Tower – Oil on Canvas, 36″ x 36″

I am making paintings of boxes. I have several canvases in my studio at various levels of completion, each with compositions of stacks of jumbled, sometimes anti-gravital configurations of wooden and metal boxes and drawers.  Some areas of the paintings are straightforwardly representational.  In other areas passages of paint become only paint, creating dripping or pixel-like obstructions.  This may or may not sustain my interest as i begin to consider my MFA thesis at the University of Cincinnati.

"Tower" Oil on Canvas - detail

I did not initially understand my compulsion to make these paintings or my attraction to boxes and drawers but I am getting closer.  Throughout the next few weeks and months I hope writing in this blog will help to solidify my understanding of my own psychological interests in compartmentalization and containment, outline a clear course for further exploration of these themes, and perhaps even make a compelling case that something as seemingly banal as an old box can also be endlessly extraordinary and deep.

some initial somewhat random thoughts about boxes and stacks of boxes:

  • a box has two states: open and closed.  Open and closed can be thought of as a metaphor, the yin and yang of our experience of the universe.  people, paths, goals, spaces, personalities, impulses, stores, homes, windows, compositions, melodies, sentences–many many things can be open or closed.
  • a box is containment, means containment.
  • we were born in a contained state.  the womb is a box.
  • containment is safety; containment is also imprisonment.
  • the box is a metaphor for our minds.
  • the mind is often conceived as having compartments for different functions.
  • a pragmatic understanding of the universe is only possible when we shut ourselves off to the reality of interconnectedness, preferring organizational strategies that draw lines around seemingly disparate phenomena, placing these phenomena in imagined compartments and boxes.
  • a box can conceal that which should not be seen. thus,
  • a box holds secrets
  • a lock on a small box is absurd, since the box can simply be stolen.  thus,
  • locks on small boxes (especially decorative locks) are an expression of our cultural reverence for our small treasures and our secrets
  • “all these weird creatures who lock up their spirits…and live for their secrets” -Radiohead (lyrics from “Subterranean Homesick Alien”about potential alien observations on humans)
  • For psychologists, compartmentalization is useful mechanism to hold opposing viewpoints within the same mind.
  • for social scientists compartmentalization may involve the division of labor. the industrial revolution as well as mechanical time and other kinds of new systems that have imposed radical fragmentation and separation of aspects of daily life.
  • fragmentation has become our natural condition
  • “defrag” is to defragment a hard drive–to move components (imagined as cubes) and to pack them tightly into the same area like stacked boxes
  • perhaps defragmentation as a metaphor could be extended
  • maybe my interest in fragmentation is a manifestation of my own feelings of disconnection from myself, having had to adopt sub identities to exist in the worlds of music and art, to meet the expectations of different audiences
  • a painting is a box.  thus,
  • the paintings, as fragmented representations of information storage, are metaphors for themselves–they (hopefully) synthesize several psychological and sociological themes in creating unified artworks
  • a stack of closed boxes expresses inherent tension between separation and unity
  • a box is more contained than a drawer because it can be solitary
  • a single removed drawer should read as lonelier than a single box, since singular is an unnatural condition for a drawer
  • boxes are tiny museums,
  • mummy memories,
  • undead documents, periodically reincarnated
  • “…there will always be more things in a closed, than an open, box.  To verify images kills them, and it is always more enriching to imagine than to experience.”  – Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space

more to follow.