|Our Story - (Acrylic and pencil on canvas, found objects on panel) 2016, 60x48”|
While in Mexico last January I began working on canvas for the first time. A friend had given me a large piece of canvas and I wanted to make something that I could begin there and then bring back to Tennessee to finish. I tore three pieces from the large canvas, sealed them with gesso, stapled them to the table and began drawing with pencil on them.
On a walk the previous week I found a street that had concrete puzzle pieces for the roadbed and there was a pile of discarded pieces from which I took two that fit together. To me they were male/female, yin and yang and a symbol of how things fit together (or don’t) in life. I traced the puzzle pieces all over the canvases in different configurations and off I went. Once I had the overall patterns from the puzzle pieces for a background, I began freely drawing images on the canvases.
Then, with acrylics, I spent a couple of weeks staining and painting them. I rolled them up and carried them back to Tennessee. Once back in my studio I glued the canvases to birch panels and continued to paint using thicker acrylic paint. The canvases are smaller than the panels so there is a border of exposed wood around the canvas edge. I then carried the image from the canvas out to the wood border to integrate the canvas with the panel. This is very exciting for me as the initial pencil drawing and original stains are visible in the completed work. Also I was able to draw with pencil at any time during the process. This is very different and somewhat liberating from the carved and thickly textured paintings I have been making for years. I really enjoy the freedom that this process gives me although I will continue to do the carved paintings.
The painting “Our Story” is about our collective immigrant stories but also about my family history in particular. We found a census from 1900 in Boston that has my great grandfather’s family listed. He came first to the U.S. in 1890 from Russian Galicia and the rest of his family came later. My great grandfather is classified as a “coat tailor” and his five children “in school.” I projected the census list onto the top left of the painting and “Coat Tailor” in the middle. I then collaged a small coat, which was on a little puppet that I had in the studio, under the words “coat tailor.” In this way I brought my great grandfather and his story to life over a hundred years later. In light of the current immigration crisis in Europe, I feel it is important for Americans to be sympathetic as the vast majority of us are immigrants here. This story is Our Story.
Andrew Saftel June 2016