Life Story

Life Story – Jeff Del Nero ©2015

Thinking about an approach to painting that is at once out of my usual approach while incorporating some disjointed thoughts that have been strongly passing through my mind. Lately, with words like “sublime” rattling around in my head, this piece seems to capture an ugliness and level interest that made me think differently about my work.

“Sublime” has been a word that started my desire to capture a moment of loss while seeking the potential discovery and gain of a path towards new imagery. There has to be a point in any work of art that a moment of absolute destruction is imminent, but like pulling out of a nose-dive in an aerial acrobatic maneuver or in the second act of a play, where all hope seems lost. Likewise, I think of this painting as the experience of being on a midway ride, where throughout the ride you feel as if you’re going to die, yet you somehow survive, and feel exhilarated.

This particular work was not something I immediately liked until spending time with it. It reminds me of my first experience with Talking Heads More Songs About Buildings and Food in 1978. I kept playing it. Over and over. But it sounded so different and weird, initially I didn’t like it. For a long time the album compelled me back, and slowly I entered in, so by song, until the sound captivated me, and affected me in a new way. It took an effort, but it was worth it.

Terry Dobson selected this for inclusion in a show at the Exhale Unlimited Gallery, in Los Angeles’ Chinatown. The show was an extension of the Recolor Recover exhibit. During what was called Chinatown Summer Nights, promoted by KCRW. On the night of the opening I spent some time with a young couple that had been standing by this piece. I had been meeting with someone nearby and noticed them looking at, pointing and talking—and not moving away for possibly 10 minutes.

The amount of time they spent there was highly unusual for me, since my experience with people standing by my work has been one where unless they are at our house during a meal and have time to focus on one painting at a time, no one settles for that long to observe. Later, I approached them and gladly they were happy to ask questions about it. In talking to them, I was suddenly aware of the new way I was seeing this through their eyes—and mine at the same time.

The story, reading like a panel from left to right lends itself to the ideas that I was trying to make a map ambiguous enough to seem like a constellation or a molecule, yet when you connect the dots you begin to see a mirror image of the figure situated in the middle like a fulcrum between one life and another. The materials, the layering, the application of other paneling to the surface and then the carving into the surface all allowed me to move in X, Y & Z directions. This is not what I “envisioned,” but in many ways better because of the surprise it gave me in the end.

“Surprise” is another word that popped-up this summer. I realized one of my joys in making art is the surprise ending. I rarely believe I can replicate a work when it is over. This is a joy to me, but it also creates a bit of anxiety in thinking of making a body of work that looks like it’s from one person!


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