What I’m Doing (Idaho Road Trip)

In 2010 I first came out here to paint after the BP oil spill in the gulf.  From outer space, the lava spill appeared the same scope and magnitude (covering 750 thousand acres) as the oil spill itself.  I wanted to paint a landscape that had relevance.  As an Industrial painter, a spill seemed a natural extension of subject matter.  Also, it is a nice break to get out of dark, cavernous spaces and be outdoors.  I want to paint looser; have brushstrokes flow like lava.

What I love about the lava flow is that at first glance it looks to be a dump left behind from industry-almost like a lead mine’s tailings.  However this flow is natural and continues to grow.  Eruptions are thousands of years apart and the older flows from 10,000 years ago, finally, are covered with sagebrush.  I’m interested in capturing the newer flows, which are still fresh, black obsidian.  I’m hoping the work will look both apocalyptic and Zen at the same time, depending on the viewer’s mindset.

I’m experimenting painting with asphalt because no brand of oil can get the black I want.  I want a black that sucks light in like a sponge.  I’m painting with knives, brushes and a trowel.  I want the marks to be crude.  I want to do something digital photographers can’t. For me, it is all about the surface.  (I have a background in sculpture after all.)

Every time I set up, photographers come to take a photograph in the exact same spot I am set up in.  It is as if they think a painter is some kind of a scenic ambassador.  I am a living scenic viewfinder.  I am humored by this and sometimes set up in the least scenic place just to test out this theory.

Late in the afternoon, painting time is crucial and the light is only good for seconds.  At this time of day, the beginning of leisure-time cocktail hour, undoubtedly, tourists come and interrupt me while I am painting.  I try and be polite.  I pretend my hearing is worse than it is.  They want to gab.  I nod and smile– sort of.  They are finished with their day, however, and want to talk.  I’d like to socialize too but this is the busiest part of my day.  It can be lonely on the road and I like to talk—but later. At this time of day I’m doing what I do.

A lot of Sunday painters want to talk.  Also, I attract quite a few bull dikes.  I know they like me and not art because they don’t even bother to walk around the easel. They make me feel like I am just a new flavor and interesting only because my rig is something other than a Harley.

Last summer, I got to wear a park uniform.  A different cross-section of humanity spoke to me. I didn’t mind being interrupted because as artist of the park, I knew it was my job.  I loved answering questions, “Can we skate board here?” “Sure!”  I got to be the resident artist of Crater’s of the Moon National Monument.  The general public thought I was a ranger.  I even wore my uniform to the grocery store where people let me cut in line.  I was very popular.  I also remember attracting men with uniform fetishes.

At times, I enhanced my uniform by wearing frilly pink silk shirts underneath and fun leggings.  This time around I have given myself my own uniform, coveralls, boots and a wide brimmed hat to keep the sun off.  This month the hat might have to go because it is too windy.


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