These new paintings that I have been working on are merely reflections on my life. Some of the paintings are comments and observations, sociopolitical thoughts, emotional gestures and a combination of philosophy and poetry, both native and non-native. Of course my environment has a direct influence on my work along with the many thoughts through the course of the day. So it appears that I’m influenced by many types of art; Pop, Expressionism, Dada, Surrealism, Brut, Kitsch, New wave, Native, Traditional and Contemporary.
I work from a perspective that allows me the freedom to use any material to make art. These materials that I use are from objects that are cast-off, detritus, and other organic materials such as; rust, sand, leaves, ashes, wood. I also use the traditional medias such as chalk, acrylic, oil paint, paint sticks, spray paint, pencil and graphite. Many of these paintings have a collage effect, because of the use of printed image and written text along with of course the other mixed media. I allow myself the freedom to combine any media at my disposal to attain the effect that I need.
The written word becomes important in most of my paintings as a communication device. I use written texts as signifiers to propel images and metaphors into directions of random poetry. As in a painting everything seems to interrelate as in collage. The collage effect is used in the same manner taking metaphors and images from popular culture and arranging them in a context of unfamiliarity. My history as a Native person growing up in a small city and as a contemporary man are underlying themes; “like eating cornflakes at my grandfathers breakfast table before Longhouse”, or “watching a lacrosse game sitting on top of a 68 Chrysler”. These are examples of the planes that my mind travels while making paintings. This dichotomy of these apposing societies constantly clash, intermingle and become one throughout the making of my art.
Basically these paintings are biographical excerpts from my life as I reflect on ideas, moods, emotions, perspective, and history. I would like to think that I can leave part of my soul in each and every piece that I do, pieces of poetry that the viewer can interpret as they wish.
This is a writing a friend of mine did after viewing a piece of work outside of my studio
Brief meditations on an art critique
by Michael Kudela & Joy Faba
Jay Carrier has been a resident artist of the Niagara Arts and Cultural Center (NACC) since its beginnings. The NACC building is a former high school, built in the 1920's, and was part of the Niagara Falls education system until 1999 when the school board built a brand new high school. Much like this reuse of a building Carrier's sculptures and paintings often include "found" materials like pages from magazines comics, industrial manuals and organics such as bark, leaves or even rocks. Despite the painstaking efforts he has put into carving a head there will be a fishing lure or a cast off figurine added into a sculpture. These additions lend to the sculpture an effect which brings us through time. Carrier also draws us through an experience of art that is precious precisely because it involves the everyday. It refocuses our attention to the timeless quality of the ordinary object. This is one of Carriers' unique gifts, the combination of technical ability and the introduction of the informal, with an honest, insouciant gesture.
Recently on a walk past Carrier's studio, located on the ground floor of the NACC, I noticed two paintings hanging over the old high school lockers. What I assumed was a diptych stopped me in my tracks. The corridor, in the low quality fluorescent lighting, has a sort of subterranean feel. The heat exchange across the hall makes the air moist; it feels almost like a labyrinth, something old, almost cave-like. Walking in this atmosphere was in effect setting up the proper conditions to "see" these works. A gallery could never accomplish this in the way that these paintings unfolded to me in the NACC corridor. These exquisitely rendered paintings looked like a petroglyph, all at once out of time, and yet perfectly fit into this environment. Transported, I felt as if I were the only one in the world, in a church constructed just for me. I was. I knew at that moment part of some thing rare... beautiful... holy.
I do not know the titles of the works yet my compulsion to write about them forces me to put names on them. Before I go too far here I would like to mention the difficulty I had in naming these works. They look like one thing and represent, for me, another. I have chosen to call them by what they look like, and not by meaning so, I will call them Blue-Man and Animal-Man. Both are painted on wooden panels, wood I believe to be salvaged, not constructed for painting; they are about 2.5 feet wide by 5 feet high in size. The paintings are most likely done with oils, and oil stick, though Carrier does use other mediums and may have here as well.
The first, Blue-Man, has a yellow cream background, a thin blue male figure in profile, his head tilted slightly back with mouth open, his throat stitched with gold oil stick. He wears a single feather on his head and is thin, bone-like in construction. His body is square, blue-green and armless. His squat legs are boxes of blue, and his blue feet do not stand on the black ground, but float just above it, as if caught mid-jump or mid-dance, in the first moment of flight. He is a strong whisper outlined in white line. The lighter background and his darker body give him a negative, distant quality.
If we read the panels from left to right Animal-Man is the second piece. This figure has distinctive black lines forming the face and arms. His eyes are distinct yet look down and away, preoccupied with something off panel. His head tapers to a muzzle, like a K-9. His hands are present but mere suggestions, not human hands at all. Animal-Man's torso is also outlined with a strong black line, defining the body painted in yellow cream and blurred slightly so his body wrangles in motion as if slightly disjointed. His legs are red and finish with triangular feet, like hooves as they stand firmly on brown earth, planted, unmoving... rooted, cultivated and essential, the farmer's food. The figure feels willful, distant and close at the same time. Rising up from this packed earth is a dark green-blue background, ending at the top with a soft robin's egg blue of infinite sky.
