“Most of my paintings are about a war between culture and nature.”
We had the pleasure of sitting down with the extraordinary Morgan Bulkeley to discuss his life as an artist in advance of his retrospective #naturecultureclash.
On view until FEB 4, 2018 at the Berkshire Museum
#VIDEO: MORGAN BULKELEY PAINTINGS.
Most of my paintings are about a war between #culture and #nature and they really are about what is dominant, what is happening in our culture and in the world today, and the way I see it there are just so many sad tales of abuses to air, water, earth. Many of these things are produced by corporate interest and people doing things without really, thinking about what is the effect.
Philip Guston really, was huge in my mind. I saw a show of his probably in 1975 at the Whitney Museum of American Art and in that show I saw a piece that was, probably, 8 feet long and 5 feet tall, and basically it was a line across the middle of the painting and the top half was sort of a dark green and the bottom was kind of a pearly grey. When I saw the piece, I didn't know what it was - I felt like crying and I looked at it and I must have sat there for 15 minutes just staring at this piece. It was a transformation for me, really, to feel that intensity and I began to, really, think about his work a lot more after that. That’s what kind of pushed me toward looking for a way to paint figures that weren't "specific".
I think of it as almost a mouse chewing on a bone, it’s like chewing and making little marks and building it up. Mine is much more agitated, anxiety ridden, I guess. I think of it as little marks that are, kind of, almost shaking, your hand shaking or something.
I was an English major and read an awful lot of literature in my earlier days. There are too many stories to tell and there always will be. One of the things that's happened with my work is that I'll do a piece and it gets so dense and complicated, and kind of intricate, entangled really, and it feels like you can't even move through it. Often after that will feel like I have to do a piece that is more open, that has a clarity and a sense of possibility, of movement in it. I find that often pieces really suggest the next piece. So, there’s been a kind of a natural progression for me in terms of seeing where I’m going by looking back at where I’ve just been.
I love Cy Twombly as well. I began to think about him in terms of some of these marks that are up in the sky. All of a sudden, I found myself just having such a ball. I'd come in one day and work on it and I’d be doing this, I'd be nibbling away at some little detail, and then the next day I'd come in and I'd be slobbering the paint on and then drawing back into it with a pencil in these open areas here. So, it allowed me to travel a lot further in terms of feelings of energy.
I felt like I could come in and be kind of wild with my painting today, and tomorrow I had to sit and be contained and very careful. In a way this piece really meant a lot to me in terms of finding this place that I could get to that allowed me to have both of those things operating in the same painting.