A few years ago, I painted a bunch of pictures based on the ancient Greek romance novel Daphnis and Chloe. The main characters are an incredibly naive shepherd and goatherd who love and live happily ever after in a pastoral fantasy. I wanted to retreat into this world. I was trying to paint shamelessly—with disregard for results or responsibilities, with a self-granted permission to just enjoy the sensations of painting.
For me, painting and shame are tightly bound together. The shame is manyfold: the shame of uselessness and unproductivity, of private pleasure, of selling, of not selling, of unearned privilege, colonial histories, objectification and naiveté, of wanting to be a genius. Trying to suspend shame wasn’t a strategic move—it was more like a desperate act to see if there was anything salvageable in painting for me.
The experiment worked and didn’t work. I am proud of these paintings and also ashamed of them. What I understand better now is that this double feeling comes from facing up to the special blend of resentment and sentiment that results from having power that is taken for granted, and then losing some of that power (both by giving it away and having it taken).
During my residency, I will host a training for anyone interested in learning basic bystander intervention techniques to use when you see someone being harassed. I will also work on a dance performance, a work in progress, that uses these paintings as both score and scenery, to think about the link between ancient Greek iconography and supremacist ideologies, the strangeness of whiteness and maleness, to the accompaniment of classic rock.
video of the dance performance
6118 12th Ave S. Seattle, WA 98108
Enter through the wood slat fence and into the door that says “FEELINGS”.
New paintings in the studio, acrylic on paper, around 6 x 4' each
In the island of Lesbos, hunting, in a wood dedicated to Nymphs I saw the most beautiful thing I’ve seen in my life, a painted image, a love story. The park, of itself, was beautiful; flowers in abundance, thick trees, a fresh fountain that fed the trees and flowers; but the painting, even more pleasant than all the rest, was of a subject in love and marvelous artifice; so many, even strangers, who had heard of it, they came there, devotees to the Nymphs, and curious to see this painting.
Women saw themselves giving birth, others enveloping children’s diapers; small dolls exposed to the thank you of fortune; animals that fed them, herdsmen who took them away; young people united by love; pirates at sea, enemies on the ground who ran the country, with many other things, and all in love, which I looked at with great pleasure, and found them so beautiful, that I wanted to write them down. So I found someone to explain it to me and I have written a story in four books; all I heard, in writing these four books, which I dedicate as an offering to Love, Nymphs and Pan, hoping that the tale will be pleasant in many ways, for what it can be used to heal the ill, to console the mournful, to put back in memory loves one formerly loved, and instruct one who will not yet have it. For never was I, nor I will be able to hold on to love, as long as there is beauty in the world, and that the eyes will look. We ourselves want God whom wisely can speak here about others!
From the introduction of Longus, Daphnis and Chloe, 2CE