The next step in the painting process involved mixing glass microspheres — the stuff that makes the paint on roads reflective at night — with a transparent medium and applying it to the canvas the same way as I did the iridescent pearl layer, with the mop handle and broom.
Now, when I’ve worked with this particular medium before, it’s been on a much smaller scale, and opening a window has been enough to air out the room while it dries, which only takes a few hours. I’ve now learned what probably should have been obvious — that when you scale up in size you scale up exponentially in vapors. Long story short, we had to open every window and door in the building and I was asked not to use that medium again, so I’ll be switching to plain old acrylic gloss for the other canvases. I’m not exactly sure how this will effect their final look, but at this point, the bigger point of suspense is whether I’ll be able to finish the whole police report in the week I’ve got left. (I will, one way or another.)
In ordinary light, with the canvas lying on the floor — it will go up on the wall today — you can’t really tell I’ve done much of anything to it since yesterday’s entry. So I shot these photos at night with a flash to give you a vague, though misleading, idea of just how much the painting has actually changed. Here, again, is a before shot of a detail of the painting as of yesterday morning:
And here’s how it looks under flash with the microspheres added:
Based on how the iridescent silver seems to work in some of the paintings I showed in part one, I believe the footprints, like the text that will soon be on top of them, should slip in and out of view as you move past them once the painting’s up on the wall and lit. We’ll know soon whether I’m right.
More progress on what will be my largest text painting — for that matter, my largest painting — to date. Yesterday I taped a brush to a broom handle to add a layer of acrylic iridescent pearl to the (bluish, grayish) off-white enamel underneath — the same enamel that will be used to create the final all-text layer.
After that dried, I added areas of iridescent silver with my feet.
At 11:45 p.m. on Saturday, with the assistance of two Houston artists — one, Jonatan Lopez, who’s about the same age I was when I got hooked on crystal meth; the other, Josh Urban Davis, who’s about the same age as the New Bedford, Mass., kids I helped trash all the paintings in my rented van in 2004 must be now — I destroyed the surviving, unsold paintings from those years that weren’t in the van that night.
Today’s about cutting those remnants into usable collage materials for the Houston youths I mentioned in the previous entry, and about clearing the floor to start the text painting on my 2004 police report.
It’s fitting that the June issue of Arts + Culture Houston marks my one-year anniversary as visual arts editor of the magazine. My Loose Ends column exposing how the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston inflated its attendance figures for years is exactly the kind of story the Houston Chronicle would never have let me publish — and would have made it all but impossible to pursue. For that matter, I’m not sure I would have allowed myself to pursue it while I had my own secrets to hide. In some respects the piece is an act of contrition for the times I let the MFAH’s late director, Peter Marzio, and his Dick Cheney-esque numbers guru, Gwendolyn Goffe, dupe the public through my all-too-often all-too-trusting reporting, which in hindsight looks more and more like stenography.
My other June A+C story, about a groundbreaking new art program for juvenile probationers, is also an act of contrition for one of my actions under the influence of a meth-induced psychosis back in 2004. Hours before I was arrested in Brockton, Mass., I helped a pair of youths who were probably exactly the same age as the kids in the A+C story, unload my van and dump all its contents, including years of paintings, photographs, negatives and artist books into a New Bedford, Mass., landfill. Half an hour later, annoyed with my mile-a-minute blather, they threw me out of the van along the side of the highway in Brockton.
Don’t get me wrong — the landfill’s gain was no great loss to the world — but psychosis or no psychosis, it was hardly a fine example to set for vulnerable youths whom life had already given enough disadvantages. As explained in my exhibition trailer for Art Criticism and Reporting, my Art League Houston exhibition that is still in progress, for part two of the show I’ll be painting the 2004 police report in its entirety. (The exhibition closes with a reception from 6-9 p.m. June 21.)
But first, as a further act of contrition and to prepare the space spiritually and emotionally, I’ll be destroying the paintings the New Bedford kids didn’t get to: the ones I had packed and shipped to what was going to be my new apartment in Providence, R.I. (After hearing that I was in the loony bin, my parents had the shipment rerouted to their house.) I’ll also be destroying selected works made more recently that I no longer need. This time around, it’s an act of creative destruction rather than purely destructive destruction, for I intend to donate the cut-up canvases to this new youth program, that its students may make something new from the remnants of my folly.
This will be done after hours over the weekend — probably Saturday night. I’ll tweet the time as soon as I settle on it. The public is welcome to watch the destruction through the window of Art League’s Front Gallery, but not to come in during the ceremony. I don’t need or particularly want an audience. It is simply something I need to do as part of reentering, Lee Krasner-style, an artwork that no longer satisfies me.
I’ll try to shoot video of the exhibition during as many different times of day and different types of weather as possible while part one of the show’s up through May 31.
Please join me for an opening reception for my two-part solo exhibition Art Criticism and Reporting from 6-9 p.m. Friday, May 17. I’ll give an artist talk at 7 p.m.
Other key dates:
May 18-31, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Mondays through Saturday, part one remains on view
May 31, 7-9 p.m. – closing party for part one
June 3-21 – artist residency/open studio as I create work for part two of the exhibition; visitors welcome.
June 21, 6-9 p.m. – closing party for part two