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Notes on Painting/ Practice/ Exhibition Statements
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I work with the guiding principle that art can facilitate social change, actively creating space for the possibility of mobilizing political action and reshaping common values. My parallel practices of painting and writing inform the current focus of my work: to empower communities through installation, public murals, and community events. I am working to extend existing critical tools for challenging hegemonic capitalist ideologies which bolster the corporate control of environmental and energy policies.

In 2014, 39,000 tons of coal ash, the byproduct of coal-fired electricity, spilled through eighty miles of the Dan River in North Carolina and Virginia. In the years since, that spill has been the conceptual, visual, thematic, and political driver of my Smoke and Water project. Working in partnership with an activist film organization, I created an installation of paintings and murals from an image shared by a water keeper documenting ash swirling with river water. The work was completed collaboratively with the local art, ecology, and activist communities of Wilmington, a colonial and Civil War-era port city, where I was born and raised. In the Smoke and Water project, I strive for visibility of the culturally marginalized pollution that disproportionately impacted people of color and economic disadvantage.

I believe that in painting, beauty has a democratic capacity for engaging people of diverse backgrounds and providing a potential space for contemplation, conversation, meditation, empathic feeling, and moral insight. In these paintings, both on canvas and as a collective act, I am thinking of beauty as survival, resilience, and empathy, not as a camoflauge for commodity or upholding a status quo.

Painting requires a social context for its meaning. My painting installations question the ideological neutrality of the exhibition white cube, while uniting the empathic quality of painting with the voices and experiences of our community. Many people’s hands and touches animate not only the color, form and line in the painting installation, but also the text. These texts give presence to the voices of those impacted by the coal ash pollution, as well as those responsible for its damage and regulation, creating an opportunity for a democratic presentation of voices and contemplation.

This wall painting will create an atmosphere of reflection through its contemplative yet unsettling beauty, as well as a statement of social engagement about the coal ash pollution. The rectangular squares will contain text painted by hand and gathered from brief statements solicited from impacted community members, scientists, environmentalists, polluters, and policy makers. Also main partner organizations and local groups may contribute. It will contain a response to a statement similar to the following: We are asking for a no more than 50 word statement: Please reflect on your experience and perspectives with coal ash and the future of the environment and your community. What concerns you most? What do you wish for the future?

Before the opening reception, a group largely composed of UNC-Wilmington’s Environment Concern Organization paraded the paintings through the streets of downtown Wilmington, beginning at the park in Cape Fear River. The painted voices on the canvases serve as vessels for citizen’s voices, evoking textual books, perverse tombstones and picket signs. The installation is activated through the participation and collaboration of many community members to create the objects and space. The work is among the installation as a living painting—one that will grow and evolve as many people interact with it well after the opening night.


32 page PDF Booklet/ also available as 'zine booklet in print

ON LAND by Greg Lindquist and Mary Mattingly
Place is intertwined with human livelihood, consciousness, and memory. Through land, we experience pleasure and pain, pride and disdain, life and death. Yet, we are increasingly fragmented and disconnected from the physical, social, and political functions of land. As a result, we know less about the origins of our food, the endpoints of our waste, and the paths they travel. From the complex networks that extract energy from landmasses, to oil and minerals mined by machine and human hands for commodities, the exploitation of land is the loss of our human future. How can we resiliently reshape this impending loss and destruction?

As a Wilmington born native, I feel a special connection to and concern for the environment in North Carolina. My father was a marine biologist for over 30 years at UNC-Wilmington. His work with artificial reefs and concern for the maintaining of fish populations was formative in my  passion for ecology and environmentalism. The recent Duke Energy coal ash spill is symptomatic of a larger American political problem in which corporations are not held accountable for their ruinous wastes. As recent revelations have shown, Gov McCrory’s and John Skvarla's allegiance to Duke Energy and his degradation of environmental regulations have created toxic environmental, political and social consequence. 

I have listened to the thoughts of many environmental groups, including Appalachian Voices, Dan River Basin Associations and Waterkeeper about the impact of the coal ash spill and how we can properly address its ruinous, biomagnified impact on our environment. Art and its resilient beauty has the power to not only raise awareness to these crucial environment issues but also, through both visible and invisible networks of influence, to bring pressure to bear upon those responsible. It is an auspicious coincidence that my exhibition opens during the same week that federal court will convene on DENR and Duke Energy blocks away from the gallery in which I will be creating this work. I intend to harness this synchronous moment to further implore public awareness and action for holding Duke Energy and the DENR accountable for their irresponsible behaviors.  

