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NY Arts Magazine

May 3rd, 2007
Tomory Dodge

By TOMORY DODGE

[EXCERPT] 

I am very interested in the materiality of painting. The possibility of a blob or drip of paint becoming a tree, face or anything else is central to my practice. By emphasizing the “painted-ness” of the work, I hope to get the image to exist in a somewhat precarious state, where it is constantly on the edge of collapse. It seems that this middle ground—between abstraction and representation—is an ideal vantage point from which to explore painting during this particular moment in history. 

That said, I’ve never really felt that subject matter is secondary to the paint; the two mutually support and expand upon each other. Instead, I try to get the two elements into a place where they seem to be in some kind of dialogue. The subject matter often originates from real and imagined borderline landscapes—areas that exist on the edge of society—places that are at once liberating and potentially threatening. I find this notion of a kind of “no place” to be very American, in a sense. There was a time when the entire West was a giant “no place,” and I think this aspect of it, this mystique, drove the cultural imagination. Perhaps it still does, in a less conscious way. 

I also think that some of the images speak about failed attempts at transcendence or, at least, the desire or fantasy of witnessing or experiencing some kind of transcendence. This desire is the place from which a lot of the debris and wreckage present in my work has tended to arise. However, we are living in a culture and time that seems to have a lot of apocalyptic fantasies and fixations, and I think this plays a large roll in my work as well.

My most recent work is still focused on these concerns, but I’ve been making a conscious push away from my focus on narrative during the last year. At one point, narrative was a useful way for me to get a painting to a certain place and meaning, but the way in which I was using it simultaneously became a limitation. Currently in my work, the narratives have all been taken out, or placed outside of the picture, to allow for a more abstract direction.
That said, I’ve never really felt that subject matter is secondary to the paint; the two mutually support and expand upon each other. Instead, I try to get the two elements into a place where they seem to be in some kind of dialogue. The subject matter often originates from real and imagined borderline landscapes—areas that exist on the edge of society—places that are at once liberating and potentially threatening. I find this notion of a kind of “no place” to be very American, in a sense. There was a time when the entire West was a giant “no place,” and I think this aspect of it, this mystique, drove the cultural imagination. Perhaps it still does, in a less conscious way. 

I also think that some of the images speak about failed attempts at transcendence or, at least, the desire or fantasy of witnessing or experiencing some kind of transcendence. This desire is the place from which a lot of the debris and wreckage present in my work has tended to arise. However, we are living in a culture and time that seems to have a lot of apocalyptic fantasies and fixations, and I think this plays a large roll in my work as well.

My most recent work is still focused on these concerns, but I’ve been making a conscious push away from my focus on narrative during the last year. At one point, narrative was a useful way for me to get a painting to a certain place and meaning, but the way in which I was using it simultaneously became a limitation. Currently in my work, the narratives have all been taken out, or placed outside of the picture, to allow for a more abstract direction.