Method d'emploi oi oi

I started out using acrylic paints in 1983.  My first works were painted on those canvas covered cardboard things.

Since then, I have thrown gallons of paint on paper, on cardboard, on dumpsters in Humboldt Park.  I've thrown baby food jars full of paint on canvas covered bricks in the courtyard of buildings and dragged construction equipment around the streets of New York, after hours, just to hear the sound.

I have seen things you people would not believe...  fire devils in coke oven batteries off the shoulder of Hegewisch... blast furnaces belching black smoke from safety relief valves in Chicago, steam off the Calumet river in ten below zero weather..... o.k. o.k. ..never mind the blade runner bollocks...

I would have to agree with Robert Motherwell, that a successful painting has never happened by formula.  I don't think you can just make a  "study" and enlarge the damn thing and call it "art" But then again, I never went to art school!  I don't think a good painting is made by disciplined time spent making a pre-ordained pattern. In my experience every painting presents a "puzzle" and the successful solution of the puzzle usually involves an element of risk. 

When creating a new piece, there always comes a time, when I'm happy with the preliminary returns.  There usually comes a time when, what lay there deserves preservation.  However, preservation isn't consistent with the miracle of "creation".  Many times, I have had to sacrifice perfectly splendid imagery for the sake of a miraculous new creation. 

As a piece unfolds, the unintended, inevitable, exasperating flaw gets somehow introduced, be that for any number of reasons.  And the flaw must be eradicated.  Eradication is never as easy as pulling out an eraser or covering something up.  The flaw must be excoriated fully and completely and this grueling process usually puts the splendid imagery at risk.  The artist stands there concentrating, adrenaline pumping.  He knows he stands to nullify all that he has done.

The flaw eradication process is one which has as much chance of failure as success.  I have grieved many times over the loss of splendid imagery, when something goes wrong with the paint.

But when something goes right, the painting takes a quantum leap.  Like the Prodigal Son or Christ, the painting returns triumphant after three days in the wilderness, resplendent in glowing raiment.  The wet painting sits there finished for the ecstatic creator to celebrate.

Joe Van Go-Go

Chicago, January 11, 2004  

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