'the last five years' | Body of Work Conceptual Overview | Concepts, Choices, and Inspiration

Sep 6, 2022

This overview for the last five years, seeks to address and expand upon the tenets and principles that were established and utilized across the development and execution of the body of work. These characteristics are overarching, and therefore flow within and around all fifteen of the pieces comprising the last five years. My hope in sharing these choices is that overviews for each of the fifteen works that follow will be much more specific, allowing me to avoid redundancy in favor of more precise detail. Likewise, this writing is an effort to draw each viewer of the last five years more deeply into this body of work’s initial inspiration, its recurring compositional motifs, its conceptual framework, and its emotional existence, culminating in a richer experience for all who invest themselves into it. 

Inspiration and Development

The genesis for the last five years is somewhat nebulous, especially when recounting its promulgation. It began with an urge I had in 2020 to produce work chronicling these first five years pursuing this call of a career artist. I felt there was something about what had transpired that was asking to be expressed. Given that I had left higher education and officially began this journey in the spring of 2017, I knew it was only fitting that this body of work ought to be created and exhibited within 2022, though I knew not how at the time. Small glimmers of ideas would hit me beginning in late 2019 and throughout 2020, which I would then shelve in anticipation for what could thus become. As Providence would have it, an opportunity arose in June of 2021 that afforded me potentiality for the development and production of a body of work to be exhibited as a solo show the following fall 2022, and naturally I felt that this was precisely what the last five years was awaiting. 

Though the concept of chronicling the first five years of my journey pursuing this call I feel within me was the starting point, development with this body of work quickly demonstrated to me that more was at stake. Without divulging too much, I think it’s still worth addressing how it would change. Ultimately, I felt a sort of balancing act—a push and pull between the negative and the positive aspects of this journey, upon which this body of work hinged. This is a characteristic that developed into what I define as VS. points. When everything began in 2017, I had no idea how things would unfold—I believed committing my life to this journey was genuine within me, and yet I was constantly vetting the veracity of the decision. On one hand, the authenticity of my existence as an artist in this world burned more and more brightly in my heart, and moments of growth and illumination would keep cementing this notion for me as time passed. To the contrary, however, many real-life challenges—both interior and exterior—continued to to arise. These often left me feeling dejected, questioning whether I would be allowed to continue on this path, and influenced my character. They would sometimes shed light on my weaknesses and flaws, again making me vet what I felt internally to the highest degree. I have often remarked that no one needs more convincing that he is an artist than me, but this is a sincere notion that I take seriously. As someone who discerns even the simplest of decisions, I always looked upon the call of being an artist with gravity. It was this back and forth between the edifying revelations and the traumatic defeats that I sought to capture in this body of work, which thus turned the last five years into a sort of trial to determine whether anyone pursuing this call was doing so authentically, and whether doing so was even worthwhile. Again, this all mimicked the internal teetering that my mind underwent regularly, making it a major component of this five-year period in my career. The VS. motif was born.

But this would not be how I would fully acknowledge this period of time through the work. It was not enough to simply illustrate moments that came to pass since, for me, none of them really were experienced as such. This was more about the implications and lasting effects. There had to be, therefore, a breakdown of time as well as space in order to capture the true gravity of what I experienced. If the last five years was to be a scrutiny of this journey, it would need to evaluate not just moments but what bearing they had upon my person and upon the work. I wanted to capture this as a sort of tapestry, and by that I mean a quality within the production of these pieces that made them experiences stitched together—both within themselves and with each other—rather than documented events.

Over the course of 2021, I began to feel that the particular artist I am is something akin to a ‘proprietor of dreams’. I didn’t fully understand what it meant, but I understood the feeling associated with it—that I was made to be a means of sharing the intimate, the minute, and the delicate details of our humanity. I believe I am called to produce work that somehow speaks to the deepest parts of our human experience—those gentle threads we feel in our hearts, the most granular of emotions we experience, the bevy of qualities present in this odd life. This sentiment was alive with me in developing the last five years, and I mention it now because I feel it shaped my placement as the creator of this body of work. It seeks to take the viewer by the hand and evaluate these experiences side-by-side. Though not necessarily a proprietor in a sales sense, I still felt an urgency to draw each viewer in and through these pieces so that they may partake of the experiences too in haste. Thus my role as the artist with this body of work felt solidified. 