Rozel Point buffers the northern shore of the Great Salt Lake and Promontory Point. Adjoining east and west, the physical location of the lake and historical network of peripherals like the driving of the golden spike, this stretch of land also stretches backward in time. Inwardly turning, like its adjacent neighbor the Spiral Jetty, the organic rich sediments of Rozel Point contain oil seeps. Generated by Miocene to Poliocene periods 24 to 1.8 million years ago, it is the oldest oil field in Utah.

The oil seeps have been known since the early 1800s; the earliest attempts of drilling were in 1904 and extended into the mid-1980s. 10,000 barrels of oil have been extracted from thirty to fifty wells. (A recent oil spill in Houston has oozed 10,000 barrels of oil per day.)

This hallucinatory search for oil that is not only remotely located and scarce but also very difficult to extract perplexes me. Oil, like its environs of my snow-covered Rozel Point visit, is a blinding mirage. It is the ever shifting, shimmering reflection of economic conditions that propel the illusion of profit from this geological bounty. Visitors, like prospectors, also often mistake the surrounding volcanic black basalt rock for oil dripped rocks.

In a 1996 survey, Thomas Chidsey notes, “crude oil dripping from abandoned well heads, tar on rocks and beach sands and dead pelicans along the beach.” Shortly thereafter, a massive clean up removed the oil derrick, piers and remains of several shanties. Orderly rows of weathered pilings remained after clean up. What was deliberately left has been crafted into a minimal landscape rotted into an unassisted decay. Like a lawn, or New York’s Central Park crafted to appear further into a distant future of a pastoral past, these pilings forebode distant nonhuman futures.

HARVARD LECTURE STATEMENT image-landscape-futures
To paint a landscape is to create an image signifying a particular moment and place. This image is situated in networks of sociopolitical, economic, temporal and historical realities. Destabilized by varying degress of abstraction from reality, an image I am interested in is anchored by these contextual networks. The images of architecture I have painted depict both human and nonhuman entities in an ecological system. Architecture is a mediating representation of these entities. As a hybridizing force of human and nonhuman activities in the landscape, architecture is both a result of human presence and a signifier containing its absence. Like paintings, buildings are documents of past human histories and forebode distant nonhuman futures.

The image and perception of the image are equally central in my paintings. These concerns often vie for recognition and significance in the work. While the image must signify cultural realities, its visual delivery must be equally compelling. I believe this sort of image must develop against the mechanically photographic. By contrast to the clarity in a photograph, the painted image may grow weary or decompose, discontinuously focus, or lengthen into the phenomenological space of the exhibition. Sometimes, this delivery literally aligns with its subject: The entropic forces of decay on architecture can be represented in the dissolution of the image or its sickly palette of color. In the end, I distrust the power of images as much as I trust their meditative capacity. In an overly saturated, mediated world of smartphone screens, computers, tablets, interactive kiosks and ATMs, the image is both debased in its proliferation and necessary for fundamental communication.

In my work, the Hudson River School painters’ interest in American progress is as important as the 1960 and 70s notion of a mythic site-specific frontier. My work began by focusing on particular geographic places, such as Brooklyn’s waterfront and the derelict Soviet factories of Rustavi, in the Republic of Georgia. But the site I am interested in is no longer only a location, such as the remote Great Salt Lake in the American West in recent paintings; it now includes studio, gallery, geographic location, discourse, the internet and its images, and so on. To be “specific” about a site, then, is to describe a hybrid of virtual and physical networks spreading from critical writing to gallery to exterior landscape to web content.


Painting is about the slowness of seeing and the difficulties of recognition. It is difficult to locate painting’s imagery with how it is painted, as simultaneously it exists as both perceptual experience and physical depiction. Painting is about the transformation of sensation, memory and observation into a self-contained, portable frame. It is a world of its own. But, to look into it with eyes, one must look around it with eyes and body and into the context in which it is displayed. The walls on which a painting hangs, although often blank and disregarded, must be accounted for. 

The gallery as a particular, whole space and time for contemplating the landscape interests me. Whereas the Land artists of the 1970’s sought to take art into the landscape and thus forego the gallery experience, I am interested in bringing the perceived constructs of nature and culture into the real, architectural space of the gallery with painting. To a certain extent, this seems like nothing new if you think of from this perspective Piero’s enclosing frescos, Monet’s peripherally immersive l’Orangerie, or Frederic Church’s theaters of vistas. Yet these artists remained less concerned with and conscious of the character and particulars of their paintings in the context of one place/space at one time; they are all as pictures interested more in the frame within which time is both captured through an instance and suspended in an infinite moment. 