Though these are separate works on two panels they allow me this supposition, that two works function as one and that they were created in succession, using ostensibly the same paint. The order is irrelevant because I believe they are a single statement. These panels are a graphic representation of Jay Carrier the artist, of art and the relationship both have to the viewer. The viewer, the observer, they are the one that experiences art with out the dynamic of its original creation.
The colors of each painting echo the colors of the other. The color of the body of one is the color of the background of the other (blue-green/cream yellow). The fact that they are on the same sized panels and their figurative relationship indicates the important interconnection between them. My investigation into one necessitates the other being referred to. Though they may not be a single piece they are the continuation and the expansion of the same idea. These two pieces, I believe, comment on the nature of art and especially the making of art with in a community.
The relationship I have conjured in my mind is mostly from myself and my own experiences. I do not propose to know the artist's intention with these works. I do know that at least one function of art is personal revelation; a work does succeed if one person receives a glimpse of insight into humanity whether it be communal or personal.
In these panels the relationship of the artist to art is fully demon-strated. We are reminded that the thing created is different than creation. The private universe of creation may be the sole privilege of the artist, the only moment of personal communion with the quiet thing, the invisible field of things-in-themselves. Whereas all other aspects of meaning making are necessarily involved in community, only the forces that would pervert the pure intention of art make it exclusionary after the act of creation (ie market, academy, gallery). Carrier blasts these institutions by the simple, subversive act of hanging these beautiful, meaningful pieces of art out, unguarded, in the hallway, out of the environment in which they were created. This act invites community, the necessary third element, to the work completing the circle of the path inward and outward. In viewing these two works there must be a third presence, the viewer. "I had one chair for solitude, two chairs for company, three chairs for society." ~Thoreau. These works exhibit Carrier's keen awareness of humanity and its make up; more over the interaction of man and man, and man and art. In these panels one can see an exposition of the artist/art relationship. This interplay for the viewer is an invitation to all humanity, the communication that takes place is gut level displayed succinctly in color and form.
We feel this as the colors flatten out and are almost neutral in their action across the painting plane, the ground of both has the effect of stability, the figures are the action. Blue-Man's neck is stitched up- golden, the golden throat of song, he speaks singing out Animal-Man, the beasties, the haunted thing- Art. Animal-Man dances forth as the thing created into the next panel and streamlines expression, beautiful, still, and always deformed by the clumsy touch of man. Blue-Man as artist can not help but wound the thing created, the energy is too much for him. This has the touching element of what we humans are not as Blue-Man is pared down to bone. Hungry. It is within this moment of fragile deprivation that the truth, the next panel, Animal-man as art, comes into being and is the next word in our human story.
It is what we do here ultimately in proposing that these two things reveal a third thing, which is ourself bringing this new identity in to being. What we long for is this synthesis of our individual being and the actions and meaning of an otherwise amorphous expanse of humanity. These panels provide the sensitive mind with the next solid thing that dwells within. In this respect we are, we become the third panel, the synthesis taking place within the viewer. Carrier does this with the subtlety and the deft understanding of an artist who's meaning making skills reach deep into the collective human.
These panels exemplify Carrier's style in a very concise and beautiful manner. Line in Carrier's paintings are a significant element, whether outlining a face in figuration, or as part of a truncated phrase, scrawled in impassioned text. This bold element is often the counterpoint to the more graceful way Carrier is able to paint negatively. Blotting out, blending in, revealing a new image out of a background reformed; this act is redemptive, carrying much power in his paintings.
The lines paint Animal-Man in crisp black while Blue-Man is only ghosted by white chalk, the line here is instructive. Blue-Man as creator must have permeable walls, must be open to experience. The solid lines of Animal-Man as art carry the sense of the impenetrable, the mystery of the natural world and our place in it.
Carrier so often uses text within his work that it seems like an intentional omission making these two panels uniquely independent as there is no text within either panel. This in itself seems in opposition to mainstream religion and spirituality where the word is absolute. The word in the beginning first shed light on the heaven and the earth. The word pointed to the thing. Here there is something unspoken as we are directed to be watchers, silent in our own minds, using our eyes to track the action and feeling out the story these forms tell. We as viewers are then asked to step into the role of interpreter. We are bidden to intuit the meaning of this story. We are given power in this relationship between the artist, the world, and ourselves. We in a sense become the third panel, the required primer to unlock the secret text of the image finding both words and the thing unspoken. Something in us is nourished by silence. This holy thing fills our collective soul and it is exemplified in our relationship to this art.
One of the reasons these panels touch me is because Carrier has decided to hang them, unguarded in the hall of the NACC. The colors of the panels correspond with the green of the lockers, the yellow and green of the painted wall, the black of the molding and the painted room numbers standing absolute guarding of the mysteries that lie within their rooms. They fit their environment, they are camouflaged perfectly. Who even sees this "art" unannounced by titles, price tags and the white box of gallery walls? Who knows the generous gift these paintings bestow? The lucky few and their secret has power. Unlike the gallery hung paintings these panels open a door to another world. I know this and yet I know these words that I write encroach on that power. It is the delicate hope of art to silently transform each individual and expand consciousness within all of mankind. It is the blunt dealing of humans like me who unmake this powerful clandestine scripture, these holy works, unraveled in "words, words, words".
