Of Drawings from the edge…
During late Medieval and Renaissance times the people of Florence, Italy would urinate in the river and laugh at the population of Siena. While living in New Mexico I would wonder at the population in Texas and repeat a similar behavior. Yet the river is not ours. Our beloved Rio Grande Valley is a flood plain. We are visitors all, and the river outlives us.
Artists are courted guardedly by our society. (Admittedly maybe it’s just me, but I doubt that). This exhibition consists of two seemingly disparate bodies of work, each a denial of culturally assumed responsibilities of artists and our self-imposed role in creation and manipulation; river drawings, paintings, and photographs documenting rejection. These objects and images are evidence of my search for something that resembles “c’est plus grande que moi”, (it is bigger than me)
“What if?” The question every artist must ask was answered by the river. With a nod to artist and Boulder Colorado native Basia Irland, I sought to honor the Rio Grande. A body of water always (almost) in motion, we seek to use to scribe our landscape and identity. Even, and perhaps more importantly in an academic environment the artist accesses media rarely accessed by a pedestrian population; that of the muse, the elements, and the chaos revealed through time.
Beginning near the headwaters at a quiet campground in Three Forks, Colorado I gently placed and weighted a piece of paper near the water’s edge. The River is the artist here. I am only one who asks a question. This process was repeated several times along the river; Near Taos at Wild Rivers National Recreation Area, a rare wilderness and favorite haunt, in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and finally near Mcallen, Texas. The river carries us in its body. I sought to capture those traces, or ask the river to show them to me.
Separation, gleaning the motives
Another group of work stems from a similar conceptual rejection. A photograph of a piece of paper clipped to a tree branch in the Indian Peaks Wilderness of Colorado. The paper is identical to the ones used in the river drawings. Rives BFK etching paper retains much of the water and airborne particulates. Paintings were born of this process. But that comes later. The serene view in front of me offered two choices;
- To create an image for the viewers’ consumption (“my, look at that tree, see there’s the flower, and that cloud”), or,
- To consume the view metaphorically, allowing it to move me through the subconscious, accessing personal notes and ideas.
I saw clearly how I made choices based on pleasing others. Making an image to please the viewer is relatively easy. Performing artistic feats of magic was seeming more difficult and that muse was recalcitrant. I chose neither. I clipped the paper to a tree and took a photograph of it. Voila! A landscape drawing revealed itself in its unadulterated potential. The obvious circle to complete was then to paint using the photographs as reference, reclaiming my societal role as draftsman, artist, and entertainer.
Thomas Murray, Feb, 2015