I started making ex-votos, Mexican miracle paintings, after my father died in 1997. It hit me as the way to work after returning from Mexico. I wanted to challenge myself to be direct with my painting, and to leave out the things I couldn’t remember, even if it went against an ego desire to paint good. The exercise turned into a whole body of work, and it grounded me. I learned a way to encapsulate a moment, an event, in one picture and a couple of lines. They always had this finality around them like a fence, this cornered edge.
Soon enough I was exploring other shapes than just the rectangle of the ex-voto. While the ex-votos were anti-aesthetic, the new work was only about aesthetics, about how it looked, how the images related visually. The new work took shape from vessel shapes from a Wedgwood catalogue of ceramics from the 1700’s. English workers were imported into Mexico during the colonial period to work in the ceramics factories, bringing with them a refined, European style to the indigenous traditions. This contrast was the metaphor I was looking for- the clash of cultures- what would it produce? What self-portraits?
The shapes began grouping themselves on the wall, much like the images in the catalogue pages. The contours played off one another, sending the eye whipping around the curves like a pachinko machine.
So I’m moving into a new studio, I’m blessed with a place to work and visit with other artists, it’s near my home, this is an expensive city and there’s no guarantees of finding a space. Anyway, I would like to focus back on painting in this studio, painting that brings the story elements of the ex-voto to meet with the expanding qualities of the vessel work. Truth is, some years ago I started documenting my performances in ex-voto form, and there are many performances that I have yet to document properly in ex-votos. Some of these performances were documented with an ex-voto, but more has happened to the story since the painting. I want to add more things branching out from it, or growing outward. Also, I have changed my idea of what a performance can be. This includes how long it can last, whether or not I’m in costume (that’s an easy one), and weather or not I had pre-planned it. With the ex-voto as documentation, the field is much more open. I’m not stuck with some camera as the arbiter of what was recorded or not. I have returned to take power of my own memory. And in these days when everyone has given over their brain and their memory to the external brain of a computer, I feel this is quite a personal accomplishment.