Henri Bergson wrote that art removes what “veils reality from us, in order to bring us face to face with reality itself.” I paint in order to reflect on and draw broader implications from everyday experiences. Because I work in a hospital, the scope of this experience
falls oftentimes on medicine, the bedside, and healthcare settings.
I recently saw a simple inkjet-printed sign placed on a formica cabinet in the backroom of a hospital that read in Times New Roman, “For safety reasons, these windows CANNOT be opened.” It might have been placed there by a hospital worker who was imagining windows to handle the frustration of spending 18 hours a day in a dimly-lit linoleum-floored backroom; or the sign was repurposed and placed there as a Magritte-ian intervention reminding viewers of the gaps in our ability to describe and comprehend the material world.
The sign announcing windows where there are none questions both our physical reality and our ability to describe it with language. This line of philosophical and semiotic questioning is encountered often in the hospital, in the cliched metaphors and moralistic language used to describe “fighting” illness, in the refuge we seek from pain, in the rejection of one’s own body when it cooperates more with illness than with us. In the hospital, meaning often rests in the silences between sentences. These gaps in meaning and silences are what I make paintings about; about the poetry, humor, and deep sorrow of the unsaid, about the patients, the patience and the impatience. I paint the unpredictable and inscrutable moments between the predictable timelines and sequence of events that march onwards and onwards in the most banal institutional settings.
In Double Room, the rhythm of floor tiles and textile patterns simulates the claustrophobia of sharing a hospital room, an intimate space, with a stranger. The perspective shifts; the viewer is looking at the floor, up at the wall, down their own body, and across the room.
In Clinical Vision, a group of students and physicians examines a CT-scan. The scan itself is reinterpreted as an abstract painting, rendered in bright colors and organic shapes. In medicine, clinicians are trained to compare a body to an internalized idea of “normal” and to interpret deviations from that standard in the context of pathology and pathophysiology. To “read” a scan requires holding a catalogue of images in one’s mind; the action itself is problematic when cultural constructs of normativity inform our ideas of pathology. In Clinical Vision, I add paintings to this internalized catalogue to foster a more expansive type of looking.
Returning to the backroom sign, its absurdity rests less in its provocative placement, which may or may not be intentional, than in its accidental evocation of the often morbid and existentially challenging humor of the hospital setting. This is territory I seek out in my paintings.