The Gray Square

Gray Square, 2011-2012 Oil and Spray Paint on Masonite, 24" x 24"
This gray square took me about 90 seconds to tape off and spray paint.  That is significantly faster than most of the things that I've painted in the past, and yet this gray square may be one of the more interesting things that I've ever painted.

Lately, I've been giving a lot of consideration to what the responsibilities of the artist are.  Is opening a dialogue enough?  Giving reason to think?  Are we meant to ask questions?  To give answers?  What is our responsibility to the viewers of our work?  To hold their attention?  To create reason to think?

I like daisies, and I wanted to paint some daisies, but I wasn't sure why.  Mostly I just wanted to create some pretty flowers.  That's reason enough, so I did.  I had a background already. It was this cloudy, roughed in horizon on black.  So I used that.

The middle of the painting was going to hold another picture. As I was trying to involve myself with a girl who likes hydrangeas, and I pretty much just wanted her to take notice of what I was doing, they were meant to go there.  Blue ones, like the ones pictured here.  But before I could add them, I got sidetracked and the painting sat on an easel in the corner of the studio for a while.  Those who came and went seemed drawn to the silly gray square. They asked so many questions. "What does it mean?" "Is it symbolic?" "Is it representational?"  When in actuality, it was just a gray square.  

Ultimately, I came to realize their interest was based in my denial of a subject to what otherwise seemed like a straight forward, representational painting.  Why couldn't I just give them what they expected?  What they wanted?  What they NEEDED?

But I said no.  I said, you'll take this gray square, and you'll like it.  And they did.

Subsequently, I have make and planned several other paintings with this sort of denial of fulfillment.  It's actually a replacement.  It's sort of like the decision that David Chase made in the finale of The Sopranos.  Why do people have to see it?  Why does it have to be graphically and literally represented to know that it's an important part of the story?  

Maybe it doesn't.  Maybe it's just another gray square.


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