I paint not to mark the passage of time and history as On Kawara, but to recreate experiences in which I am aware of time passing. My piece, 6 am - 7 am, is a reduced view of an airplane window, repeated as dawn approaches, the pulsing light at the end of the wing illuminating rain drops. My arm moving, in a fluid yet calculated manner to paint the curved window shape, is similar to the motion of planes flying, vehicles scuttling on the runway, conveyor belts and wheeled luggage gliding. There are no abrupt right angles to impede the movement and momentum as I paint the blue, looping forms. Peter Halley sees the rigidity and structure of our world in geometries that, unbeknownst to us, lock us into the restrictions of society. But the images that I create, while using the visual language of abstraction, are not always rectilinear. My movement in the world is indeed restricted but also enabled by these conduits, and I explore the meditative state of mind elicited by moving through them, in Exit, the experience of gridlock, in Delay, the experience of waiting on an airport runway.
I am interested in examining and questioning the nature of the introspective moments that I have while in transit. My association of transportation with calm, reflective moods is a product of the lottery of time and place of my birth. Unlike many, I am able to choose when and where I move about. Often, moving can be a traumatic event, the result of dislocation. The very same view of an exit ramp, that I find soothing, may elicit a sense of dread in others. I intend to continue exploring the idea of location, as both a physical position and a position held within a society. As a New York City public school teacher, I am confronted every day by the differences between my students’ lives and my own—disparities of time, access, and mobility. It is easy to feel guilty, even angry, when confronted by one’s own privilege; I am aware, however, that these entitlements are part of what allows me to paint.
When I first began teaching, I became aware of the tension between what felt like a luxury (creating art) and what felt like a necessity (teaching/activism). In recent paintings, I dive into that tension. The students I teach are all recent immigrants from Latin America; many are undocumented and the majority are economically disadvantaged. I create paintings of their names and of questions that they have asked me. In Roselany and Brian, I attempt to recreate their handwriting in oils, with each brushstroke forming only a small part of a letter, to examine the limits of empathy. In We Should Speak English..., I paint the white background on top of a pink layer underneath to reveal the shape of each letter. I know that just as I cannot fluidly write in their handwriting, I cannot fully grasp their perspective. My paintings are a physical representation of my understanding of my students, inevitably partial and imperfect given the distance between us.