It started off as a piece of heavy duty plywood I liberated from a dusty basement. It had a striking grain pattern that suggested contour lines on a topographic map, and I would occasionally stare at it propped up over there in the corner, the grain's pattern repeating, altered slightly in each iteration, an artifact of the board's manufacturing process.
I'd been wanting to work up a large piece on a board owing to my unfortunate tendency to lay my hand on the surface while painting or drawing - problematic when working a canvas. I was thinking maybe it would involve collage. I applied gesso, following the board's grain pattern. Then slowly the vibrations appeared, or were they tails of Chinese dragon kites? Streamers or rivers? Yes. Two rivers appeared, along with overlapping circles reminiscent of my previous painting "Emergence : Refraction." Other pattern making emerged, following the contour lines. I worked horizontally right to left (flip the image 90 degrees clockwise in your mind). Then came the guitar strings, followed by the railroad hugging the canyon walls. The latter played across the land, the former played the land. Or something like that. After months of work, it was coming together. Except for the right third. What to put there?
How about the colored blocks? Right. You don't know about the colored blocks. Time travel back to 2016. I'd spent weeks sawing square dowels (can a dowel be square?) into small blocks, sanding them, applying gesso, then painting: greens on one side, orange/reds on the next, blues on the next, and finally purple/pinks on the last. Then varnish. It took freakin' forever. When vertical, the hypothetical block array would change color type depending on your orientation. I thought maybe they'd appear in a stand-alone piece and did some preliminary position experiments but I never quite felt confident enough in an arrangement to commit to gluing them down.
I did get close, though, and almost committed to the below array concept. But what to do with the rest of the board? Leave it blank? Paint it? Plain? Patterned? Collage? Competing ideas bounced around uncomfortably for weeks. Any idea for the blank areas seemed to detract from the impact of the blocks. The city-like array looked best displayed on a board laying flat so one could walk around it (see video), but who has space for that kind of thing? Famous artists in their massive airy lofts, not me and my cramped 12' x 12' studio. It would look great under glass as a coffee table, but my carpentry skills are pretty rudimentary and making a table seemed daunting (and expensive!). Future project?
Back to the emerging landscape: why not go vertical with some building-like structures massed in the empty area? Would the craft glue I got for mounting the blocks work? Would the arrangement work? I needed to test out the proof-of-concept with the glue. I had some blocks painted prior to my 4-sided color scheme (radical non-conformists), so with those I made a separate, smaller work, with some variations on my overlapping circles, sort of a day/night skyline portrait titled "Side 2/Side B." Looks good hanging along the stairs - the above and below views change depending on one's orientation.
The glue works! Proceed with commitment! Oh wait, have to make a frame that can handle the weight of this thing. Hat tip to my neighbor with the pre-safety table saw. Special thanks to the plywood for showing me the lay of the land. Only took the better part of a year to make, which might put this project into epic folly territory. Only later realized the title may refer to The Who's "Amazing Journey" - namely the line "he's in a quiet vibration land." Which may be a fair critique of where I'd rather be than where so many of us have been since the 2016 election. See my post here on the I Think Like Midnight blog about making art in the age of fear and loathing.
23.5" x 49.5". Please get this thing out of my home.