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Sunday, February 5, 2012

February Artwalk 2012

Artist Statement: Musicians of Midtown

As a painter, I have explored many different subjects--yet none have inspired me more than portraiture. I am most exhilarated when I am able to capture a unique physical likeness as well as a lived spiritual energy. To do this, I have used both photographic and live models for my visual references in the creation of over 200 paintings during the past 7 years . Interestingly enough, the differences between a photograph and a live model exposed a dichotomy in my painting styles:

Photographic references produced polished, realistic pieces that honor my classical training.

A live model freed a loose and contemporary style. 

 Fascinated by this phenomenon and the desire to further explore a “painterly” style, I decided to undertake a series that would challenge me to question the ways I visually communicate.

The Musicians of Midtown series is easily the most experimental body of work I have ever created. The inspiration for the series began with an ink sketch at Old Ironsides, one of the oldest live music venues in Sacramento. As the musicians performed-- arching and contorting their bodies to the music vibrating throughout the room-- I allowed my pen to dance almost trance-like over the page. Sketching “blindly,” I rarely took my eyes off the subject to check the accuracy of my drawing, trying instead to capture the true essence of their sudden, unpredictable movements.

Over the next several months, I explored Sacramento’s music venues, quickly filling six sketchbooks (over 450 drawings!) in this fashion. The result became a collection of drawings almost zen-like in its lyricism, with the immediacy of action caught through simple lines.

Yet, while the sketches succeeded as present tense studies of movement, I still yearned to capture the unique spirit of these musicians through the emotional affects of their music. I wanted to visually describe the distinctive feel of rock, for example, as it differs from electronica or funk. So began my study of the emotional links between color and sound, culminating in the discovery of an interesting neurological condition called synesthesia. Synesthesia creates an involuntary merging of the senses, which for some, produces the visual perception of color with an aural experience of sound. As rare as synesthesia is in the general population, it seemed to hint at a more commonly experienced phenomenon: the sense that a certain color or musical note has emotional weight to it.

I began each painting in the Musicians of Midtown series with a black canvas to set the stage-like atmosphere, then recreated the live feel of a performance in my studio with music recordings, youtube videos, sketches and photos. Focusing on how the music made me feel and how the colors on the canvas could invoke the same response, I watched the uniqueness of a musician manifest itself through each brushstroke.

Regrettably, I could not include all of the fine, local musicians in the series. In the end, I made my selections through personal connections that developed (friends, individuals I admire), and through a deep appreciation for the diversity (race, gender, musical genres) that makes Sacramento such a vibrant, artistic community. Above all, I hope that the “Musicians of Midtown” series will inspire an appreciation and support for all of the artists living and working in our local community.