The Construction of Believable Things explores the relationship between nature and construction, specifically that middle line where constructed things become believable. I am interested in belief systems and how the moment of believability is comprised of many components. Inherited ideas, rational thought, and public opinion are a few factors that form the landscape of popular belief, most importantly for me being the thoughts I inherit and choose to pass on. These inherited thoughts are constructed through generations but also have an “always-already” naturalness. I think a lot about what is natural and what is constructed, consistently finding difficulty differentiating between the two.
For the past five years, the majority of my studio time has been spent painting directly from small still lifes built of powdered pigment, pastel, and other malleable materials. Using an array of tools, I construct index card-sized still lifes that resemble landscapes. I illuminate the setups and set out to paint these weirdly fascinating assemblages en plein air, or at least the open air in which they exist. These miniscule constructions, made from materials that are not so far removed from their natural origin, can simultaneously exist as landscape and still life painting. How a line of powdered pigment reacts to being cut with a razor blade is akin in appearance to the effects of avalanches on mountain ranges, and shines a light on the narrow divide between nature and construction.
As I work on these pieces in my studio, my perspective and proximity to the forms exist in a still life mode of looking. Space sits only in front of me and does not necessitate a turn of the head in order to see the surrounding space. It is an intimate space where I focus on the smallest of details and devote attention to understanding the parts of the whole. Slowly, I build a believable thing through small decisions. When the content is transferred to a larger scale, the intention and outcome is drastically altered. The information is seen at a distance and digested as a complete idea ready to be judged. The small parts are lost in the whole and the end product’s construction is lost in the experience of its completion. Sessions of looking, thinking, drawing, and painting have been replaced with the rhetoric of seeing, thinking, and classification. I think of this process as similar to the articulation of ideas and the construction of the beliefs we hold. Disparate ideas that meld together, gradually obtain weight, significance, and believability.
The Construction of Believable Things exists in that place where ideas are constructed: a notion of naturalness that is fabricated and on the line between truth and fiction.
* * *
Things are not always what they seem in Brad Nelson‘s work. I recall his early polystyrene sculptures of everyday objects, painted to look exactly like the real thing: a kind of 3-dimensional trompe l’oeil. This subtle gesture has been visible throughout his practice, always asking us to look a little closer and reconsider what we think we see and know. If you are lucky enough to be in the Houston area for his upcoming exhibition at Avis Frank (opening August 8, 2014), take a closer look and see for yourself.