The Anti-Statement

Below you’ll find the statement I posted with the Subjective show in Seattle. I had been working myself up to write something very heady, very deep; in the end this seemed more honest.

Let me tell you my first memory.

I’m sitting in a kitchen with my baby sister. There is an orange hue to everything; the rust colored tones of the trains on my pajamas, the floral wallpaper left over from the sixties, the Formica tabletop— everything seems warm. A multitude of crayons rests in the middle of the table as I explain to Ariane how to draw a bird in flight. I’m four years old.

You draw a black circle first and then make two arcs that emerge symmetrically from the circle. Naturally, I couldn’t have said that at four, but I showed my sister the secret with the black crayon in my hand. She watched carefully as one bird joined another in a desert sunset.

This is my first memory. I can prove it with a photograph of me drawing with my sister at the kitchen table while in my train pajamas. It also happens to be the first photograph of myself that I feel some connection with— I’m not just a chubby baby bathing in the sink or being propped up by pillows to stay centered in the camera’s lens.

Either this photograph supports my first memory or it has created it. Regardless of the truth it opens my autobiography.

I could tell you other stories. Some are mine, and some belong to people I haven’t met. Perhaps I’d start with the one about a room full of carved limbs and cases with pounded metal hearts. Or maybe you’d prefer to skip the pathos and read about an earless cat that could outwit her owners. There’s also a simple story of an Easter morning with pressed clothes and the photographer’s white linens, or the more complex recounting of how Rome spread a combined haze of brutality and spirituality across the Western world.

As a child you slowly develop an understanding of clichés. You inventory them and make a point of avoiding them as you develop your skills as a writer. The hardest cliché for me to ignore as an artist is the “thousand words.” Here are seven pictures and each one is worth a thousand words. But everyone is entitled to a different combination of words within that thousand. You can choose the story and you can create the memory. This is far more important than any definitive statement I might make about the work. The most I could offer would be a dissection of the process that created them, but that would make for a dry read. I would have to expound upon the relative merits of gesso, toner, powdered graphite, and assorted brands of tea. I wouldn’t want that to be what helped shape your perceptions of the work. Honestly, I’m not invested in the idea of making a statement— I’d rather share a few stories.

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