Beauty in the sublime has become the subject matter that has surrounded my watercolor paintings. My work enlivens deteriorated, decayed and abandoned buildings most would shun or fear. Illumination, earthy darkness, textures, and structural patterns combine to create a sense of presence in these places. Beauty is defined in these works in a way that most viewers would not recognize as aesthetically pleasing at first assessment or what society has traditionally labeled as beautiful.
My initial journey in the themes I paint started with a painting of a historic barn in rural Pennsylvania. A fondness for exploring the outdoors led me to a sign that stated “NO TRESPASSING.” That forbidden invitation screamed at me to go further, leading me to discover an old glass factory made of rotted wood, broken cement, rusted machinery, and shattered glass beneath my feet. I was transported in my work from the traditional paintings I was used to doing, into an overpowering, passionate rush to capture the decaying landscape of the glass factory. This structure was partially underground, allowing patterns of light to project through broken windows. The focus on refracted light added to my ability to break up the space of the painting, creating an ambiguous and haunting space. After hours of quick sketches and meticulously reviewing the physical composition of the formations within the structure, I carefully chose a starting point for a painting I later named “Abandonment.” Following that painting, a series of works based on this abandoned mill emerged. Further exploration of other abandoned buildings and structures added to the work I have completed.
My chosen medium of watercolor allows me to create smooth, fluid color, as well as deep hues and patterns. These elements compliment and describe the details of this evocative environment. Using watercolor permits me to restore the granulation that occurs by exaggerating the colors found in the objects within these buildings. This technique allows me to mimic the watermarked surfaces and textures that are characteristic of the deterioration that I find in these structures. Another distinctive characteristic of my work is the detail that captures an almost photographic reality. I become obsessive in my pursuit of this “real” (seems like there’s something missing or unclear here) contained in these renderings. This allows for an “authentic” documentation of the death of a structure, and a sense of presence for the viewer of these works, thus enabling me to re-create the feeling that I experience while exploring these spaces.
In trying to capture this “authentic” documentation of the buildings that I paint, I have been particularly influenced by the Italian artist Giovanni Battista Piranesi. His etchings in the series Prisons in Rome depict the strong lines and attention to detail that are especially suited to realistic portrayals of architectural history. I have found that in utilizing these two techniques I have been able to present my work in a way that remains true to the architectural integrity of a building.
The direction I have taken in my subject matter has been greatly influenced by the artist Craig McPherson. His murals that showcase nontraditional cityscapes in New York City are examples of his ability to capture history, structure and reality, all of which are similar goals to my own work.
As I have explored these places I have experienced a sort of intimate relationship with the history of each individual site. I feel that it is important that my work relays this sense of history and reinforces the narratives of each building. I hope that my work will restore interest in these histories, as well as document their existence and verify their individual beauty.