I fear that I’ve painted myself into a corner. I’ve been working in a specific style for almost five years now, and while I would argue that I’m still finding fresh ideas inspired by 80-year-old animation, I’m also very aware that this is a finite well. One can only dig through these old cartoons for so long, knowing that I’ve seen each one a handful of times already, hoping to strike gold on repeated viewings. Collecting bits and pieces from films older than my parents, from a different time and made in a different world, hoping to find use for them later. Collections of fingers and tools and weapons and animals, waiting to be bastardized.
It is my great fortune to have found a modicum of success with this body of work, but I can’t help but question that success: is it for the threads I’m pulling at, or for the imagery I’m referencing? Have I just reinforced that people love these characters that have already stood the test of time? Or are others seeing what I’m claiming to see?
Am I a coward for questioning myself in this way and continuing on anyway out of fear of failure or rejection?
“Coward!” is a collection of nineteen new works made in 2022, embroideries and embroidery on jacquard weaving, exploring my cowardice. They’re about the fear of losing. They’re about finding shortcuts and taking them. They’re about leaving things unfinished in an effort to avoid finality. They’re about worrying to the point of tying yourself up in knots.
Finding and taking shortcuts can feel cowardly, albeit efficient. In “Going easy on myself.”, an archer takes a shortcut to guaranteeing success by standing very close to his mark. Similarly, in “I know what I’m doing, I’ve played this game before.”, a child’s game is made into an easily-winnable target. No matter the prize, the goal is to not lose.
Spread throughout, six pieces show trees in varying stages of being chopped down, work started but unfinished. Some standing strong; some teetering on falling over; some defying gravity altogether, these trees are denied growth and purpose at once, perpetually stuck in transition.
Despite the suspension of growth elsewhere, some slight branching out has occurred. Displayed for the first time are three larger works in a new medium: embroideries on jacquard weavings, images of hands knotted and woven, considering the worst-possible outcomes.
In the would-be titular piece, “Painted myself into a corner.”, a blank canvas sits in front of a newly-set sun, and in place of a captured sunset is an accusation, “Coward!” painted in cursive. Has the sun set on my concept? On me? And am I smart or brave enough an artist to find out?
For now, I’m a coward.