is 10 feet by 8 feet in size and took nearly 4 months to complete. Its comprised of dozens upon dozens of layers of silk-screened and lino-cut patterned paper, xerox prints, wrapping paper and magazine material, mixed with paint, resin and glass etching acids to corrode the pigments on magazine paper.
I created nearly a dozen large paintings similar to the one featured here that range in size from 3 feet by 8 to the monster 10 feet by 8 feet. The work was made while listening to a single Samba album Bezerra Da Silva’s master work O Partido Alto do Samba . Each work in this collection is named after a song on that album and the work address many of the social and political issues that Brazilians face , from poverty to racism, Bezerra’s music has provided inspiration for millions.The inspiration for my own work I think it touches on many of the same issues that we here in the United States continue to face. In Bezerra’s song Se não fosse o samba he sings of being beaten up by the police and thrown in jail, only to have the police learn that he doesn’t have a criminal record and the are forced to release him.
As a non-Brazilian I approached this subject matter with a great deal of sensitivity, keeping the context in mind that I am interpreting this culture from my perspective and even lending some visual clues to my audience in the process. While translating the lyrics for this work, I asked a friend living in Florianópolis for help with the lyrics. She translated the lyrics extremely accurately but I not being fluent in Portuguese made changes to her translation. I wrongly assumed that she did not know the translation for the word Bicho (animal/critter) , what I did not know is that the word Bicho is deeply intertwined within Samba culture referring to the illegal gambling game Jogo Do Bicho , with Bicho referring to the person who sells the tickets for the game ( essentially a bookie). In the song Bezerra sings ” if not for samba I might be a bicho” I had listened to the song for months thinking that he was singing that if not for the samba he might be an animal, but really he was singing that Samba kept him out of a life of crime. My misinterpretations of the lyrics are throughout my work and I wholeheartedly accept them and encourage any dialog from those ( please correct me so I can learn more !) . My interpretation of the song is of a man who used Samba music to free himself from poverty and crime, and I saw the character of the Malandro so prevalent in Samba music as a force or social change against social inequality and injustice. I still stand by that interpretation.
Learning a new language has been one of the most fantastic undertakings I have done in my adult life. Not only am I learning a new language I am learning about myself, my cultural and racial bias and my learning how to move beyond those bias. When I work I like to teach myself new skills and new ideas while I am making my work, I don’t have any pretense of being the master of my art form, or the cringe worthy phrase ” when I am famous” I just want to make work and communicate with others. I love learning. During this process I have been teaching myself, a new language, about a culture I am somewhat unfamiliar with, printing making, painting, and more importantly how to communicate all of these complex ideas to others with my work. This exhibit will be up and running until the 17th of October 2015 here in Denver, Colorado I do hope that you take the time to come our to Helikon Gallery and have a look at my work and Naomi’s work as well. If you have any questions or would like to discuss this work with either me or Naomi please contact me and I will be happy to answer, comment , read or listen to any questions, comments or heuristics.