With that in mind, the stakes felt too high for the last five years to be merely autobiographical. Rather, I found it speaking to the universal call of commitment that each person faces at various points in life. As a result, this body of work is meant to become self-reflective for each viewer at a very personal and individual level, somehow utilizing my self-reflective scrutiny to more greatly explore commitment in any capacity. Perhaps one could consider this to be a sort of looking glass, or even a mirror for viewers to asses how their commitments are shaped and grow within their life journeys. 

Embarking on this career felt like a true calling, impelling me to abandon my education, as stated, and follow what I believed in my heart. But even so, I always bore the gravity of the risks and the countless unknowns inherent to life as an artist. These first five years felt time and time again like one large experiment, and sometimes as fragile and uncertain as the toss of a coin. Ultimately, I seek to abandon my life to Divine Providence, but even in that respect, believing that what I felt within me was aligned with a greater plan and purpose would always--and still does--require much trust. No one vetted this commitment more than me, and thus this body of work seeks to capture the constant ups and downs of an individual seeking to discern the journey he felt was given to him one day at a time.

Conceptual Framework

All fifteen works carry within them this aforementioned VS. motif in the form of VS. points. These are aspects inherent to a piece’s conceptual makeup that align them with the overall back and forth of the scrutiny—it is like a pendulum, swinging to and fro between the defeats and the triumphs. Most works contain at least one idea of a VS. point—that is to say, there is an aspect present in the piece that pushes towards the edification juxtaposed to an aspect pushing towards the conflict and demise. These will be discussed on a piece to piece basis, and it is worth mentioning that this is always a swinging scale. Some works are more one direction than the other, and when considered as a whole, there are aspects within pieces that act as VS. points to ideas within other pieces, or other pieces entirely. The visual characteristic of VS. is what drew me to describing the sentiment as such. There is great power in that small, two-letter acronym, evoking a sense of combat and decisiveness. This scrutiny is a battle, these five years have been a battlefield, and there is urgency in determining the outcome as to whether this journey really is worth the fight. It is also an homage to a particular, story-focused video game franchise, which has been with me through much of these five years, and is thus referenced several times within the body of work. This will be pointed out in individual overviews when it is relevant.

To express these varying VS. points visually, the utilization of colored pencils is accompanied by graphite in the last five years. This is my first experience producing work in such a manner—where hues of color are layered, and a final layer of graphite is then employed. In each work, there is an agency to each of the hues, as well as the graphite, which shifts from piece to piece to cement each work's placement on the continuum—either towards edification or defeat. I describe the graphite’s agency accordingly for each case—for the defeating, it is an aggressor, agitator, corrective surgeon, disruptor, know-it-all, bombarder, harbinger, scribbler, undertake, etc.; while for the edifying it becomes a solidifier, grounding, heightener, embracer, cooperator, comforter, reveler. The hues, likewise, perform in ways that encourage harmony or dissonance, again in accord with a work’s nature, and this is more deeply discussed in the overviews for each specific piece. As a whole, the interaction between all layers of color and graphite in each piece establishes where on the VS. spectrum of evidence that particular work aligns, as stated above, driven first and foremost by the ideas inherent to each work.

Words, then, form a similar function being composed of graphite. Using cursive in my own hand was a decision to leave a deeply personal touch on this body of work—every sentence, phrase, and word was written by me as the artist, forcing my ownership. This, likewise, connects to the pieces themselves. This is my last five years—these experiences, these emotions, the totality of the last five years belongs to me as the artist, and that cannot be understated. It is, however, a universal body of work wherein I hope to lead the viewer through this scrutiny as described earlier, but the tie to my existence is of value. I am deliberately putting my own journey—my own call—on trial for the sake of the viewers, that they may find solidarity in having to lay bare their own vows when the time comes in each of their lives. 

For me, words have always been critical to my process given the conceptual and emotional dichotomy of it. These sentences and phrases become, then, the deep sentiments attached to the experiences. And just as with the final graphite layer in each piece, the text shifts agency, and often many times within each piece. Sometimes the words are the intrusive thoughts and voices; the counteractive feelings and distressing notions; or the bombardment of external objectors. Other times they are encouragement; the revelations and inspiration that come along the way; or a joyful anchor. Text also carries a third, neutral agency within these works as a keeper of time and its passage; a framework for circumstance; or a recorder of events. While carrying these various meanings, the words also work visually as part of each composition. Their placements and usages help to build each piece, again according to the conceptual needs present on an individual basis. 

