Done, a mixed media painting from 2016
“Done” was originally a piece I hated.
In 2016, I arbitrarily decided that I couldn’t throw away or put a knife through any paintings I fucked up all year. All I could do was start over, or leave the knifing ’til 2017.
“Done” was the third, maybe the fourth iteration of what I started on this particular canvas.
“Dissatisfaction” was an understatement for everything I had done up until that point and honestly, it’s still a close contender for the name of this piece.
As I moved from one version to the next I found myself wanting to scrub the traces of the previous versions. “Why?” I kept asking myself. There were textures and colors from previous versions I found myself liking, yet I was compulsively trying to erase any trace of what was beneath, before starting over.
As I added colors here, squeegeed there, used non-archival mediums and watched my intentions go awry… I couldn’t help hearing echoes… some my own… but a large number of them other people’s voices. Many of them were voices that I didn’t actually believe, but that played out in my compulsions, nonetheless. As I worked, I started to notice them more and more in other people, as well.
How many of us try to cover up what lies beneath, when we’re actually not ashamed?
What are the messages we get about presenting ourselves as finished products?
Even if we’re personally not capitalists, isn’t there something inherently capitalist and therefore about that line of thinking?
How does this contribute to us walking around with chips on our shoulders?
In 2017, I watched a sermon by Bishop Carlton D. Pearson where he talked about how we know we’re okay and we balk when we’re made to feel otherwise and it resonated with me. He said:
They really want to be healed and they want to feel safe…. secure. That’s one of the primary gods you worship. Whenever you feel less than safe, a rebellion occurs. Cuz in your soul, you know you’re okay… and when anybody suggests otherwise, your nostrils flare… especially when somebody who loves you makes you feel less than loved.
I believe the process behind “Done” and the other work I did around this time truly made me receptive to clearly seeing what Bishop Pearson was talking about.
In a society obsessed with perfection, it’s easy to conflate, “perfection” with “done”, but the two are not inherently the same. You can be done for now and perfect at the same time, a “work in progress” if you will. I know I’m not the first to say that, but until that becomes normal to say, it’ll bear repeating.
When you’re okay with showing up as that work in progress and others shame you for it, it creates this split in you, that causes you to walk around with a chip on your shoulder even though you know good and damn well that you’re fine.
Knowing you’re fine doesn’t keep you from compulsively doing shit to try to prevent hearing other people chirp at you though, at least until you decide to turn other people down or off and turn you up–or cut people out, altogether.
In case you’re wondering, this was written February 2018 and I still hadn’t knifed any pieces.
As of November 2019, I still haven’t.