I was invited by the Arvada Center for the Arts in late January to participate in an exhibit of paper art work. As soon as I was invited I knew that I wanted to make a massive collage work to communicate the intense emotions of the 2016 election and our current state of affairs in our country. I typically work alone in my studio, but for this project because of the scale of the work I needed to enlist the help of friends and family to help with the construction of the panels and the production of the work. My friend Joshua Ware was a tremendous help in assembling the panels and providing a much needed set of eyes to prepare the work. He and I spent an entire day working at the studio sawing, hammering, drilling to prepare the panels. My nephew Clark Patterson came by and photographed us to document the process of creating the 8 five foot square panels.
Once the panels were created I began the process of creating the work. Carving linocut blocks for printing of paper that would be used in the work. Researching and acquiring images and materials to be used in the work itself. Many aspects of the work changed as the work progressed, my initial idea for the work was to have the work about labor rights and labor struggles of the Colorado farmers in the 1930’s. However, as I was working I was re-reading the book Society of the Spectacle by Guy Debord, the book opened up a laundry list of questions that I had about mass media, social media and our place within the “mediasphere”. Where does the mass media end and where do I begin ? How is social media influencing or reinforcing my bias ? Am I truly communicating with social media and the internet ? Am I just tool for the powers that be to fulfill some agenda ? what is truth in the post truth era ? are we destroying ourselves with our endless thirst for information ? I decided to take all or most of the images for this work from the internet , I obsessively searched through image archive databases at museums and archive.org to find the images that I felt communicated many of the questions that I’ve been asking.
“In societies where modern conditions of production prevail, all of life presents itself as an immense accumulation of spectacles. Everything that was directly lived has moved away into a representation.” – Guy Debord
Here in the USA it seems that everyone was somehow impacted one way or another by the 2016 election, it ruffled feathers, the internet was and still is a place where people are expressing that frustration. But is it effective ? or are we just creating patterns of behavior for big data miners to manipulate us ? Personally, I wanted to shed some of my anger and frustration about the political situation in our country. It seems that everything has become black and white, that we as individuals have been reduced to patterns of our behavior for data analysts to use to sell us more information to consume. Nothing is sacred and if it is we see it quickly consumed and transformed into another device to empower the spectacle we live in. Time or history it seems has ceased to exist, everything seems to be happening at once. Anxiety, anger and frustration seemed to be commonplace. Maybe the answer to how to escape these at times overwhelming emotions is “how can I empower myself ?”
I decided after angering many people with pointless online political arguments to divest from that type of behavior online, online arguments seem to lead nowhere.
“The spectacle cannot be understood as an abuse of the world of vision, as a product of the techniques of mass dissemination of images. It is, rather, a Weltanschauung which has become actual, materially translated. It is a world vision which has become objectified.” –Guy Debord
One of the best experiences of making this work was having numerous people visit my studio. The highlight of it was getting to spend time with my nephew Clark Patterson, he is an intelligent young man who I am sure will do some incredible things with the work he chooses to do with his life.
Clark made this fantastic time lapse video of me working in my studio.
My good friend Emily Wilcox visited my studio and gave me some great feedback and we talked about ways that we are both trying to separate ourselves from spectacle.
Artist Matthew Swisher stopped by and we talked about his life, his art. I had the best time talking with him and our conversation helped change my perspective about many things.
Moe Gram stopped by for a visit and we talked about her experiences teaching art with Boys and Girls Club and her passion for art.
Vinnie Alfonso stopped by the studio and we talked about art and he helped me glue down a large ink jet print onto the surface of a panel and then we went to eat tacos.
Bird Seed Anthony stopped by an we talked about his work in the community, painting murals and how he helps feed kids during the summer.
Joslin Van Arsdale visited all the way from Los Angeles and we talked about art, visited the Mark Bradford Show at the Denver Art Museum and drank coffee together.
Tommy White stopped by for a visit and I visited his studio as well, we talked about his process, my process, I feel like he and I have a great deal in common with our work and i hope in the future he and I can exhibit our work together.
The Folks from the Arvada Center have been incredible during the process of creating this massive work , I am truly grateful for this amazing opportunity to create a work of this scale and to show it in such an incredible space. Thank You Collin Parsons and everyone at the Arvada Center for your warmth and kindness, Dave Seiler thank you so very, very much for taking the time to inspect the panels to make sure everything was up to spec for the hanging of this work.
I’ll be sharing some photos of the work hanging at the Arvada Center soon, but for now, I wanted to write this post to say THANK YOU to everyone for your kindness, love and generosity ! for now here is a detail of photo of the work.