Mode Irrealis
Irrealis Mode, acrylic on 30″ x 40″ canvas, 2006

The Strata series consists of horizontal layers and pentimenti (visible traces of the earlier stages of the painting), which are used to represent a priori truths, or what lies beneath experiential knowledge. This series explores consciousness, memory, and the overlapping texts of fear and desire.

With the Strata paintings, I departed from my previous monochrome work, avoiding dominant forms and using color to elicit emotion. Although color field painting is nothing new, it was certainly an unfamiliar practice for me, though a liberating one.

Irrealis Mode (above) was the first in the series. I had just come back from spending time in the Bay Area, and the clarion California light profoundly influenced me. The painting has an oneiric, or dream-like, quality like something yearned for or remembered. The ineffable seems to lurk between the layers, so the title refers to a grammatical mode used to describe the unreal.

Laguna, acrylic on 30″ x 48″ canvas, 2007

The painting above took almost three years to finish. I wanted to create a piece that had both fearsome and beguiling elements. The latter appear as fields of aqua (an unusually complex color in this case, carrying a blush of pink) and sea green. By contrast, electric patches of cadmium orange and ultramarine vibrate and shimmer as you get close. An underlying dark structure emerges–part of the earlier painting–representing the limits of mortality, an underworld, or an unresolved trauma.

Sea Change
Sea Change, acrylic on 30″ x 48″ canvas, 2006

Unlike Laguna, this piece took less than an hour to complete and is very minimal. It uses only three colors, and nearly a third of the painting is raw canvas. By sheer luck, a few dribbles of paint appeared in just the right places, so I let them travel down. When creating Sea Change, I was thinking of the color of the sky before a storm–that ominous but captivating shade of yellowish gray–and the uncertain psychological climate around major changes.

Here are a few smaller pieces in the series.

Untitled, acrylic on 8″ x 12″ canvas, 2010

Small strata
Untitled, acrylic on 5″ x 7″ canvas, 2006

I find that abstraction enables a more mutable vocabulary than figurative art, and is more apt to reveal subconscious processes. Although modern art is often all about the surface, there is a lot more beneath, through more readings than one.

These days I’ve been developing a new body of work around race, but I plan to return to the Strata series. In the meantime, it waits for me like an alluring memory or an unfinished dream.

You can see more of my paintings at: