My work changed drastically one day in 2010 when I found myself creating surreal organic environments. I decided I didn't feel like painting people anymore. Although I started from a place of abstraction, they became filled with strange hybrids of flowers, cells, and symbols that appeared like organisms from another planet. It was only later that I found out I had cancer crawling through my body at an alarming rate. When my doctor showed me the scans of the tumor, it looked almost identical to what I had been painting – tentacles and all.
I was told I had a rare 1% of all cancers and I was in serious trouble (after I was first told there was no way it was cancer and cells don’t reproduce as fast as mine had). My tumor felt like it was a part of me, it had its own set of nerves and feelings separate from the rest of my body. I wondered what those heads of the tentacles were up to, because they looked like they were on a mission. The tumor came quite fast, so the timing was too coincidental that I began them right as this thing was growing in my leg. A new fascination with the macro universe and micro universe was born. This was a major departure for me after 12 years of exhibiting as portrait artist.
Sometimes a certain painting can be a pseudo-psychic way of tapping into what’s going on with my own physiology. One surgeon said, "I know you are into this stuff" and sent me photos of what had been cut out during another operation. An encroaching mass of cysts looked exactly like what I had painted month before I even knew I had anything wrong. A few people told me I should stop doing the series because it might be the thing that’s making me sick, but I don’t think that’s true. It’s just something I know already in some way, and it acts as a springboard for other compositions. I've survived a lot in the last seven years, and my right leg even became partially bionic. Doing the work is important because I never know when I'll be interrupted with the next surgery or illness; I look over my shoulder a lot, as many survivors do.
This series brings together my interests in botany, microbiology, monsters, space, disease, and the evolution of cells. Within those interests, I explore the particular roles that organisms, medicine, DNA, and hybrids play, all while creating from my own imagination and instinct. Shaping aesthetic outcomes of these paintings doesn’t come from research or re-creating what already exists; I create my own nature within these little worlds. Flourishes of landscapes and starscapes as their environment, add to their story. If cells and viruses can look beautiful when magnified, I wonder what organisms on other planets look like? Is there something bigger we are a part of? What will these cells look like 10 days later – what about 10 million years later?
The irony is that I don’t like to analyze or diagnose too much because creating something the viewer interprets with their own ideas is part of the experience. Invertebrates, flowers, human organs all come from the same natural process at the core, and visualizing their fictional evolution at any given stage is the most enjoyable part of creating for me. This is my biomorphic garden party.
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#1 Green Flower
#7 Libertine Axon