A major idea that needs discussed regarding the last five years is the Tapestry. I describe this as the the way in which all fifteen pieces work together to create their own period of time, connected to--yet transcending--the actual five year period on trial. This Tapestry forms through what has been felt during this period rather than the period itself. It feels to me like weaving a fairytale fifteen pieces long—these moments were truly experienced, and yet they exist outside of space and time. The importance is not on the actual moment as it existed in reality but what resulted—that is to say, it is the edification and/or the challenge that was experienced both emotionally and conceptually within me that holds the reason for a piece’s existence as evidence in this scrutiny. Regarding commitment, I believe the answer to whether it is all worth it does not present itself to us plainly. The answer, rather, comes from the culmination of experiences one acknowledges upon reflection. This is a way of understanding Tapestry—that the answer becomes clear when all of the evidence in favor and in opposition to the question at hand is woven together to form the full narrative. In my notes, I describe this final result to be a sort of ‘autobiography of emotion’, again underlining this idea that each piece is an exhalation of moment and emotion seeking to manifest itself as viscerally, raw, and honestly as possible.  

Compositional Elements 

Several distinct elements are used throughout all fifteen pieces in the last five years, and while I will highlight them as they appear in individual works, discussing broad aspects of their importance is worth establishing here. Again, the focus was on building that which is necessary and avoiding the superfluous, which means when composing each piece, I very specifically wanted to create only what was needed and not use realism for its own sake. One way of describing this is the building blocks visual approach to the spaces in these works. This mode of creating spaces allowed me to strip bare the experiences down to the basic elements. Evoking the space was enough, and from there I wanted to allow the experience to take over. In more formulaic terms, the goal was to achieve an understanding of the space as basically as possible for the viewer’s understanding, and once that is established the experience can take over, allowing the figure to take precedence and, with it, the emotions and ideas at the heart of each work. 

Connected with this building blocks approach, are geometric boxes appearing through the pieces. These operate in a similar fashion to what I described above—seeking to create a sense of understanding for a viewer as simply as possible to make way for the greater meaning—but also serve a deeper function. Together with the building blocks approach, these elements serve to reference my unconventional art upbringing, since I largely attribute the artist I am today not to exposure to traditional visual art in my youth, but rather exposure to the artistic medium of the video game. What fueled my imagination years ago still does so today, and these connections will be referenced piece-by-piece, but it’s important to point out that the rudimentary environments crafted in the last five years are inspired by the connection I have with the fifth generation of video games, when three-dimensional spaces were first realized, creating a very unique aesthetic that truly set my young mind on fire. Perhaps the weight of this connection will not be as salient for every viewer, but the sincerity with which I produce in this manner will, I hope, resonate nonetheless. Deliberately choosing this convention because of its deep-rooted, personal significance is very vulnerable for me. It feels as though I’m giving each viewer an entry point into the core of my person, especially as its spelled out here. But it cannot be denied, and must be shared, if I want to fully and honestly examine the veracity of my commitment to this artistic journey. 

Still similar to the building blocks is my use of white space, which I utilized to emphasize another major theme in the last five years, that being ‘a constant sense of becoming’. As described earlier, vetting this journey happens regularly for me, and I acknowledge deeply that every day has been, and will continue to be, another step on the path of becoming a renewed version of myself, artistically and personally—or at least that is the daily goal. Likewise, white space bridges the written text with the hues and forms—again I was not interested in activating the entire picture plane if it did not serve the piece, and thus this inactive space became in and of itself a compositional choice. 

Trees appear often in this body of work, and bear a similar shifting agency to graphite. The pendulum, however, is more in terms of my trees VS. the expectation a viewer has of trees. As a result, sometimes they are encouraging, uplifting, mystifying, alluring while other times they are stressful, mangled, distorted, and struggling to be a visual pleasure rather than supporting the figures in each work. From the first piece until the final one, there is a deep progression in my use of this element, since drawing them is something very close to my heart. The final tree that appears in this body of work is a direct reference to my journey understanding how to compose in this fashion altogether, and thus a summation of my history with the last five years as a body of work. 