In painting that is site-specific and extended into the realm of installation, the timelessness (or, eternalness as Daniel Buren has likewise written) of the illusionistic image melds with the immediacy of the architectural real space, experience in real time by an embodied viewer. The tense of the architectural space flickers with the illusionistic imagery painted directly on the wall, the tenses of present and past swirl with phenomenological confusion. The viewer encounters at once the exteriority of the gallery space and the interiority of its painted image, as well as the interiority of the gallery and the exteriority of the painted image. Ultimately, the melding of image and real space is not experienced seamlessly, or without complication. Corners of architecture intersect and negotiate layers of painted imagery. The light of the gallery irradiates its painted walls, fused in a perceptual mirage and locked in an endless feedback loop of the movement between eyes and body. 

What happens though, when the geometry and sterility of gallery-like architecture is altered or removed? Can painting thrive or even exist? These questions intrigued and attracted me to Mary Mattingly’s Flock House project, which enlisted artists to take residency in her spherical living systems that imagine an alternative model of urban architecture. With a network of conduit and laminated plywood as frame and spandex fabric as a permeable/membranous shell, there is little distinction between interior and exterior, or the geometric determinations of wall and ceiling. Based on a hexagonal floor plan, I proposed to follow one half of the shape with a painting triptych. One central canvas would remain flush with the floor and be flanked by a canvas on each side turned inside, in a way similar to a previous display of Monet’s Water Lilies at MoMA that suggests the elliptical hangings at L’Orangerie. I was also inspired by James Rosenquist’s F-111 installation, which was recreated in its original floor plan at the MoMA in summer of 2012 and inspired also by Monet’s extremely retinal Water Lilies installation at L’Orangerie. Unlike either, though, the canvases in the Flock House were both painting and architectural substrate, becoming the walls themselves.

I wasn’t certain how the image would function in its environment. Would be it abstract or descriptive imagery? Would it be derived from the garden in its site, painted from life or photographed and painted from projection? To this end, I wrote two a priori statements arguing for each extreme, but in the end my approach was a fusing of these two false dialectics. An argument for representational imagery also required addressing a problem of how abstraction is arrived at and what is purely representational or abstract. I started with one silhouetted image of a plant and obscured it by the repetition of brushstrokes that recorded my motions, movements and actions inside of and around the Flock House.

With the evolving, freely growing aesthetics of the Flock House, I envisioned the paintings as developing in the same ecological process-based system. Each time the Flock House is installed it is subject to adapt to the resources and limitations of its surroundings. What I might have seen in the Flock House as a lack of aesthetic choices (eg craft) is rather simply a different set of choices to a more or less flexible set of outcomes (eg hypothetical, propositions, imaginings). Painting, on the other hand, might require a more crafted environment in which to function yet itself may operate in terms of process in a similar series of flexible, organic adaptions to its space in order to thrive. 

The Flock House paintings began with translations of imagery or imagistic transcriptions of nature. With the imagery of one plant, I brought what was outside the Flock House inside. Each painting session or encounter also addressed something specific to that particular visit, whether it was a detail of light, color, atmosphere, feeling or impression. It was not necessarily abstract by form or inspiration but rather a distillation of something perceived or observed. 

This exercise was also about subverting expectation, breaking down the contradictions inherent in language that classifies, such as abstract and representational. It was also about being outside of the interiority in a more traditional studio, and painting in the atrium of an office building in Lower Manhattan without a door to close, or privacy. A constant stream of people entered and exited this space, freely offering their responses of confusion, admiration or entertainment. This forced me to be more deliberate and decisive when I visited the Flock House, or I was forever uncomfortably distracted. 

Ultimately, I never quite understood how the painting was experienced until it was removed and placed in a museum setting, where it was supplied emptied (yet altered) space around it. Rather than hang the painting as a continuous edge-to-edge triptych I raised the central panel slightly by twelve inches or so to suggest the environment of its origin. 

“You are Nature” examines the perceived distinctions of nature and culture that I dissolve in painting. While we might look stereotypically at the forms of nature as amorphous and with “organic” curves rather than geometric or rhomboid (as Robert Smithson discusses in Wilhelm Worringer’s Abstraction and Empathy), I establish that there is no difference. The exhibition's title also recalls Jackson Pollock’s famous statement in response to when Hans Hoffman challenged Pollock’s drip paintings, telling him that he needed to be working from life or from nature and Pollock retorted, “I am nature.” I also have been affected by Peter Halley’s essay “Nature and Culture” in which he describes cultural events such as World War II as natural disaster like a flood or fire, calling attention to phenomenon as a web of signs that constitute the modern world.

Some of my works depict enigmatic objects in the landscape, while others frame the landscape through technology such as digital screens that, like paintings, mediate how we experience our world. My work broadly views the landscape impressionistically through the artificial environment of mechanical reproduction. In his work, the splatter is the dot is the screen. The mystery of craft in painting is explored, developing richly layered surfaces through drips, splatters and removal, suggesting various screens, veils or scrims of light through which images are viewed. The paintings on the wall depict segments of cast light shaped by windows that are detached from their original source and call attention to the architecture as a canvas and screen for painting.

