Years ago I spent a month traveling in Mexico, where I picked up a very old ex voto painting on tin. This traditional form of devotional painting shows the narrative of a spiritual or mortal crisis and its resolution. On the earth, people pray, more often than not someone lies sick in bed, and in the heavens a saint floats, all ears to the prayer scrawled in Spanish across the picture plane. The bed frame has always haunted me as an object of power in its own right. Unlike the chair so often depicted by artists as a stand-in for human attitude and contemplation, the bed usually has no arms, and often neither foot nor head. It sits unadorned, a naked platform on which to project our own memories, dramas and introspections.
This series of paintings started with the desire to experience the ex voto on my own terms and in my own culture. I do not believe in the saints. The only apparition that ever appeared in answer to my skyward yearnings was the GoodYear blimp, which revealed its private message to me in red neon in 1972: “Drink Coca Cola.” I’ve been looking beyond to the rosy sunset for years, wondering. I do not believe in the saints, but I do believe in their shape. I have always found consolation in the forms of devotional art, as though even in cultures and belief systems foreign to my own the abstract language itself has meaning.
As I worked on these images the forms evolved back and forth between story, recognizable symbol and abstraction. My working method starts with careful sketching of composition, stencils and color study, and then I throw up my hands and go with whatever the painting seems to be asking me to do. All of these images are original paintings created with printing ink applied directly to paper without a press.To see more in this series go to Sleep Studies.