Over my my more than 25 year career working with countless women I have developed wonderful friendships with many of the… Read More
The Black Coat Project
Over my my more than 25 year career working with countless women I have developed wonderful friendships with many of them. During that time I have learned more than I expected or wished about the physical and psychological abuse of women. This was not a feature of The Black Coat Project when I first started although I cannot say that it did not lurk deep in my subconscious.
In working with the women who now represent the first phase of the Black Coat Project I spent many hours with them. The time was Not spent outlining my grand artistic vision and what function they would supply to it because they had no function. They were the entire point. Instead I asked and listened and observed to best understand who each of them is as an individual. This crystalized the potential of the Black Coat. What is not seen in the first 15 paintings of this project is the disturbing proportion of these women that are or have been victims of abuse.
The Black Coat Project began as a simple notion that was produced by a sensory reaction. A number of black coats were acquired as costume pieces for the final chapter of The Journey Project entitled, “The Gates Of Heaven”. One coat stood out from the rest in its pure luxury and sensual quality. I pondered the idea of whether or not a complete project might be created around this one single article of clothing.
By choice I made everything as simple as I possibly could, eliminating all but the coat, a woman, and a pair of shoes. The coat and shoes became the uniform. From painting to painting they remained constant and unchanging, amplifying the unique beauty of each woman. The women are not idealized clones. Their beauty is represented as it exists in real life. the individuality of each woman and how she responded to the coat is what is expressed.
As a narrative artist my first challenge was to completely eliminate the narrative element from this new body of work. Without my interference the experience of bringing together woman and artifact would reveal its purpose and support its artistic merit. To create beautiful images is, in itself, a sufficient motive for making art. There are, as I have proven constantly over my career, many other levels that can be interwoven into a painting or series of paintings that enrich its value. The beauty is not optional but is a necessary constant as are Truth, sincerity and passion.
In the past I have conceived and constructed my projects as vehicles to support socially relevant narratives. Many have dealt with difficult and disturbing subject matter. In the case of The Black Coat Project I have challenged my own methods of creating a theatre in which to support the idea by allowing the object itself to suggest its purpose. The first year of The Black Coat Project has been dedicated to following its inspiration and overcoming the logistical obstacles in its translation from idea to physical form. During this time, bit by bit the tiny pieces of a much bigger picture have been presenting themselves to me.
It is from this that the Black Coat Project takes its higher purpose. Not as a narrative vehicle but a symbol of this specific social crime that is committed against millions of women every minute of every day. The goal of The Black Coat Project is to first be art. An Exploration and a celebration of female beauty. In conjunction with women’s groups and organizations It can also provide a tangible means of providing awareness of the injustice and violence perpetrated against women and provide financial support to those working on the front lines.
The Black Coat project Is fundamentally different from any other body of work I have engaged in during my career. It marks a a distinct and profound shift in my approach to picture making. I still demand the highest level of skill and passion of myself s a painter. I reiterate that the expression of beauty is not negotiable and must remain constant in my work. It is the tactics of the social responsibility I have always featured in my work that are changing.
I have always believed in art as being a vehicle in which the dark and disturbing aspects of our lives can be exposed in a respectful and safe context. I have taken on that responsibility with consistency in a way that our institutions such as government, business, media and even the church, with their own interests to protect, shy away from.
In the early stages of my career I created a vast body of work dedicated to the oppression and brutality of Apartheid in South Africa. I Borrowed a quotation from an anonymous South African poet and created a banner that has lived on the walls of my studio from Calgary, to Madrid and now to Regina. It says, “Of all the worlds warriors, artists are still the most noble and free.” For most the words, “Artist” and “Warrior” may seem incongruous. To me they provide a higher purpose to art.
The Black Coat Project aims to portray beauty and at the same time create a symbol of the fragile existence too may women endure. It is art whose intention is to not only engage the viewer but participate itself in a substantial way to provoke social change.
Over the past year I have raised this project from a mere thought into a living and breathing body of work. From a single young woman that inspired me with her beauty and then brought me to my knees with her harrowing revelations of domestic abuse.
15 paintings have been produced this past year. Almost half of those have been executed on the untraditional, industrial material known as Tyvek. It can be encountered quite frequently when passing almost any construction site. One of its most common and obvious uses is providing a weather barrier for houses. As this product it is known as, “Tyvek Home Wrap”. The conceptual reference to this project will not be lost on any of my peers. One of the predictable ramifications of working on a material that has no artistic pedigree is that already a portion of my dealers have refused to sell work on an unproven surface. there is, however, an irony in putting paintings of women, some of whom have been abused, on such a “safe” material - a protective wrapping for homes - homes which one hopes will be filled with warmth not only by being protected from the elements but filled with the warmth that comes from the mutual love and respect of the inhabitants.
Efforts are underway in London (UK) through my representatives there to source high profile celebrities to wear The Black Coat in order to bring the project an international audience. During the second phase this will be undertaken here in Canada as well as in the US using connections with major celebrities that have collected my work over the years. Along with producing a large number of Black Coat paintings there will be many administrative tasks to not only accomplish but to learn.
The Black Coat Project represents for me a monumental realignment of my perspective of being an artist. To deviate from a path that has identified me as an artist for more than two decades is, to say the least, intimidating. With the first half of my career represented by more than 30 works in public collections in Canada and around the world I am confident in my legacy as an artist. I feel compelled now to begin afresh by redefining myself and my art with the same passion and determination that has brought me to this point.
As this project grows in scale and defines it’ shape it will undergo many changes. Despite its lofty ambitions it is after all a work of art. It will be interesting to see who appears beneath the Black Coat. Read Less