While my previous exhibition “Nonpasts” focused on a conceptually ambiguous, site specificity in architectural cement boxes and cast slabs, “You are Nature” emphasizes painting the enigmatic in the landscape, in both land and water, above and below the surface. In a recent SCUBA diving trip with my brother, I explored the world under the surface of water as inspiration for painting and models for thinking about nature. If the 1960s were about space as a site for exploration and repository for imaginations, our final frontier is our environment. The ocean, with miles of uncharted territory and countless unexamined species and organisms, is our intergalactic fascination. Water becomes a unifying metaphor for my work in terms of the surface and depth of painting.

My work depicts actions in the landscape that are not always obvious. These actions are manifested in material displacements of thing falling apart, people vacating structures and things displacing other things, dwellings being built, torn down and rebuilt. I paint these landscapes in a way that aestheticizes their atmospheric, material and formal conditions, I think painting is about making the everyday appear more beautiful.

Using painting to communicate these issues is just as complex as the issues themselves. Photography, which I use as source material for the paintings, is culturally accessible and has a relatively short history as opposed to painting, which is known for being a commodity, a luxury object. While it’s impossible to escape the reification of this object, I believe painting can express a beauty that is intelligent, well-informed and conscientious of its contradictions.

If I am romanticizing these landscapes of architectural decay, I am doing so in order to seduce the viewer, to engage him or her in a more complex context about the landscape’s political, economic and conceptual content. Often, these complexities have to do with gentrification, globalization, deindustrialization and urban blight. The forces at work are often in dialectical oppositions that become blurred, such as preservation-development, interior-exterior, complete-incomplete, new-old, value-valueless, and use-neglect.

Denoting both present and future tenses, the term “present” in grammar is sometimes called “nonpast.” As a negation of past, evoking the spaces in between tenses, “nonpast” also recalls ideas of interstitial space such as Robert Smithson’s ideas of non-sites and Rosalind Kraus’s logical expansion of the intermediary forms and spaces separating landscape, sculpture and architecture. In various depictions of architectural ruins (as near as Brooklyn and as far as the former Soviet Bloc country Georgia), “nonpasts” refers to a rich ambiguity of states, tenses and forms. While some architectures appear in a state of natural decomposition and abandonment of use, others suggest decaying incompletion or human-directed disassembly. In these temporal grey areas the dialectics of interior-exterior, complete-incomplete, new-old, value-valueless, and use-neglect dissolve and blur.

Reconsidering the role of photography as sources for paintings, I have hung paintings in clusters and arrangements that call attention to the presence of the grid, activating the edges of the paintings with the space around them. The paintings become modules with which to play—slotting them together, pulling them apart, imaging them as interlocking tongue and groove joints in wood working or hovering fragments of an incomplete modular system. Inside each painting is also another grid: the viewfinder’s residue—the indexical mark of photography. Photography becomes the obsessive segmenting of the world; in painting these views distilled and reduced into their essential forms he creates imperfect recollections of the mind.

The exhibition “Nonpasts” also marks my exploration in sculpture. Creating over a dozen concrete boxes and indexical casts, these sculptures call to mind funerary monuments, architectural columns, pedestals or coffins. In their serial forms and material sameness, I allude to the minimalism of Donald Judd, Sol LeWitt and Carl Andre, yet in their rough-hewn materials and character I acknowledge incompleteness and disorder.

“The Past is also part of the tissue, part of the present, but it looks somewhat out of focus. The Past is a constant accumulation of images, but our brain is not an ideal organ for constant retrospection and the best we can do is to pick out and try to retain those patches of rainbow light flitting through memory. The act of retention is the act of art, artistic selection, artistic blending, artistic re-combination of events. The bad memoirist re-touches his past, and the result is a blue-tinted or pink-shaded photograph taken by a stranger to console sentimental bereavement. The good memoirist, on the other hand, does his best to preserve the utmost truth of the detail. One of the ways he achieves his intent is to find the right spot on his canvas for placing the right patch of remembered color.”

--Vladimir Nabokov

My work explores landscape as a memorial. As a painting, a landscape is a physical fact and work of the mind. In viewing a landscape, an internal ethos is projected onto a perception of external environment. My most recent work documents Brooklyn's industrial past and future residential growth, depicting specific sites of building and decay in the present Williamsburg and Redhook waterfront. As American manufacturing has moved overseas, these unused warehouse buildings and structures—icons of the industrial revolution— have been transformed/reclaimed by luxury. Inspired by construction materials, I use metallic pigments, often as skies, which evoke the presence of pollutants in the atmosphere.