Seemed appropriate to share my "Windows" series again today, September 11, since it's largely because of the events that day in 2001 that I ended up moving and traveling as much as I have. My family and I were evacuated from Pakistan several days after the attack, as there were concerns about the safety of American citizens. Although my dad was allowed to return for work, he couldn't take any dependents, so we ended up back in the States for a bit, until he took a job in Vietnam and we moved there. Tumultuous times that have shaped my experience and worldview.
Someone told me recently that there was a cafe in one of the World Trade Center towers named "Windows Around the World" - something I didn't know when I proposed this theme, but which I think adds to it's richness.
It's funny how even when I have the basic idea for a series I often don't really know what it's about until I've finished. Painting really is about process for me, so I work things out while I'm creating. So, below is the artist statement that I wrote a couple days after completing all the paintings for the show (up through Sept. 20 at Sanchez Art Center; gallery hours are 1-5PM on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays).
Artist Statement for "Windows - observations on place by an outsider"
My fascination with WINDOWS began shortly after graduating from college when I was wandering around Oakland where I had my studio. I noticed that many of the windows had grills on them, similar to the safety systems in Pakistan and Vietnam where I grew up. At a time when I was questioning my future (as most recent college grads do) and trying to reconcile my past (as a Third Culture Kid), it was comforting to find familiarity in these windows.
At the same time, they reminded me that I was an OUTSIDER, something I'd been struggling with for years - usually whenever anyone asked me, "So where are you from?" Windows became a symbol of the separation I felt from people who could answer this question without hesitation. Unlike a door that grants you access, windows create a barrier - always either looking in or out – through which you can see (or imagine) what you’re missing.
The more I travelled, though, the more I came to see the similarities and differences of windows in different places as an opportunity for dialog. These paintings are hopeful because they show the beauty that I, as an outsider, recognize in what might seem commonplace to a local.
Each week I painted a different PLACE from my various travels since 2004. I was working from photographs I took, so I picked the places with the best reference photos and ended up with (rows, top to bottom): Pakistan, New Orleans, Italy, Austin, Jordan, Oakland, Finland and Guam (#50).
I used a limited COLOR palette for all paintings of 5 colors (ultramarine blue, cadmium yellow medium, alizarin crimson, cadmium red light and burnt sienna) + white, but for each place I would remove one color (eg. use all colors except alizarin crimson for the Jordan week). The one exception was for painting 50 - I substituted hansa yellow light for cadmium yellow medium to create a more translucent green. I mixed the colors to emphasize the dominant color or feeling I had about each place.
Read more about my process here. For PDF version of this statement click here.