Emotional Existence

When considering the composition of each piece in the last five years, there was a great deal of urgency for me in expressing ‘that which is felt rather than that which is seen’. By this I mean a deliberate foregoing of realism—particularly in my rendering of the figure—in service of heightening the emotion I sought to capture. In that respect, this body of work carries a great deal of expressionism, and perhaps more so than my work immediately preceding it, though as with everything I produce, intentionalism is still key. Bearing a similar sentiment is this approach of only wanting to compose the necessary and essential, leaving nothing superfluous or clever, as described earlier. This was critical in order to allow every work to be as raw and authentic as possible emotionally. the last five years is, again, a sort of ‘autobiography of emotion’. I eschew the notion that this work is merely diaristic or a recounting of my personal life events—rather, the focus is expressing the experiences that lead me back and forth between the defeats and triumphs of the commitment being scrutinized. I acknowledge that this is a consideration of my period of time, but as described earlier, time and space are deliberately shattered within these pieces in service of reaching the evidence found at the core of the emotional experiences. 

Regarding my use of the figure, never before has the focus been on heightening the emotions being conveyed more in my work than here in the last five years. While it varies from piece to piece, I will broadly speak to how this is manifested. The layering of hues is the initial step, placing emphasis on a desire to bring forward the aspects of the figure most attuned to the feeling I seek to evoke. For example, deliberately eliminating an appendage for the sake of drawing attention to another area of body language was done without question. Following these hues, the graphite become invaluable for driving home the final punch, highlighting the specific characteristics of the figure serving its emotional expression. Ultimately the success of this approach is left to the viewer and the experience of said viewer, but as the artist, I have shared this so it may be well known that my goal was to bear the emotions as intimately as possible and above all else. 

Because of the introspective and self-scrutinization aspect of this body of work, there are several instances where pieces point to very intimate qualities of my person. These take the form of direct references and allusions to certain things in life that have been incredibly close to my heart or directly impacted the individual and artist I’ve grown to become. They are authentic, they are sincere, and I have unearthed these connections in earnest to serve the work. And I will speak to them more specifically in each piece. Bringing awareness of their existences here does feel necessary, however, since the discovery of some may seem peculiar to a viewer upon first glance. I acknowledge that many connections I have to these things are not universal, but I believe the pointedness with which I’ve chosen to incorporate them will carry a clear sense of authenticity through to the surface. Just as with the very intimate decision to compose in the building blocks convention, inviting viewers into my being through these granular, emotional connections is an effort to lay this journey bear with as much vulnerability as possible.

With regards to the autobiographical aspect of the last five years, I do want to make mention of how this proliferates across the work. Some pieces have a link to a particular moment, though the aim is never to recreate that moment. Other pieces tie more broadly to a sort of era—perhaps a month, year, span of days that recurred during these five years. Still other works connect to more abstract currents that were felt and flowing in some capacity during this span of my life as an artist. I wanted to capture a sort of syncopation--that is to say, a back and forth between the way we measure time concretely and how the movements of the human soul seem to naturally break time down into its own eras and seasons according to the effects they have had on us. I think this is best understood in how we are naturally inclined to look back on ‘certain periods’ with fondness while others with disdain in our lives. In doing so, it really doesn’t seem to matter the physical time of the period, but instead how they stand out specifically for what was felt and the breadth of that feeling, creating its own sort of era. Despite my insistence on not wanting to recount physical moments in this body of work, my reference to them is still utilized in order to ground the pieces in reality and further own this period as truly having occurred within my life. 

Thank you for taking the time to join me in recounting the various elements utilized on conceptual and emotional levels to produce the last five years. While--surprisingly--not exhaustive, I hope this overview serves to deepen your approach to viewing each of the fifteen pieces as well as the experience you grow to have with each of them. What is outlined here will be referenced in the individual overviews for each piece, allowing greater specificity when describing the isolated choices and connections. Likewise, more consideration can be given to the way the aforementioned aspects were utilized now that they have been established in this writing. That is my hope, at least, for your understanding as the viewer of this work. 

Thank you again, 


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