decay, beauty, nostalgia...
I often think about why we (not just me, right?) find things like rusted metal, weathered paint, peeling wallpaper in an old home, dilapidated farmhouses, and so many other man-made structures in varying stages of decay … beautiful.
When I ask people WHY, the most common response I hear is because they evoke a feeling of nostalgia, or that we want to know the story behind them; the story of what once was.
And I get that. But does that make them beautiful? I have a hard time making the leap from curiosity and longing to beauty.
So I still don’t know the answer.
But it seems bits of decay have found themselves in my work since I started living in Italy. One of the first paintings I did here was on vintage Italian wallpaper that I mounted onto a panel and partially painted over. The paper served as the “wall” in my piece, and I purposefully blotted it out in sections, to look like those beautifully peeling walls in an old home where only torn swatches and bits of crumbling wall remain.
And then I found myself tearing paper and applying it to panels in haphazard patterns, before painting over them.
The latest pieces I’ve done involved laying down torn strips of tape, painting over the entire piece, then ripping off the tape – and a good part of my painting – to leave the bare wood showing below.
And I think something about the rawness and forced decay worked. I couldn’t tell what the painting would look like when I ripped off the tape because the tape itself was now covered up. It was hard to imagine it with negative space. But I was more excited than scared to tear it off.
I ended up with a pile of crumpled tape that had just been a painting…and threw it away.
When I think about paintings that "work" for me - mine and others' - they have to evoke emotion. And the ones that do are usually suggestive without being explicit.
Objects in a state of decay may be on the other side of this same coin.
Instead of looking "unfinished" at the beginning of a process, beautifully decaying objects look "used up" as a result of the end of a process.
In both cases, room is left for the imagination to fill in the blanks; with memories or wonderings or associations or yearnings.
Sounds a little like nostalgia....
So maybe I do have an answer for now. Maybe beautiful, evocative, uncalculated, random, unfinished, suggestive, unexpected, curious and mysterious can all mean the same thing.