Archive for September, 2016

Drips Drip

This painting project is pushing me around. I guess that’s what we want with painting. To be shoved down the stairs, launched from the cliff, sucker-punched with the unexpected. Therein will be the situation where learning can take place. Where the painting can become unstable – precipice walking. Wherein the painter can become vulnerable and thus relate to the viewer. There is something there about knowing, and how to know.


On one hand, a person could be in an unstable place. “Travel broadens the mind,”is the saying. In that traveling the mind encounters the unexpected and unknown. In that unknown is the moment wherein the traveler can choose to adapt their knowing to the new experience, or disregard the encounter. Disregard the alien and continue with the present knowing. So be shocked and adapt or be shocked and disregard. There is also the knowing that abrades then polishes – shock and study.

Painting can operate in this same way. Josef Albers homage’d to the square over a thousand times. Over twenty-five years inquiring after color through the limited variable of a singular composition. Peter Dreher painted (kind of) the same painting for decades. So maybe Albers and Dreher were polishing their knowing of a thing. They had a subject and worried it for decades. They knew what they would be doing within a limited set of variables. They had to show up and work.

There are other approaches wherein art creates complete instability in the making and receiving. Many artists’ work is oppositional, retributive, and especially abrasively challenging. In that abrasion in the possibility to learn, or to disregard.

This project is pushing me to learn. Firstly there is the long painting that drips on itself. Secondly there is the collaborative component of this project wherein I paint on other peoples’ paintings. It has all been disruptive.


Painting Painting at Both Ends, acrylic on canvas in progress, 60×21

This Painting Painting at Both Ends, has a wholly unexpected compositional gravity. Wherein I previously obsessed over the self-organizing system of the grid, this particular approach spins that fractally, looping, ouroborosian self-organizing method upon its head. The drips drip. They do follow gravity but the paintings are hung in wacky ways. They are all hung on the wall via hanging wires, but the entire painting is weighty, so each stretching causes drips in many directions.

Further, the knowing that the entirety of the painting will be interacting with each stretching causes each painting to occur in a non-standard Jay method of work. I know that each painting need not be the pinnacle of making. I also know that much of the paintings will be covered up by future paintings. I know that each painting will not be singularly alone. It will have many neighbors. The composition is legion.


detail of the larger painting. Half of this has now been covered. Further, this painting will continue to be dripped upon, just like the rest of the work.

The collaborative portion continues. Mei Mei Chang visited today and I handed off a painting.

See more of Mei Mei Chang’s work at



An Aimed Shrug

I think everything comes down to knowledge. How to justify knowing and further, how to make choices. These are very frustrating issues for me.

When I was young I had two solid pillars of knowing: the church and the university. I grew up hearing church goers speaking with authority. Truth was present – present in the deity. I also grew up, almost quite literally, in the stacks of a university library. My mother was a librarian and so my babysitters were the books, college students, professors, and other librarians.

Professors always awed me. Professors always seemed to have justifiable answers to difficult questions and it was professors whom society always sought when faced with unknowables. The university was the place wherein knowledge was arbitrated.

As I grew older I began to see an erosion of my confidence in these knowers. Church and university represented knowledge but were just as prone to error yet I saw, and have continued to see, a fear of and inability to admit this potential error. And quite often I have seen fear replace knowing. So if authoritative knowers set aside knowing for the sake of their own fears, then knowing itself becomes problematic. Knowledge becomes uncertain. And the knowledge that led to that realization is itself uncertain. And thus knowledge, in all forms, appears to become unjustifiable. And in this situation is thrust a person who needs to choose – a person who needs to make value judgements. But the value judgements are questionable because the thing that precedes the judgement is the knowledge, and if that knowledge is unjustifiable, then making choices, about anything, is problematic. And in this situation I shrug. An epistemic shrug.

Because it does not seem as if I can trust anyone. Not my parents. Not my pastors. And especially, not my teachers.

This is why I paint. This unjustifiable situation. The painting is that epistemic shrug. There are many ways to make paintings, but none seem better than others. The variables are endless, like axiological choice in daily life. There are many ways to paint, and many ways to live.

