By Robert Spellman
This is a view of my recent exhibition at Naropa University, to which I have returned after a one-year sabbatical, a break from teaching and administrative duties. While I did go to India for three weeks, and made several trips within the United States, much of the year was spent in a kind of artistic hibernation until last spring when I was invited to have two solo shows, one at the La Veta Fine Art Gallery in La Veta, Colorado, and the other here at Naropa. The invitations spurred a period of intense productivity at the studio, which I welcomed after nearly two years of creative drought.
In doing the work for this show, I found myself painting over many previous paintings that had exceeded their shelf life—some of them from as far back as the 1980s. I was also using up piles of scrap canvas in the collage aspect of the work, along with layers of cheesecloth, gesso, and modeling paste, a way of working the surface that is new to me. Among my favorite artists these days are the Gee's Bend quilters from Gee's Bend, Alabama. They speak plainly and eloquently about the difference between making a quilt from re-used cloth and one from new cloth: that the used cloth has absorbed something of life itself, and as a material it is preferable to new cloth. I notice a similar experience when I'm painting over an old painting that never quite made it to the finish line; its previous travails give it a nothing-to-lose quality, a fine antidote to preciousness. Some artists go through occasional fits of destruction, obliterating years of previous work. My approach is more penurious: why waste a good canvas? I'll continue exploring some of the just-discovered threads of this work as the semester settles in. More at robertspellman.com.