thoughts about my work

My graphite drawings are based on images I find in magazines, books, and on the internet.· I am attracted to certain images for various reasons – perhaps they reflect ideas already on my mind or maybe they suggest clues – irrational hints that an image may possess meaning aside from its subject. While sometimes there are thematic or conceptual interests that inform my selection, choices often result from chance encounters and random discoveries. Sometimes a choice arises from the desire to interrupt the visual cohesion of a collection of images, percussively.

Through the use of marginalia and understatement (though occasionally with blatant obviousness), my work portrays a desire for connection and shared experiences, employing ambiguity, discord and - sometimes - contradiction. My intent is to plot a lyrical visual landscape using an accumulation of quotidian images as source materials.

I see myself as a collector, and as with all collectors, the hunt is a critical element of the activity. Often the object of the hunt isn't determined, but emerges out of the series of linkages that occurs naturally in the process of searching. As I assemble a collection, I think about what conversation might be started as individual pieces are placed in proximity to each other.

While I am attracted to these images for specific (or random) reasons, once they are rendered and join my collection of drawings, any original content remains merely as residue in a new, open text. I am much more interested in presenting a collection that entices the viewer into their own speculative arena for interpretation. Rather than state an emphatic thesis, images offer the viewer the agency to freely read the work as desired (and perhaps as a reflection of desires). And while the varied subjects reflect the frequently erratic manner in which images circulate in contemporary culture, my ever-expanding body of work coheres as a visual lexicon, united through the act of rendering with the hand. The interstitial spaces between pieces provide the locus for the construction of meaning or, in the least, the pleasure of meaningful speculation.


Q&A with Hudson of Feature Inc. 4.17.02

Is your whole as vague as your parts?

There is an interest in openness that prevents me from making too many demands on the parts. The whole remains unfettered and supple, since it is continually revisited and revised.

Your image selection seems to be expanding. Are you creating an arc or a dictionary?

If I think of an arc not as a curve but as "a luminous discharge between two electrodes,” then I can relate that concept to the collection as a whole, and to the selection process, because the choice of each new image is mediated by my experience of the previous drawing, and the resulting relationship between images generates an exchange which in turn influences my decision for the next image. I guess I could go back to q1 and state that my whole is an expansive abundance of these luminous discharges. On the other hand, sometimes I come across an image so promising that I stop what I'm doing and work with it right away.

What determines installation sequencing?

The arrangement is orchestrated to convey a sense of the overarching process of exchange and selection. I hang certain pieces together because the sequence of their production really clicked for me, and their proximity recalls that experience. Some pieces invite interesting formal comparisons when grouped together. Alternatively, occasionally a piece may be used to insert a pause - a moment apart from the larger collection of pictures. That said, I must admit that the strategy changes every time I arrange the group.

I understand that you frequently work from photocopies of images rather than the found image itself; why do that?

There is an element of chance in the discovery of images, and the photocopier enhances that by introducing certain random alterations to the imagery which contribute to the translation process - especially an older copier which has not been well-maintained. The quality of the reproduction is unpredictable, and the resulting changes in contrast and graphic textures inspire departures.

Do you dream in black & white?

I don't notice the presence or absence of color in my dreams. My recollections are more about the sequences of events and the transitions.


Q&A with Hudson of Feature Inc. 4.15.00

What is it about parts?

I think of these drawings as a collection of parts. The project is a continuous search, largely random, for small details that send my mind wandering. Parts possess so much potential. There is always something beyond their edges, something unseen but implied that serves as a point of departure. It’s that rabbit hole of which I am so fond.

You seem particularly fond of dragging the softish lead over the tooth of the paper, and helping the viewer vicariously experience this.

It’s a seduction--and to take such care in applying the graphite to these images is radical to me. To devote such a huge amount of time applying layer after layer of graphite to what many people would never even have noticed is liberating. It’s also a way of disavowing the "rational." And if I achieve a certain surface quality, then I may be able to capture the viewer’s imagination for a bit longer.

Any comment on the relationship between over-exposure and the blank paper?

