Plans for this final, major one-person exhibit began 18 months before it opened and was an ambitious attempt to mount the strongest and most extensive exhibit I had ever done. I guess I wanted my exit from Dordt after over 20 years to be both a final bow while a full-time educator and also to see if I could pull off a strong body of new work that might set the tenor for my new career as a full-time working artist.
The exhibit exceeded my expectations and reminded me of the power of art to drive the mysterious process of art making; how deep involvement with a project can allow the pieces themselves to affect, even direct the decisions that went into each stage of process. The work developed into a kind of driving need or obsession to pursue a mystery of marks, images and associations, where subtle changes in expression of faces or figurative poses can suggest that range of human, or angelic emotion and physicality that travels between angel and beast. I believe this exhibit of all new work was a worthwhile endeavor, one that I consider to be a healthy obsession, and one that holds an amazing journey if one is willing to wrestle with the substantial demands of complex art media and process. The essential driving force for me is the power of figurative movement and the metaphysical and metaphorical impact of angelic form and presence. These ideas spring from the long standing Angel Eyes Series in graphic images and figure/landscape drawing.
Many of the prints and drawings employ a gestural style, which is both abstract and figurative, and follow a long history of mark-making and process drawing in my graphic work for the past 40 years. I’ve been aware of the art of the Abstract Expressionists, and have resonated with both the work and the philosophies of the group, as well as having respect for their search for the mystical and sublime of often-unbridled abstraction. Recently, I’ve become reacquainted with the term psychic automatism and the work of Clyfford Still, whose nearly complete body of work is located in the the Clyfford Still Museum in downtown Denver, CO. Psychic automatism is defined as the freeing of the mind to let the hand express unconscious associations and ideas. Working spontaneously and allowing the process to carry me along, making decisions based upon the active development of the piece stimulates the excitement of discovery along the way. Too much preplanning of a image, or knowing where it’s headed is not nearly as interesting as discovering the mystery in the process. This is not to suggest that this approach is not substantive or somehow less than other art development, due to the ‘make it up as you go’, or experimental methodology, for as Clyfford Still, who portrayed himself as an artist in the Romantic tradition, believed that an artist could be a conjurer of spiritual forces that, could have a “power for life. . . or for death”.
See D. Versluis review of exhibit; Inspiration from the Bible, Process notes for various media in Angel/Beast Exhibit