Dwelling in the Field of a Drawing

The human urge to create a dwelling place for oneself is an underlying impulse in my work. Each drawing involves searching and settling behaviors related to that urge. I send out the first lines to feel out the space and give voice to different states of being. Slowly, relationships build between marks, and they activate the field and each other with their particular energies. Drawings come to resolution over time, and in many cases that resolution is quite tenuous. It is as if the marks are in barest agreement to cohabit but nevertheless work together to provide some positive affect on the psyche: to create structure, to create space, and to allow the space to expand. Other drawings are characterized by overall solidity and weight, yet contain a sense of an underlying instability. At first look, these appear as a configuration of black shapes; yet line is key to the process here too, as the black is “drawn” by rolling many lines of black with an ink brayer, over a linear structure of tape lengths.

Much thinking about the human conditions of dwelling—logistic, psychic and political—continues to drive new work in drawing. I do not represent what I experience, but ideas may inform the intention of “finding residence” on a sheet, in effort to hold a sense of humanity in the drawing field. In this way, some ideas that have arisen and flowed through the work are: the humanness of handbuilt structures, the natural world as a nurturer; the marginalization of creativity (and how artists reside psychically or literally at the edges of society); artwork as a dwelling place; verbal articulation as a way to mark one’s own territory; the economics and despair of homelessness; homelessness as a spiritual aspiration; the balance between structure and spontaneity in the “home” place that may be sought by a dweller; ritual-like versus exploratory acts of dwelling; social migration as impetus for making new dwelling sites; forced migration that takes them away; and how physical dwelling places and human dwelling habits reflect connections or disconnections between people and land.

This issue of how humans relate to land preoccupies me especially, and led me to visiting geological sites in the west. Among them: the high deserts of northern New Mexico and southern California; the basin and range lands of Wyoming and Montana; and sacred lands in South Dakota. Studying geological formations has helped me to understand them as evidence of the earth’s gestures. We as humans interact with energies and movements that are much slower and much older than those produced by us. Even so, the earth is restless, moving constantly.

Line and Wall

The blank wall is a gift. I try to begin work at the site empty of ideas, in order to be open to what thoughts may arise there. Developing the ideas directly on the wall is more interesting to me than transferring them from a small sketch: I can see the changes in actual scale, instantly. The process is unsettling. Many drawing solutions become visible over the course of my time spent onsite, though inevitably I leave the room with just one. This final outcome is always something I didn’t anticipate. 

I think of the line as being flung out into space to negotiate the unknown. Even as the blue tape lines physically adhere, they are the most “unfastened”: ephemeral as a throw-away medium, physically removable, and of a blue that visually hovers over the surface or seemingly pushing through it. I begin placing the lines to mark out visual footholds for an ongoing mental travel—travel that suggests both freedom and belonging in the space. In these sites, the architecture of the room is fixed, but the mind wanders within it. This is how we develop a sense of home, of place. In my home, I travel. 

For me, drawing starts with the problem of the line, how to form it and how to follow it. It ends with the line, too. Line keeps its independence, is searching, and never completely absorbed by the community of its fellows.