Other People's Secrets (2012)
by Dorothy Goode
It isn’t always easy to gain one’s own attention.
I reached two impasses in the creation of this body of work, Other People’s Secrets. The first occurred during the writing of the underpainting, the second during the more colorful follow-through. Each was resolved by resorting to a privileging of sense over the slippery. The written word and paint can both be used evasively, and I have done this rather compulsively throughout my life. In the main, it has been completely satisfying. If there is one thing I hate more than any other, it is the experience of being pinned down, and from a very early age I learned techniques for its avoidance. But somewhere along the line, I found that I was running out of things to avoid. Or, I became bored with the process. In my last series of paintings, Pretty Mess With Words, I began to wonder whether I might not want to “tell the truth”—or at least some degree of the same. But this truth was more or less completely and unabashedly about myself, and by the time I was faced with a new set of blank panels, I had not yet stored up enough new self to plunder for the purposes of art. I had to resort to other people.
It took me a fair bit of time to figure this out. I was three or four panels into my underpainting process (writing by dipping fingers into a container of sumi ink) before I felt the tickle of an urge to spill one of the many confidences I have been told by people of my acquaintance—stories that I was expected by no means to ever breathe a word of. It was a thrilling moment. Once I did it, I simply couldn’t stop. I unloaded just about everything I could remember, and perhaps a bit more. I covered all 18 panels with writing, usually layering several stories one atop the other. And then… I was confronted by the expectation that these panels would be turned into abstract paintings. Like a good girl, I set about to do just this. However, Impasse #2 was right around the corner and took the form of… boredom. I simply ran out of reasons for laying down colorful “bloops” of paint. Why bother? I could put down paint or not put down paint—either was as good as the other—and I had to ask the question again: Why? Why put down paint? Why, especially, if I wasn’t trying to get out of something by doing so? Certainly I needed to make sure that the stories I had so indulgently spelled out wouldn’t be legible. That could be done quite easily. A successful abstract painting isn’t actually easy to make.
So after giving up and laying my brushes aside for awhile, I returned to the pieces and found that they had hatched a plan of their own: The gestures (my gestures) wanted to learn how to talk. They were tired of simply mumbling privately amongst themselves. They wanted to face their audience squarely, specifically, and in plain English. So I set about trying to teach them—to very mixed results. At the work’s conclusion, some gestures had managed to stammer out word fragments, others silly sentiments. Still others refused to speak at all. And then a select few actually went and decided to… out their sources. They began to leak information about the other’s people’s secrets. Fortunately for everyone involved, the gestures have extremely poor penmanship; almost nothing is decipherable.
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