The Hay Wire Series
I began these in the summer of 2016. For a long time I’d picked up bent, curled pieces of wire I found in the fields near my house. I learned that they were the wire knots off hay bales that unwound when they were clipped to open the hay bale. Their interesting shapes intrigued me, surely I could do something, make something of them, but I never did. And then it occurred to me that I could use them to design the canvas, to start a painting, to get out of my so tight, geometric style. loving artists like Richard Diebenkorn and Rothko, I worked almost entirely with straight lines, squares, etc. But now I had these curly, playful lines from the wires.
I began a painting by covering the canvas with a soft color or colors and then used charcoal to copy the wires, from which I drew further lines, break up the canvas, create shapes. But I began with the lines made by the wire. Now I painted into these shapes, into the design on the canvas. Sometimes I just filled in shapes with colors, sometimes I tried to let the line stand alone and let colors and shapes emerge apart from the lines, a more difficult process.
As with any painting I was trying to save large simple areas while creating smaller, more interesting places. I was trying to balance light and dark. And I was having fun with odd shapes and quirkly, squiggly places. I wanted drama and movement and colors that popped, that worked with each other.
Most important for me of doing this new work was trying to stay in a state of not knowing—not knowing how to do what I was doing or how to do it. I told myself to play. No rules. No color is wrong or right. It’s all process and the process leaves these residues, an edge of color, a weird shape, a broken bit of line, a pale mix of color—that can only come from this haphazard process.
But strangely this attitude—I don’t know what I’m doing, I really don’t know—is very hard to maintain. I want to copy or do what worked in the last painting. So finding ways to stay on the edge, to play, to shut down or out my own advice is crucial. And yet at the same time I do learn useful things, discover new ways to design and paint, new ways to use colors, new colors, new tricks.
Just was with earlier work, the more geometric paintings, all earlier work, I’m aware of balancing, of struggling with tensions. Not too simple verses not too busy. Wonderful color but subtle too. A design but not obviously balanced. Etc. At point in the process I love what’s happening and occasionally a painting gets done that easily. More often it goes through stages, from fun to frustration and back again. I’m seldom totally satisfied so they are less finished than abandoned. But they are my children so I’m a surprised and happy at their success while seeing their weaknesses. I made them but I’m not sure how. And I experience them as gifts.
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