Photo by Saroyan Humphrey

Photo by Saroyan Humphrey

In 2017 I was rescued from the ocean with no pulse after drowning. The estimate was that I had been dead for nearly ten minutes. During that time I have no memory, no recollection of angelic tones nor a white light. I experienced absolutely nothing. Yet once I awoke, I was unquestionably different in a way that was ineffable. My body knows something, has lived something, that my mind has not. I feel it but I cannot describe it. I am an archaeologist of my own lived experience and every painting is an act of excavation. My work is a transference of unfiltered energy, captured as gouges and troughs on the surface of a canvas. In the forms and lines that result, there is the struggle of my ever-changing physical limits but also hope to capture the ephemeral. To find a language to share with others something I only know through my body.

My methods draw on other action-oriented artistic practices of the 1950s and 60’s such as FLUXUS artists, the Gutai movement in post-war Japan, Tom Marioni’s line drawings and, most significantly, Matthew Barney’s Drawing Restraint project. The canvas is treated as an arena for action rather than a window for representation. Each piece begins with a movement or ritual, executed in repetition. I use positioning, stress, or duration to reach physical failure and then capture the result. The discomfort associated with exhaustion is overwhelming and my mind briefly silences. In these moments there is only motion and effort, and the body speaks unencumbered by language or logic.

My artistic practice is an ongoing effort of documentation and has, in one sense, a purely clinical narrative in which my injured spinal cord slowly heals, and my limbs regain their strength and sensation. However, my flirtation with death has left an imprint, one that is felt rather than remembered and I cannot express it in words or images. Creating art is my physical therapy, and as I continue my recovery I hope to share what I’ve learned about self-awareness and perseverance in order to encourage others to step out of their comfort zones through my public speaking and my artwork.