Margie Livingston | Statement

Artist's statement about exhibition Extreme Landscape Painting

For the past ten months, I've been dismantling the line between painting and performance. In a hybrid form of Action Painting, performance, and land art, I drag constructed paintings across terrain, inscribing the canvases with the ground to create a new kind of landscape painting. I feel an affinity to Michael Heizer's use of drawing when he carved circles in the desert with his motorcycle. I too am claiming land as artist's materials, but I'm using the ground to inscribe the surface of the paint. Using my body as material pits my natural introversion against my desire to perform; the absurdity of dragging a painting triggers shame. Shame envisions judgment from others, presumes an audience, and complicates the relationships between performer, witness, and participant.

As works of art, the performance artifacts evoke Color Field and Action Painting but, having been dragged in the street, also speak to darker forces in our culture. Authors inspiring me:

•Rebecca Solnit advocates wandering in order to end up someplace new.

•In "The Art of Cruelty," Maggie Nelson writes: "true moral complexity is…found by wading into the swamp, getting intimate with discomfort, and developing an appetite for…living according to nuance... (which) can only be an experiment."

•Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick: "Shame is the affect that mantles the threshold between introversion and extroversion, between absorption and theatricality…and performativity."

•Claire Bishop's writing on the dialectic of de- and re-skilling.

I see my current work as non-painting painting, seeking ways to surprise myself and expand the possibilities for my chosen medium. Inherent in my process is the use of chance procedures and the knowledge that the ideas change and evolve as I get into the work.

A painting dragged from the studio out into the world looks naked without a white wall to support it. Working in the street feels vulnerable. Meeting people who live there, foregrounds my privilege. I grew up camping with my working-class family using homemade equipment. Making the backpacks revealed layers of nostalgia-connecting me to both my mother, who taught me to sew, and my father, who steamed reclaimed wood and bent it into backpack frames.

But I've come to realize that the mountain trails are a space of privilege within Snohomish and Puget Sound Salish territories. Consequently, dragging a painting on a hike has become a time of reflection, and a place to contemplate my responsibilities as a settler descendent. It is my hope that this project will create and maintain connections with others, as well as push me artistically and intellectually to create art that provokes space for thought and empathy.

November 2018
—Margie Livingston