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.

2016-09-19-16-09-05

2016-09-19-15-37-26

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

2016-09-19-15-21-33

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.

2016-09-19-14-37-02

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.

2016-09-19-15-09-51

talking heads paintings

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