My artistic life has
always been devoted to different types of work as I seek to discover new ways
of looking at my personal, invented, visual world. In 1979, I came upon this realization: in art
you have total, undaunted, creative freedom. That is, you are free to do whatever you want in creating a work based
on your own visual expression. I
responded enthusiastically to this and decided to attend art school. During college, while learning technical
skills in various media, I devoted a full year to drawing, painting, and
sculpting the form of the burnt wooden match.
This was foundational to my search for a personal visual language and
resulted in works as varied as sculptural totems, representational images, and
expressionistic lithographs for which transfer images and scribbles were used
to create the matches’ charred, wooden shape.
The experimentation done in school would influence what I accomplished
I’ve always been interested in portraiture and have been influenced by a variety of images: religious icons, mug shots, and Renaissance portraiture. I began drawing portraits using colored pencil and oil pastel on black paper in 1983. I was affected by the color and shapes as they appeared from the blackness of the drawing surface. I then began to hide the face from the viewer---not with a mask, but with a forest of objects that would sandwich the figure between the foreground and the background. I was interested in the form of the paper match and how this object holds the potential for something much more intense (heat, damage, fear) and how a group of them can create rhythm across the expanse of the composition as they relate to the static unmoving figure. I wanted to give the drawings depth while placing the figure and the objects in front, squarely within the confines of the composition. The tension in the placement of the figure between foreground and background resonates to the complexity of the paradoxical human impulses to both hide and reveal, to be safe and to take risks. Each person, seeking security behind the objects and what they imply, sits protected, though precariously, within the space that is defined by the objects in front and the shimmering scribbled wall behind. The floating matches in front of a portrait is a theme that I have continued to explore.
At one time I drew orange scribbles on people’s faces from newspaper photos, and these expressive marks -- carefully outlined in black, thereby altering their character -- have now become portraits unto themselves. By layering multiple loosely-sketched portrait images over one another, I create a mysteriously composite, yet unified image of a person. The resulting scribbled portraits also redefine the process of drawing and transform the portrait into a flat abstract image.
After spending years drawing portraits, I decided to investigate the process of creating abstract collage using representational images. Each collage is developed by taking images -- sometimes altered and disfigured by scratching, tearing, smearing -- and placing them with many other pictorial elements to create a moody and vibrant abstract space. Color is an important factor; the relationship between the colors used is comparable to the juxtaposition of dissimilar images. These are varied and have included religious figures and iconography, plants, animals, fish, body parts, and food, as well as fragments of form and textures from nature. I often create multiple panels that serve to link color, objects, and atmospheric space into a single artistic composition. In my triptychs a center panel is sandwiched between left and right panels to connect the two outward components into a single visual statement.
The series of small collages have become the basis for new large-scale works on canvas. The compositions are independent of scale—small collages become large paintings—and color, shape, and subject matter are combined to create an abstract pictorial space. The backgrounds can range from placid impressions to charged nervous settings for altered objects placed in front. The juxtaposed images relate to one another within the abstract composition. Color is a key element: the relationship between the colors used is comparable to the juxtaposition of dissimilar images. I make links between the dissimilar through the use of formal elements. The feeling of these paintings tends toward the moody and eerie, the unexpected and anomalous.
The series Southbury Trees is based on close-up views of trees. These primary vertical forms in painting create a rhythm across the horizontal expanse of the canvas.
I approach the process of painting by orienting to a rigorous formal visual standard of composition, color, juxtaposition, and form. Though this informs and shapes my process, the paintings themselves are a product of the conjunction of these formal elements and the far and varied reaches of my imagination.
These formal and imaginal elements are also characteristic of my constructions of assemblage. My mixed media arrangements can be viewed as collage in three dimensions. I work to develop the extent of this dimensional space into an abstract composition. I also work with portraiture within the box container and add objects to create an altered visceral, yet mysterious setting. Some mixed media boxes even tell small, intimate stories.
I want the viewer, after seeing my work, to come away with a different view of the world and of his or her place in it. I am an advocate of art as a visual and emotional experience, and I try to create works that make a lasting impression on the observer.
William Dean Reynolds