Titles First

The “Title First” series is an experiment with a novel method of determining subject matter. All are oil on canvas with wood frames. Most of the frames are painted and the titles are hand lettered.

Artist’s Statement

The concept for this work grew out of a chance occurrence. Having just finished a series of work, and not quite settled on what to do next, I came across a set of index cards containing lecture notes written by my studio partner for a lecture he had done some years before. Though clearly art-related, the notations viewed out of context, had no specific meaning. Some were vaguely familiar quotes while others read as non-sequiturs. As I studied them I became aware that I was mentally creating contexts for the written fragments independent of the writer’s intention. I began viewing them as painting titles and imagining what the paintings might look like. This spontaneous response is not inconsistent with what Andre Breton referred to as “pure psychic automatism.”

Over the years I have collected images from a variety of sources for use as subject matter. These images were not selected for any specific purpose, but rather because they evoked some personal response. I am seldom aware of the original purpose of an image.

These independent factors merged to form the impulse for this work. I created mental associations between the found imagery and the disassociated text. The words and pictures being liberated from their original contexts suggested new unintended meanings. I looked for combinations that struck an appropriate tone on an intuitive level. This dependence on association driven by unconscious response appears on the surface to be the strategy of the Surrealists. But the works are also layered with conscious commentary and references drawing attention to the futility of Breton’s notion of “thought dictated in the absence of all control exerted by reason, and outside all aesthetic or moral preoccupations” – the myth of creative behavior unencumbered by social constraints.

Viewers are also compelled to create their own associations between the images and text. The use of a variety of stylistic painting approaches creates additional contextual challenges for anyone trying to arrive at a single meaning.