The Secret Life of Machines
I started painting farming artifacts nine years ago while, ironically, living in Brooklyn, New York. At the time I was already involved in a large project, a series of portraits of people in their personal work spaces, from unseen critical role players to Polly Mellen and Donna Karan, all simultaneously holding positions in both the art and fashion worlds. From time to time I would visit Sacramento and began to paint outdoors in the delta. During the sessions that followed I became increasingly aware of these agricultural machines. They seemed like sculptural sentinels dotting the landscape, like a David Smith. One day in the delta I started to paint the form of the tractor itself. The tractor manifested a powerful intimacy that suggested “many secrets” especially the older ones richly draped in rust and chipped paint. They resonated a type of insistence that indicated a kind of consciousness at work.
Another starting point for this body of work came from one of the primary visual emphases of my work, the combining of two different environments. Upon returning to the city I was haunted by the agricultural lines and crop patterns of the Central Valley. The rows of floors on the skin of a skyscraper seemed to echo the patch work grid of an orchard. Another interesting contradiction was the frenetic mental pace in response to the amount of digital input we experience in our modern lives compared to the quiet stillness and big dominating skies of farmland. I knew right off this was an area that was ripe with visual possibilities that could provide a range of work.
It has been a pleasure and privilege to create these paintings of rural/Ag environments. At the core of this body of work is “intimacy.” The way it manifests in how we inhabit rural and urban environments and to celebrate visually the interconnectedness of land and city.