The Blue-Man as an artist arises out of the background, outlined in chalk, nearly a negative, or moreover the thing waiting to be filled to overflowing, to the point where creation is inevitable. The Blue-Man is purposely without hands, the artist does not seek to grasp the "thing", but "call" it into being, with the lightest touch possible. The Blue-Man is both the rattle and the singer, the thing that is played upon and the thing that plays, seemingly leading but is lead himself.
This bold act of sharing is the highest priority of the artist. Of course the creative act is the thing that cannot stop, the panel must be painted. Ultimately though the artist must make sacrifice by sharing without limit when possible. This impossible vulnerability must at last be the goal of any working artist. Hanging these paintings in a completely unguarded public space, but also in a space that enhances their meaning, is all at once an act of courage and the act of a mature meaning maker. Jay Carrier is an artist who is capable of directing and releasing art in a way that is most effective where the art flourishes and grows in its own right. Here Carrier displays an understanding of the role art has to take in life and without trepidation gives to his community by displaying this work for all who care to view it, without walls, without docent, without fee. In its full freshness and power it is able to find the vital link to the viewer uncorrupted by the usual filters art is subjected to: gallery, market, academy.
But it is the manifest Animal-Man, who has the hands to grasp the world, and the first notion of art and religion is shown. Each painting calls upon that earliest dialect, the man who spoke to the unknowable, who cast his net out into the sea. Animal-Man set his fragile mind to the task of the soul, the spiritual being and the strength of transformation into untouchable energy. The artist, the modern day seeker, joins with this force in the act of creation. This, this is what creates art.
The academy and the marketplace are what makes art safe. Art becomes communion by wafer, by guru -not by the mountainside, not by the singular blood ritual of birth. Art is the civilized spiritual, the end of art, not the beginning. It happens that our communal experience at the end of art is a commodity, a material value. We are taught to pick the meat from the bones, and then powder the bones, not in magic, but as an act of erasure. The power of art to the individual person in power is frightening and undeniable. The scholar erodes it with scholarship, language, naming. The wealthy commodify it and turn it toward this purpose. The taste makers at once dismiss it and elevate it beyond the reach of the people. So it is left to the artist, for at least for a moment, to resist these forces and to open the door of Art for any and everyone to glimpse and to pass through.
This is the success of these paintings and the displaying of them within the context in which they were created- as if a welcome mat laid at the door of human expansion spoke, saying, "Come in and transport your everyday into the infinite. Let these paintings in this context work on you, dwell on them, and they will work in you."
Here in Niagara Falls, where the academy will not stoop and the market place has evacuated Main Street, the mystic and the seeker flourish. Carrier is a sign post in this place of power though the city is deep in the throws of economic desolation it is yet reborn through the purer forms of creation as shown in this work.
This is the final revelation Carrier brings to the viewer- the importance of place. Niagara Falls is this place that ultimately allows this freedom. His work is a condensed idea of art and it's purpose in the community as a whole. The urge to create transforms the object. I, the artist, is transformed by creation- as is the viewer. Moreover the community is transformed as well when made witness to this powerful act. To be made aware that this thing has taken place, here in this neighborhood, this is where the transformative power of art truly takes hold. A spiritual maturation happens in front of this art. The realities of life become more than drab responsibilities, they are illuminated as connections to community where the works people have done and will do. Timelessness happens in this way, we move an increment closer to our fellow man and grow.
Of course this has a slightly sad note for the person moved by art. This action that takes place within the perceptive viewer brings the ages into closer proximity, all of humanity for that matter, but the more superficial threads of reality are severed. The sitcom may never again be enough for those who depend upon the masses for their bread, their sustenance, their meaning. The building boarded up or being torn down teems with ghosts. One sees the quarry in the stone and the store owner and his family in the destruction of the bulldozer. The world blooms with connections and time slips. The happiness promised by soda, cars, and eternal youth are replaced with emptiness. Maturity, in the form of compassion, first for oneself and then empathy for community will slowly take hold if the artist has done his or her job. If we as viewers of art are open to empathy and expression we may receive art as the receptacle of being. We find our soul self amidst the edgeless raft of humanity- past and present, where our delicate expanse of being is buoyed where the boundary between self and community seem only separate waves on the same endless sea.
A few pictures of my studio, kind of messy, but my sanctuary all the same..
Some more paintings
just some paintings in the studio, piece of sculpture
A couple of paintings being worked on
painting in studio, kind of like spiderman...
sculpture, painted deer skull, carving.
Some earlier paintings..
just an idea of some of the paintings in the last few years, lots been going on, it's all good stuff...
The Wonders of Science
Mixed media painting, 66"x68"
The Guardian of the dead trees
oil on canvas, mixed media, 58"x48"
Springtime in Alaska
Oil on canvas, mixed media painting,62"x70"
mixed media on canvas, pine and burch branches and leaves, 65"x65"