This is a major component of why I am making this Painting Painting at Both Ends. Each painting is yet another attempt at knowing – an attempt at making a judgement. Yet continuously the attempt is yet another shrug. One painting atop the other, wetness touching every attempt. Each painting dripping on formers and latters until the thing is done, stretched, and hung. But until then it is just unity and variety of waking up in the morning.

Maybe the painting is more of a directed shrug. Pointing painting in a direction and depending on the action itself to produce some viable situation.



Painting Paintings at Both Ends, in progress, acrylic on canvas, dimensions variable currently


Painting Painting at Both Ends all strung out

This situation of knowledge is also present in the collaborative project I am working on. Each person who contributes is doing whatever they are doing for their own reasons. There is some kind of world view (and thus value judgement) behind each person’s choices to make a painting. This project is attempting to squish those approaches and world views together. Perhaps in their co-mingling will be some knowledge that will satisfy this epistemic shrug.


unfinished collaborative painting with Becca Kallem and Jay Hendrick, acrylic and spray paint on canvas, dimensions vary

The collaborative component of this project is proving to be vastly difficult. How do I make choices? Should it occur like an exquisite corpse? Should I respond to the previous painting? How can I not?

This collaborative component is a real mystery but I think I will likely learn the most from this portion of the residency.

Also, here are some works on paper.


talking heads paintings

Playing with Others/ Sharing is Caring/The Unknown :Interlocating the Interlocutor (the many possible titles for this blogpost)

For this residency I proposed two tandem projects – firstly I would continue exploring my “stretch/re-stretch” method of painting. The following is an example of this method. Four  separate paintings to create a single painting. This was a sort of proof of concept that I submitted.


Four Paintings, One Stretcher, 2016, acrylic on canvas, 29×18″

When I arrived to VisArts, I began making a work I am calling, Painting Paintings at Both Ends (working title). This work is still in progress. This painting is following that stretch/re-stretch method of painting.


Painting Painting at Both Ends (working title), acrylic on canvas, 60×216″

The second component I proposed for this residency was to enact this “stretch/re-stretch” method with other local painters. A participant makes a painting then un-stetches, then re-stretches into a new register, then the next participant paints as normal – rinse and repeat. I may expand this process into a mail art project in the future, but for now I am specifically interested in exploring local artists of the D.C., Maryland, and Virginia area. These are my local peers and my local influences. Locality is a significant component.

The first participant is Becca Kallem. I am interested in Becca’s work because I get a similar sense of a struggle. I can empathize with her paintings. They don’t seem to just occur – there is some hill to climb, or river to ford, or some inexplicable unknown to ponder. Becca’s work is also very diverse. It is observational and representational, even when falling into the category of abstracted.

Becca brought me several of her paintings to work with. This collaboration is beginning with her works, and now I need to respond. She said that some are unfinished or some are not where she wants them to be. They are paintings that might fit well into this project.


assorted acrylic and oil paintings on canvas made by Becca Kallem

This is a complex proposition. I have begun and I am already seeing a vast gulf of impossibility. If I “just make a painting,” then I think I am making something very formal. As in, it is just paint, it is just design. Becca’s paintings obviously have a context. See the following.


unfinished Becca Kallem painting, acrylic and spray paint on canvas

This pink painting has tape with the words “Greco (pink tag).” The painting has arcane appearing marks. A sort of greco shield design – the triangle. An aries curling horn. There are significant symbols present. It is a pink philosopher’s stone. There is some kind of alchemy present and I have little access. Sans understanding, how I could I possibly paint on top of this painting? So right off the bat, this project befuddles me. And I feel completely lost. Which I think is what I want with this project. Stay tuned for updates.

See more of Becca’s work at







Just Do It (or not…I don’t know)

This process is is slowing me down yet slowing down might be a good thing. There is some sort of wisdom in taking one’s time – allowing learning to take place.

Part of the reason I am doing this project relates to the urge to work. I just want to make paintings, but I always need new substrates. I have to wait to work. I have to do carpentry, stretching, gesso, etc. In the past I began painting on cardboard to deal with this issue. I would be able to work – just nail the cardboard to the wall and start painting.


