My subject matter is a cinematic autobiography made from photos which were discarded by my family.
I turned the flat, black and white or faded images into Technicolor, a medium which is associated with the heightened emotion of melodrama. The Wizard of Oz, Gone with the Wind and countless other Technicolor movies were the realm I escaped to during a sometimes difficult childhood. Breathing emotion into the images and also combining disparate parts to create a whole, were important to creating this “body” of work. Especially important to me was the integration of a dissociated past into a coherent whole. Connecting with lost parts of my life from the age of a newborn to puberty.
Each day in the studio I created a cyan, magenta and yellow gouache painting, based on a single pencil sketch. At night I combined the individual paintings in a process similar to three-strip Technicolor. The next day, I would repaint the three layers and create another proof. I painted “blind” not knowing the final colors until the paintings were complete. I repeated this process until I was satisfied with the resulting color. To create the transparency of the campfire at the top of this page, I made 36 gouaches.
The following thumbnails show the creation of a single image. Each row is a day’s work. I painted “blind,” not knowing how colors would combine. After making a proof, I started the process over again with new paintings, the next day.
As part of an exhibition of the backlit transparencies, I included the 143 gouache paintings set up as a chronological timeline of my process. Each column represented a day in the studio. Notes, dates and proofs were visible; all mistakes, deadends and breakthroughs of my process were revealed.
It all began with a mistake, a “you got your chocolate in my peanut butter” moment. I accidentally combined separate blue, magenta and yellow paintings. Awestruck by the new image, I resolved to make a series based on this process.
Though referred to as "the lightboxes" by my friends, the title of this series is "The Lion-for-real", from Jane Hirshfield's analysis of Allen Ginsberg's poem "The Lion for Real". Here is Jane Hirshfield's examination of the poem in her essay "Facing the Lion: The Way of Shadow and Light" which is part of "Nine Gates: Entering the Mind of Poetry":
"The lion-for-real is a being far more complex, more multidimensional, and more outer. Not simply some untamed part of the self, it is an untamed part of the world, something that cannot be owned or controlled, that must in the end be acknowledged because its presence in our lives is irrefutable, overwhelming, and—if we allow it to be—transformative."