Hunter/Hunted: Artist Statement

This is the artist statement for the series I am finishing up right now. It consists (or will by the end of next week) of 8 18″ X 24″ drawings in chalk pastel and graphite. (More pictures up by the end of the week, hopefully.)

This series began with a question: what is violence? I knew the word “love” as I had understood it most of my life was untruthful, wanting to always be clean-handed and celebratory. I knew what I called love could turn blood-hungry with ease and quickness. I watched a documentary of Doris Salcedo installing her giant “Shibboleth” crack in the floor of London’s Tate Modern Turbine Hall. It felt violent to me—a sharp attack by the Colombian artist against “first world arrogance” and racism—and yet vulnerable, full of the fight that comes from devotion to justice.

At this time, I was also reading Greek mythology, drawn over and over again to the stories of the hunt. I learned that these myths were used to explore the limits of human civilization versus animal savagery. Especially compelling to me were the stories of huntresses, who always ended up destroyed—either raped, transformed into a dangerous beast or both. The Greeks made me angry. I wanted other stories, that asked questions and did not provide resolution or reinforce oppressive social codes. I wanted these other stories to explain to me how love could be violence and violence could be love.

I drew and I built worlds to contain these questions. I used the pure, intense pastel colors and laid them on thick. I put all the feelings that I knew into the colors, all at once. Later, I realized the pastel was softening and extinguishing the brutality at the heart of the stories. I began a second round of drawings, peeling away layers of vivid complementary color and leaving broad stretches blank. I let the unequivocal coldness of the graphite line emerge and sometimes dominate. I made the kind, strange world into one less comfortable and less reassuring.

Both sets of images, however, are working on the same ideas, just from different angles. In all of them are predators and prey, but I’m rarely sure which is which. If you asked me, “What happened here? Who shot the arrow? Is the hunter killing the creature or trying to heal it?” I would have to say that I don’t know. Really, I don’t want to know; I don’t believe it’s so simple. In our own practices of loving and hurting, is there a line that we finally cross and become either the monster or the victim? Or is there only a series of doubtful passageways that lead into other passageways, delivering us ever further into the darkness of reaching, contact and terrible hope?

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