Gail Martin; drawings and paintings
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precious A YEAR OF LOOKING AT MY STUFF       View individual paintings

precious installation
portion of 'precious' installation, artist's studio, 2007    View individual paintings

"What is all this stuff? Why do I keep accumulating when my life and storage are full? What itch does acquisition scratch? Why do I always desire more?

When a little unacknowledged dissatisfaction arises, I often find myself shopping. I realize that whatever new trinket or sweater I buy will be only a temporary fix. I see that in short time the new becomes the known and no longer thrills. Soon enough, desire will arise and Marshall’s will beckon again. In Buddhist teachings, desire is seen as an affliction leading to suffering for just this reason - everything is impermanent and constantly changing. Nothing has a fixed existence or value, including my momentary needs and desires, and therefore, nothing I can acquire can bring me lasting happiness. That hasn’t stopped me from trying, and I have a lot of company.

For many years I have been using my own home as the basis for my work investigating self and world. Could I use my home to look at desire and its manifestations? Perhaps this seemingly endless urge to acquire might be based in a lack of appreciation for that which I already possess? I decided to spend a year with my stuff, my possessions, contemplating them through observation and representation as a way to appreciate and become more deeply intimate with them. And so, this project was conceived and begun in January, 2006.

Knowing that completing 365 paintings in one year would be challenging, I tried to design a project that would be conducive to success. I set a standard palette and ground for the whole project. I worked from photographs, moving through the house from top to bottom, room by room, month by month, editing the 60 or more photos of objects from each room down to the number of days in that month. I didn’t spend an inordinate amount of time on any one painting, and tried not to be too precious in my editing, not limiting my subjects to what I thought most interesting or beautiful. I didn’t try to paint a painting per day, but kept up with the project week by week, so that I could finish within the year. Once the photos were cropped into square compositions, I simply painted the object as it appeared in the photo, nothing more, hoping that the final installation would be greater than the sum of its parts.

How this year of practice has changed me is yet to be fully understood, but I have learned that one must be careful when they take on desire, even “harmless” desire. It is a force far deeper, older and more powerful than it appears. If you open that Pandora’s box, you must be prepared to see all that it holds."