I decided to paint a series of 100 Broken Shells to get through a time of grieving (death of my mother) and a difficult divorce. With no rules imposed on myself other than — there needs to be 100. By the time I had reached beyond the half way point, the metaphor of brokenness was fading and I was thinking about all the things one has in life to do. Renewing your license, cutting your hair, making dinner, shopping, driving . . . all done in certain ways and for me, they needed to be done perfectly. Or did they? Why? I thought of all these things as “systems” . . . systems of thinking and doing. Stuff that gets in the way. Habits. There are good things — birthdays! And bad things — dishes. Positives and negatives. In my paintings . . . systems moved in and started dominating the paintings.
I nailed the gesso’d water color paper to the wall with 8 brass nails. 69 and 70 were nailed to the wall side by side. I did a wash of yellow on 69 in oil and a wash of blue oil on 70. I dripped blue over the yellow and splattered yellow over the blue. Let that dry. I painted a ghost of the open side of a conch on 69 and the turned away side of a conch on 70. Then I added the systems. With a coffee can I drew circles with pencil in rows over the ghosted Shells. On 69 I painted around the circles. This felt like the old plastic six pack holders we used to have. Junk. On 70 I painted in the circles. Like a bunch of coffee cup rings over the painting. Let that dry. Then I painted a red transparent layer over both. I wiped that off the red paint over the shells. On 69 after all the layers dryed I used white oil pastel to add patena to the systems. They’ve been there a long time and I wanted them to look old. Cobb webbs? Dust? To me it was adding oldness. 69 represented negative systems and an open view of myself. 70 represented positive systems and a turned away view. It was a turning point. I could see that with all the negatives, remaining open was the better, more interesting way to go. The systems left completely in painting #75