When I had the opportunity to visit the Eastern Caroline Islands the island of Pohnpei, (location of Nan Madol) where some friends have lived their whole lives. They were taking me to the village where the carvers were. I had no idea that this particular trip would influence so many of my paintings in the future.
In a very dense jungle I found an opening in the foliage that revealed a concrete base and the grungy age-covered remains of a toilet. Yes, the lower part of a commode. It seemed so out of place under the heavy growth of shade. I snapped a photo of it and went on my way.
About 10 years later I was doing some drawings of various objects that I thought would be the remnants of our culture. The thought of a porcelain white toilet bowl was one that came to me. The idea that this will not rot. It will not decompose. It’s not flammable. At most, it can be broken down into smaller pieces, but really it will retain its nature and shape. This was one of the objects that I felt would be around long after we’re gone.
Other thoughts about the significance of the toilet is its station in our society. We are repulsed by the thought of it, yet at the very same time we are completely in debt to it. We expect that a toilet will be available to us where ever we are, but we want it out of our sight the rest of the time. The convenience and proximity are important to us, but we regard this object as something to disdain. The contrast of essential vs. awful started to intrigue me more and more – so I repeated these drawings to give a sense of personality, and honor to such a lowly object.
This particular painting has a toilet in an over-sized format to give it attention. I also painted it using metallics and interference paint, much like the look of icon paintings – along with dull and muddy paint to bring light to both sides of the contrasting ideas. The reflective paints give life to the painting by giving off different looks at various times of the day and shifting colors as you walk by it.
The object series includes repeated paintings of tires, fire hydrants, 3-way plugs, toilets, VW engines and chairs – a vocabulary of everyday objects that hold banal yet critical places in our society.