posted Jan 6, 2011, 9:30 AM by Caleb Brown
updated Jan 8, 2011, 7:49 PM
After the "Exurban" landscapes, I started painting my commute to work (walking, driving, taking the MBTA or commuter rail). That body of work spawned my first foray into the professional art sales and marketing universe.
Here was the artist's statement about those pictures I wrote in 2007:
These days many of us are tragically busy. To make ends meet, we often must choose the least painful sacrifice from a field of difficult compromises. In my case, it is a matter of negotiating between my vocation and avocation. I work full time designing software interfaces, and I do my oil painting very early in the morning when most people are asleep and everything is quiet. Because I find it hard to maintain these dual careers, I have merged the two, and made work about painting, and painting about work.
Since 2005 I have focused on my daily commute. In one form or another, commuting is an activity common to all of us. Of course, the verb "commute" means to change as well as to travel, and during every trip we are obliged to change, sometimes a great deal. From this perspective it can be said all of humanity is commuting, everywhere, right now, from birth until death. More than just workplace transportation, the commute comprises our real and only job.
When I started making these paintings it took up to 4 hours to commute on the train from my home to my cubicle and back again. Hundreds of people I would never know were doing the same thing. I noticed that many of my fellow travelers quickly fell asleep, or turned off, or worse seemed to entirely disappear, adopting a nonexistence beyond anonymity. The scenery too was a blur. Speed disinclined us from admiring anything along the edge of the tracks...But surely a few marvels were hiding there?
So I resolved to pay careful attention, and now when I see something arresting, I get out my digital camera. On weekday mornings, I paint from these snapshots. I find I am happiest working quickly and honestly over a few hours, often in a single session. Since each painting is begun and completed as quickly as possible, I prepare my canvas so that an image can be built up high or wiped all the way down to blankness. That way, the wet paint itself can do some commuting as it moves and mixes together. The picture that results features a transitional time and a place in motion, a sad, overlooked or glorious moment witnessed by me, embedded in an experience we all share.
After each painting session I wash my hands and go to work. In the coming months, I plan to make some paintings about what happens there.
Here's some selected canvases. Actually the piece with the crossword puzzle was done this past summer, from a cellphone snapshot taken on the Red Line.