In adapting the found image--usually photographic--my focus shifts depending on what I’m trying to take from the source image. Once I begin drawing, the elements of the image that originally caught my attention may dominate or recede depending on how the subject begins to occupy the paper. Often, the degree of abstraction is influenced by the drawing I completed prior. As for over-exposure...the pipe is a good example because the contrast between dark and light began to take an almost pornographic quality and a starkness that I think would have been softened if I had filled it out and moderated the tones.

Do you have a favorite pencil number and brand? Do you always use the same paper?

I am quite fond of H. I suppose it’s my favorite. I never go softer than HB; softer graphite has a grainier appearance and I don’t want the images to look too expressionistic. For the same reason I use a paper that is relatively smooth so that the work isn’t so much about the mark. It’s true that I’ve developed a fairly consistent technique, but it has happened so gradually, over so much time, that I don’t really think of my execution as technique. It’s just a process. The process is for me the personalization of the found image as it evolves through rendering.

I understand that one of your recent drawings is after some unrecognizable thing you noticed on a scrap of paper you had used as a bookmark. Did not really knowing what it was or its source create any particular difficulty, curiosity, etc.?

The scrap was really unintelligible as a representation, so I didn’t have anything recognizable to refer to, which was problematic because even with a complete abstraction I like to retain a little of the referent. It’s so hard to describe, but if an image begins as an abstraction, it can become a mess, while if the image has its beginning in something representational, it retains a kind of tangibility, even through the process of abstraction. For me it is the tension between abstraction and representation that makes images like this compelling. With the scrap, I let the element of chance lead me through the rendering just as it had brought me upon the image initially. It evolved slowly and I let the picture take shape gradually. I wasn’t really convinced it would work until it was finished.

How are you interested by the way drawing from a printed image furthers the drawing’s viewer’s distance from the initial existence while also lessening the differences between the objects or images which were photographed, printed, drawn, and finally seen?

The drawing process transfers the imagery from one fiction to another. I find these images in various places, then I personalize them--sometimes by subverting the subject and focusing on the peripheral details, or by abstracting the image into something completely different. In most cases each piece results, and further articulates something, from the piece preceding, though I don’t think the drawings are necessarily interdependent. I make associations according to whatever chains of meaning occur in my head, and while the image’s initial existence may add another level to the richness of the piece (it does to me anyway) I don’t think it necessarily contributes meaning to the resulting collection of drawings.


Q&A with Hudson of Feature Inc. 10.10.98

Do you continue to draw images found in magazines and books?

Yes. They give me the comforting illusion that I’m participating in some kind of cultural exchange.

Any specificity to the type of book or magazine?

Not really--I mean, in past series, yes. I had very specific parameters for a couple of projects--medieval embellishments, for example--but recently, no, whatever catches my eye at any given moment. Whatever sneaks up on me.

What initially attracted you to draw from details of pictures in books, and has this changed over recent years?

Actually, I think I’ve come full circle since I began using found images because I once again find myself concentrating on their evocative qualities. There were a few projects that became bogged down in their attempt to make a more directed statement, but thankfully I’ve gotten past that. Not that I don’t have an agenda of sorts, but I want to keep the work open.

Is getting lost in looking at the details of an image rather like getting lost in the physical process of drawing?

It’s like going down a rabbit hole.

What are some of your favorite things about the repetitive aspects of applying graphite onto the surface of a piece of paper?

The process is satisfyingly protean. And oddly, the more I draw, the longer it takes. I love focusing on minutia and I work so slowly that a couple of inches of paper can take hours to cover. That’s entrancing--a lot of mental play time.

Do you consider your drawings an invitation for the viewer to enjoy their sub-conscious?

That’s all I can hope for. I mean, I want the drawings to be self-contented yet entirely open. The last thing I want is to coax the viewer into a cage.

Are these thirteen drawings and their salon style installation meant to provoke a narrative of sorts?

I think of these drawings as a kind of collection of samples and the salon-style arrangement is just one way of assembling them. The implied narrative which results is a welcome, though indirect, effect of the installation.

Why the frames with no glazing?

Glass seals off the drawings--it distances them--and I want the viewer to experience the sensuality of the graphite on paper.

What’s your thing with paper?

In addition to the fact that it feels really good, I like the vulnerability of the material.

Any interest in painting?

Too noisy.

Jerry Phillips