Sweven Project: A Collaboration with Brooke Waggoner
My aim with these paintings has been to elaborate on what Brooke has crafted in her layered, atmospheric compositions found on her new album, Sweven. To begin my process, I listened to Brooke’s album completely, immersing myself in the words and sounds while I undertook other tasks. I allowed my brain to absorb the music without directly engaging it, as a kind of incubation period. This resulted, for me, in imaginative combinations I never could have come up with if I had tried to directly connect the music to images.
When I began to work in earnest, I sought to bring that subconscious activity to the front of my physical labor on the paintings. I began, first, with intuitive mark making. I laid out 12 panels and played the album, moving from one panel to its neighbor as each song ended and the next began. I allowed myself only to react to the sounds and words, without trying to make something specific out of them. I worked my way down the 12 panels several times, playing the album each time, and trying to reflect what I was experiencing visually on the space in front of me.
It was important to me not try to illustrate the stories and images from Sweven. I wanted to complement the experience of listening rather than explain what the audience was “supposed” to be experiencing. I also wanted to retain a feeling of surprise for myself, trying to not plan, and instead let my brain pull images, marks, and textures from my intuition. This is an unusual way for me to work, but it seemed the best way to craft a “pure” reflection of the music. It also seemed the best way to make something that collaborated with the listening experience, rather than distract from it.
After several passes along the 12 panels, I then worked on each piece individually, reacting to what I had already drawn and painted, filling in the gaps, while embellishing things that seemed interesting. In this instance, I didn't listen only to the songs that corresponded to each panel, but instead used the whole album as kind of an environment in which to dwell. When I approached the final layers of the pieces, I began working on them all at the same time, laying them out in a grid on my work table, and viewing them as a set of images that could work together, or stand alone as needed.
At this point in the process, I felt that I wanted to apply a bit of my own story onto these pieces. The final layers are filled with lines carved into the wax; lines that are taken from maps of places that have been significant to me. This final touch seemed to tie all the stories together in a way that offered a rich viewing experience, but also an invitational one, beckoning the viewer and listener to find themselves in these spaces, and to find a human unity in this work of remembering, seeing, processing, and paying attention to the seasons of our lives.