2019 - 2021 - LARGE SCALE STENCILS
For years my work has operated in the space between photography and painting examining how they inform each other. As the ubiquity of photography has diminished the technical hurdles of image making, I have focused much of my work on the output process – how we take an image and make it into a ‘thing’. For me, the physicality of the piece and its final permanence is an important declaration as it is the culmination of all of the artist’s choices and skills the image itself a catalyst or structure for the exploration.
The large stencil paintings began as an outgrowth of a project I did in 2015 for Art Basel on the side of a warehouse in the Wynwood Arts District of Miami. The entire 80 feet of the façade was covered in individual 24x36 inch stencils of images I selected and painted. The project only lasted a few weeks as the building was sold and renovated in the quickly gentrified area but I became fascinated by the possibilities and immediacy of the process.
For the original stencils in that project, I used a halftone screen within Photoshop to modify the individual images that were then cut on a laser engraver/cutter to create the paper stencils. Although this did create a readable image, it was unsatisfactory as it did not yield a full range of values or the resolution I thought the images needed. Certainly the value range is not a characteristic that is generally considered when making stencils. More typically they are designed to quickly communicate a picture and be used over and over again. For me as an artist, any technique should be pushed and prodded.
As I began playing with different ways to make stencils using a pixel grid as a base structure, I eventually designed a software program that broke down images with a continuous value range allowing me to create a truly photographic stencil. By keeping the stencils tied to the grid, I can easily play with the scale of the final work that allows me the flexibility in determining the ideal scale for the image I am working with.
With its roots in both craft and street art, stenciling is both accessible and relatable. As I developed the technique I made the decision to use images that captured the egalitarian nature of the stencil process and yet allowed the act of creating a painting to elevate it as a finished object.
The moon is probably the second most photographed thing in the world after the sunset. It is an object that everybody sees constantly. So the challenge as an artist is how do you make a painting of the Moon and make it seem new and fresh.
My first images I created using this process were pictures of the moon that I have shot regularly for years with a 600 mm lens. Seeped in superstition and intrigue, the moon is a fascinating subject; we all see the exact same thing and yet it means something different to each of us. It fosters events and marks time. It is an empty vessel onto which we can project our imaginings and see exactly what we want.
Early on I decided that each moon painting would be based on a photograph of a different moon and each photograph – like each stencil – would only be used once. This makes each piece - like the full moon itself - a memory of a specific place and time and for me personally, a memento of a life event.
While looking at these paintings, the image flickers back-and-forth between the collective whole in the individual component stencils. Some clearly show the alignment difficulties of the component pieces. I have always enjoyed taking art making processes and pushing the technical limits for their pictorial possibilities. I want the difficulties in a process and the errors show through as they offer clues about the making.
As I continue to develop this series, I look for images that maintain my interest in the accessibility and have experimented with different images that enjoy the larger scale including images I have shot from the Mayan ruins in the Yucatan, Mexico where I spend part of the year.
My hope is to return these to public spaces by beginning to place them back into the environment as appropriate.