The Lost and Stranded Decomposed - The Concept, Inspiration, and Process
|| Acrylic, India Ink, Oil Sticks, Collage on paper II 8' X 10'|| 2013
Concept // The Lost and Stranded is a metaphorical representation of our childhood dreams, desires, and naïveté embodied as kites becoming stranded and lost among a tangle. Each kite represents a childhood dream which have been let go at some point. The overall visual result is a massive amalgamation, organically taking its own form in the same way in which the very tree branches it is caught in has grown. What comes through is the sense of a loss of innocence, the state of in between things, in which an idea has began but never ended, in which a dream has sprung but never achieved - beautiful yet tragic.
This towering piece depicts a conglomeration of colorful kites coming out of a black hole-like 3-dimensional opening in the center, and swirling around to nest itself snugly onto a giant oak tree. Each kite was constructed and painted separately--using india ink, acrylic, and stamps--then collaged, twisted, and weaved together among the tree branches. A result is a colorful explosion of a beautiful disaster.
The wood grain details in the kite and tree
Process // Initially, the piece started out as purely a need to fill a piece of blank paper, a purgatorial effort to display something - with no concept in mind - I blindly started making marks on a blank piece of paper. What I had as tools was some watercolor, india ink, and some patterned stamps. I started drawing some gestural lines, which happened to be straight and from there I began to add color. A square form began to take shape and soon enough I had to say "hmm this looks like a kite", and I ran with it. Pictured right is the result. sidenote: the concept in the art does not emerge necessarily before the piece emerges - instead they feed off one another. Sometimes the visual form has to exist before the birth of an idea. Most often, the visual form inspires the idea itself.
I began to continue doing more similar depictions of kites but began to make them larger and adding collage elements. After I created 4 of them, I began to lay them on top of each other and overlap them on a giant canvas. As I continued, I found a logic and a system among the madness. I felt like a mini factory churning out over these kites in a tedious fashion, making sure each one was very unique and had their own voice and attitude - just like individuals. From there, I began to imagine that these kites were stuck on a tree, and a tree grew out of the bottom of the page. That tree began to grow branches and interact with the kites. I continued the overlapping process and the complexity in the collage to make it look consistent throughout.
After the 3rd week of working, I reached a point in which there seemed to be a bare tree with some kites on it. I wasn't satisfied because I saw that there was a missing central element to the piece. This was the road block (i.e. turning point) for me in the piece, what I did was take a picture of it and digitally draw in solutions to the visual problem. I didn't want to continue the narrative of the kite and the tree in a logical way, I wanted to break some rules. I wanted to divert away from what was expected. So what better way than to make a giant hole in the middle of the piece? I pushed the paper forwards and reinforced the back with a 2 feet diameter hollow tube which I constructed out of cardboard.
I made tiny kites going into the hole and continued the consistency of the look to make the transition between the foreground and the background of the piece look seamless. This decision made the piece come alive, because a 2D piece now turned into a 3D interactive molding which one could stick their head into if they had an itch to do so. The piece could now be immersive.
A key to remember: create consistency if you are exploring different depictions in the same image. For example: I continued the motif of wood grain in the branches as well as the kites to unify the piece so it looks visually cohesive. Add value in different areas and pops of color to create contrast.
As I reached 10 weeks, I continued to make kites, constructing them in various ways, collaging images in magazines I could find (which happened to be surf magazines) at the time. I focused on each kite one at a time, and arranged them within the branches in a way that where the brach almost took an aesthetic of a bird's nest, and the kites just merely provided additional support. I rendered the branches in varying styles and with varying mediums to keep it interesting - charcoal, india ink, acrylic, oil stick - everything was fair game. Contrast in rendering is most interesting to me so I tend to incorporate multiple mediums in my pieces as a result.
Inspiration // As the piece was finishing, I had a talk with a friend about what she wanted to do after she graduated college. This led us to talking about dreams that we had at some point in our lives. With my love for outer space and color and diving into my imagination, I wanted to be an astronaut, and an artist (at the same time). As children, we never imagine the logistics of what it'll take to do what we want or be what we want, we just believe it and want it. Growing up, I realized I, and not just I, had let go of the things I had fantasized about when I was younger, because of "realism", more like mental roadblocks, established by society yapping in my ear. And here I was, I was already 3 years deep in my psychobiology major at UCLA spending hours and hours studying the hard sciences knowing in the back of my head I didn't want to be a doctor, but continuing to take that route because it was deemed as safe, and a good fallback.
As I looked at my completed piece, I felt the same kind of beautiful sadness that had settled into me when I thought of my childhood dream - colorful like youth, but entrapped and convoluted like a side affect of the process of growth - it was like youth was being captured and trapped. But here on this tree, they had somewhere to be, at least they weren't completely abandoned.
The piece thus became "The Lost and Stranded", and here the kites can assume whichever meaning and opinion which the viewers of the piece give it.