notes to self

Spaceman Coffee, Spokane, WA     April 2016

I was invited to hang a show at the brand-new Spaceman Coffee to coincide with its grand opening in April 2016. Spaceman is a beautiful, tiny space with pristine white walls at eye-height and a rich burnt orange below, so I wanted to make something simple and small but still eye-catching to make the most of the space.


Before beginning the series, I'd watched two documentaries on Tracy Emin and Louise Bourgeois that reminded me that my first instinct as an artist had been to express the things I wanted to say in a new way. I'd always been trained to write. In that second link, Emin talks about her first introduction to Bourgeois's art, saying that she had felt that Bourgeois must be her age, since she was talking about emotional subjects with such urgency and immediacy, which was not something she was used to seeing in older artists. I had the same feeling the first time I saw Bourgeois's quilted and letterpressed pieces. Like many people, I feel uncomfortable being blunt and vulnerable, especially if I'm going to let those feelings live separate from me in the form of art. That said, the first pieces that I made were created out of a lot of pain that in a town as small as Spokane was already pretty public. In other contexts, being open about more-private vulnerabilities and sore spots is something I'm going to have to practice doing.

When I posted my first WIP image of this series on Instagram, an old friend from high school pointed out the similarity between the pieces I'm making and Frank Stella's Black series, which is totally spot-on. The vision I had for the completed project was more like some of the stuff I've seen of Bourgeois's Insomnia series, particularly the train-of-thought tone of her text in those pieces. I wanted, too, to kind of adapt the "inspirational quote" art that I see a lot of, not to ridicule it, but more to express the ideas that actually are motivational to me - things like, as below, "You're just okay."

I began with 5"x5" pieces of paper and freehanded painted lines on them with acrylic paint and block-printing ink. (I tried both to figure out which one I liked better, and stuck to the ink since I have more of it and it waters down better for the small lines.) When I bought frames for the project and could only find 4"x4" squares, so I cut down the pieces I had already finished. I like the boxed-in, claustrophobic look of the framed pieces, especially with some of the more disorienting patterns.