Etcetera and its Discontents (Air Filtration), 2013, acrylic on cardboard, 72×72″

This current painting is using what I am calling a “stretch/re-stretch,”method of painting. I stretch the canvas as normal, but the stretcher is much smaller than the overall canvas. I then make a painting, un-stretch, then re-stretch to create yet another. For this particular work I am using a 60×216” canvas. I am painting paintings at both ends – vomit and poo reference, burning candles at both ends idioms. Over and over till the paintings meet in the middle. But is slow going. I am have made four painting per side and I don’t know how many more I will need to make. Time is limited in this space, and I may not even like this painting when it is done. I will also need to make a stretcher that is six yards long.


as yet untitled painting, acrylic on canvas, 60×216″

The thing has to dry. Each painting needs to be pretty wet so as to drip on former and latter paintings – because I am seeing that the thing will eventually need to drip on previous paintings too. So as I work I am painting on previous finished paintings. As if they are never finished – mechanically following the process of designing and re-designing.

It is also an exercise in functional relativism. If each painting could be seen as a world view, then to have them all swimming together would suggest that multiple world views are being squished together. Some might be louder than others and some may be totally silenced. I do not know how to deal with this seemingly dominant contemporary epistemology. How do we justify the power we have? How do we justify our dominance over others? How do we justify our beliefs? How do those beliefs become justified in a crowd? Who profits? Who suffers?

I am also working on multiple paintings besides this work. Works on paper, works on canvas, and yes, a return to cardboard (though the cardboard is unfinished).


acrylic on canvas, 19×19″


acrylic on paper, 9×12″

But perhaps slowing down is useful. The painting dries, it drips on the as yet un-painted canvas, and it waits over night. Apparently painting is a thing that can push back against the speed of this contemporary age. The stationary painting isn’t timed based, it doesn’t move – it is at rest and thus the viewer can take a cue from the inanimate object. The viewer can be still. The viewer can plumb the depths of the maker’s smudges. This mark here. That mark there. “What was the maker thinking?” The viewer gets to empathize with the distant human. The human who is not even present. The viewer gets a chance to walk in the maker’s shoes.

These things might be true. But I just want to work. Which might really mean that I think that work makes work or one should, “Just do it.”

Painting Paintings at Both Ends

I have started a 60×216″ painting wherein the painting drips on itself. The painting is its own drop cloth. The painting was begun at two different ends of the six yards. Each painting is made with the support of a different scale stretcher. For instance, the first painting was made with a 12×9″ stretcher. Then after that was made, I unstretched it and restretched with a 20×16″ stretcher.


60×216″ painting on canvas

This process was repeated on the other side. I will rinse and repeat till the paintings meet int the middle.

I am also exploring some different attempts at design by creating paintings on paper.


12×9″ painting on paper

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9×12″ painting on paper

Painting Residency

I am beginning a residency at VisArts in Rockville as the new Bresler Resident. I’ll have a studio till December, then sometime thereafter, I will have a three person show with the two previous Bresler Residents, Mei Mei Chang and Amy Hughes Braden.

Bresler Residency Studio.jpg

Bresler Resident Studio

I’ll be engaged in several activities including painting, writing, blogging, and office-ing. I’ll be digging into several topics with painting. I’ll continue my stretch/re-stretch method of painting, a collaborative painting project, and I’ll be exploring some design concepts in an attempt to dig new trenches. A frustrating concept I have encountered is the seeming self-organizing systems of design. An organized design scheme seems to want to order itself, to make itself. During this residency I want to try to break up that system and explore iterations of a design.

For several years I have been thinking about how Hamlett Dobbins organizes his painted spaces. He has a wealth of unity and variety and I want to give a nod to this kind of inquiry.

I’ll also use the studio as an office for writing articles for and working on things for my classes at Northern Virginia Community College wherein I teach Drawing 1 and Fundamentals of Design 1.

2016-08-31 19.39.27.jpg

Wet Paintings

I’ve begun working on several new paintings.

Day one begins.